Review

Review: HP Envy Recline 23

Microsoft launched Windows 8 in October 2012 to a bevy of new laptop and tablet form factors, though computer manufacturers largely stayed with familiar computer styles. HP’s bucking that trend with the Envy Recline 23, which features a unique design focused on its adjustable base.

Windows 8 laptops ushered in displays that could be flipped and angled several ways, yet Windows 8 computers remained relatively similar to years-old styles, despite more and more using touchscreen displays. The Envy Recline 23 takes its cues from recent Windows laptops by offering two hinges that allow the 23-inch touchscreen to position itself to a variety of angles, from 5 to 145 degrees.

In addition to its frame, the computer differentiates itself from the competition in a few other ways, such as an HDMI-in port and Beats Audio. For the most part, however, HP doesn’t stray too far from the norm, though there are a handful of options available for consumers with more specialized needs.

Starting at $999, the Envy Recline 23 offers some alluring customizable setups at a range of price points. The configuration used for this review has the following specifications:

HP Envy Recline 23
Operating System 64-bit Windows 8.1
Display 23-inch IPS full HD display (1920x1080)
10-point projected capacitive touchscreen
Processor Intel Core i7-4770T
2.5GHz quad-core CPU
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GT730A
1GB DDR3 discrete memory
RAM 8GB DDR3-1600MHz (2 DIMM)
Storage 1TB 5,400 rpm Hybrid Hard Drive (8GB SSHD) 
Audio Integrated Audio (Beats Audio software)
3.55mm headphone/microphone combo jack
Subwoffer port
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Ethernet port
Bluetooth 4.0
Webcam HP TrueVision 720p HD webcam
Dual microphone array
Ports 2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI input
3-in-1 memory card reader
Input HP wireless keyboard
HP wireless mouse
Accessories ATSC/NTSC TV tuner (USB)
HP wireless remote
Price $1,409.99

Hardware and Design

HP stuck with its familiar silver-and-black design with the Envy Recline 23 – a style that’s becoming more popular among computer manufacturers. While the color scheme now seems like an industry standard, the striking angles found on the Recline 23’s base help differentiate it from the competition. Those angles are actually utilitarian, as they give the computer its standout feature.

The Recline 23’s two hinges – one that pivots the screen’s angle, another that pivots up and down from the base – have just enough give to make it easy to move the display to a new angle with a slight amount of force but difficult to move it on accident. They’re also extremely sturdy, unlike some wobbly hinges used in other computers and laptops. HP has suggested letting the computer’s screen hang off the edge of a desk for a fully touch-oriented placement, and it’s actually not a bad input method, so long as you tilt the monitor to a decent angle.

At 1080p, the Recline 23 sticks with the standard resolution found in most Windows all-in-ones, though it is fairly noticeable when compared to a device with a more pixel-dense display. Though it’s a lower resolution, the display still looks great – colors are vibrant, and viewing angles are relatively good. A 720p webcam is located above the display, flanked by dual microphones, while speakers are located below the screen.

Four USB ports are located on the right side of the device, but only two of those are USB 3.0. On the left side is a convenient HDMI input and button, which will let you toggle between it and the PC. As with other recent HP all-in-ones to include the feature, the HDMI input only works when the computer is on, but I suspect that won’t be an issue for most users. A larger issue is its actual performance: Occasionally it didn’t output sound from the attached device, but cycling through the input options a few times remedied the issue.

Overall, the design is terrific, but there’s one significant problem: the button and port placement. By putting the USB 3.0 ports on the side of the monitor instead of the all-in-one’s base, cords are constantly in the way. The right base features the two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and subwoofer input, while the left side of the base just has the power cord input and a security lock input – the latter seems entirely unnecessary, since the computer isn’t exactly light at nearly 30 pounds.

An HDMI input toggle and an SD card slot are available at the bottom of the monitor, putting both fairly out of the way – somewhat understandable for the former, but strange for the latter, since you’ll have to flip the screen up to insert a memory card. Photos of all the ports can be seen in the gallery at the bottom of this review.

Software and Performance

With its 10-point touchscreen, the pre-installed Windows 8.1 operating system is the perfect match for the Envy Recline 23. All versions of the computer come with the standard 64-bit version, and consumers can upgrade custom versions of the computer to the Pro version for an additional $70.

Unfortunately, the careful consideration HP put into the hardware working well with Windows 8.1 didn’t extend to the software side of the system.

As with all HP computers, the Envy Recline 23 comes with a multitude of worthless pre-installed applications that most advanced users will uninstall immediately. Both Norton Internet Security and McAffee LiveSafe are installed as 30-day trials, as are a whole stable of WildTangent games that you’ll have to find an uninstaller for online in order to fully remove it from the computer.

HP is sticking with the trend of pre-installed bloatware, some of which is a pain to uninstall.

HP also installed its own software, such as its support assistant, photo service and other features. Oddly, HP didn’t pre-install any custom Metro apps on the Recline 23. It’s a strange choice since the computer is focused on touch input, and they’re not as big of a pain to uninstall as desktop applications. Some non-intrusive Metro apps do come pre-installed, such as Netflix and Box.

With an Intel Core i7 under the hood, the custom Envy Recline 23 used for this review wasn’t stopped by any processor-intensive applications. Microsoft’s Office suite is buttery smooth, even with several windows open, and Windows 8.1’s Metro interface can’t be slowed by anything currently available in the Windows Store.

Graphically intensive games and applications are a different story, but for an all-in-one, the Recline 23 is about par for the course.

The Envy’s 23’s laptop-class NVIDIA GeForce GT730A GPU can play Source engine games such as “Team Fortress 2” or “Portal 2” at high settings with triple-digit frame rates, though antialiasing comes at a significant hit. With FXAA available in newer titles such as “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and SMAA injectors available for download, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most people who will be looking at all-in-one PCs. Newer, graphically intensive games such as “Battlefield 4” are extremely sluggish, however, and have to be played at lower resolutions (typically 720p or less) and low to medium settings.

Benchmark Score
Boot Time 15 seconds
3DMark Fire Strike 1.1: 1034
Cloud Gate 1.1: 6952
Ice Storm 1.2: 67857
3DMark Vantage P6281
Graphics Score: 5057
CPU Score: 22975
PCMark 8 Home Conventional 3.0: 3036
Work Conventional 2.0: 3282
PCMark Vantage 12269

All benchmarks done at default settings.

The synthetic testing mirrors what the real-world experiences indicated: Processor-heavy tests are handled by the Recline 23 easily, but it places in the lower tier of graphical prowess. Apple has a far superior GeForce GT 750M in its 21.5-inch iMac, but HP’s graphics card choice for the Recline 23 is actually better than most Windows all-in-ones. Notably, the 1TB hybrid hard drive helps quite a bit with loading performance, booting to the Start screen in a speedy 15 seconds.

Entertainment Capabilities

Like many all-in-ones, one thing you won’t find in the Recline 23 is a disc drive. That doesn’t mean the Recline 23 is lacking in entertainment capabilities, however.

One of the most obvious differences is that the Recline 23 doesn’t skimp on audio. Most all-in-ones feature puny speakers that have muffled or distorted audio, but the Recline 23 sounds full and crisp, with surprisingly decent bass. As with most middle- and high-end HP computers, the Recline 23 features Beats Audio, which essentially provides a standardized sound profile to all its products. Additionally, HP’s Beats Audio control panel has an enhanced equalizer for alterations. Anyone who doesn’t want the fuller sound that Beats Audio provides can turn it off in the control panel.

For the visual side of entertainment offerings, HP offers a TV tuner (in the form of a USB dongle instead of an integrated option) for $50, but users are also required to also purchase a $10 remote even though it’s not actually required to use the tuner.

Because the computer doesn’t come with Windows 8.1 Pro, users will have to pay at least an additional $80 if they want Windows Media Center – $70 for the operating system when customizing the PC in the store and an additional $10 for the Media Center upgrade. The bundled TV tuner software, AVerMedia TV Player, offers basic functionality, though it lacks a lot of the functionality found in Media Center. On one hand it’s a disappointment since Media Center is clearly superior, but Microsoft hasn’t given a clear indication of where it’s going with its TV offerings for Windows, as it appears to be phasing out the Media Center software.

The Recline 23’s 10-point touchscreen display also makes it appealing for entertainment, primarily in the form of Windows Store apps and games. It’s just as responsive as any tablet or smartphone, and it works well for games such as “Angry Birds Space” or entertainment apps such as iHeartRadio.

This is where the computer shines, as it offers what Microsoft was hoping to achieve with its new operating system: the best of both worlds. If you want to make the Envy Recline 23 the focal point of a room, you can. It can be a computer to get your work done, play games or simply walk by and load up a music app or movie for entertainment, since the monitor is just big enough to command attention in most rooms, save a larger family room.

Conclusion

Why aren't HP and Microsoft promoting the Envy Recline 23 when it fits so well with Windows 8?The HP Envy Recline 23 is the type of PC that Microsoft surely expected would come from its hardware partners following Windows 8’s release in 2012. It’s somewhat odd, then, that the computer hasn’t been promoted by either it or HP, nor have I seen it available in any store – even those with numerous all-in-one computers on display, such as Best Buy.

While the Recline 23 isn’t without faults, such as button placement, it’s one of the best all-in-one Windows computers on the market. It melds performance with an attractive design and entertainment capabilities that many other PCs lack, giving the “all-in-one” moniker a dual meaning. If desired, the computer can easily become a TV replacement, with a built-in HDMI input port and optional TV tuner.

The star of the show is clearly the Recline 23’s dual-hinge frame, which makes using the 10-point touchscreen a joy. Microsoft made a big gamble with Windows 8, and most desktops haven’t realized the company’s dreams, including HP’s other models. The average consumer likely won’t use the Recline 23 in all the ways HP promotes, such as hanging off a desk or positioning it as a flat surface, but the options are alluring to have for future Windows Store apps that will likely benefit from them.

If you’re looking for a Windows-powered all-in-one, start with the Envy Recline 23.

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24 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

All PC which come with bloatware should get bottom rating as long as the builder do not get get the message!!!

Edited by Borix, Jan 31 2014, 1:13pm :

I wonder if HP's overheating problems straight from the factory have been solved. Either way not willing to risk another HP machine with overheating problems.

0nyX said,
I wonder if HP's overheating problems straight from the factory have been solved. Either way not willing to risk another HP machine with overheating problems.

Haven't had any overheating problems.

0nyX said,
I wonder if HP's overheating problems straight from the factory have been solved. Either way not willing to risk another HP machine with overheating problems.

None of the thousands of PCs and Laptops we use at work overheat, might be a problem in the cheap side of things, but at the business level they are nice pieces of hardware for the price

Thanks for a great review... and what very reasonable price as well. UK prices depending on where you purchase them are reasonable as well just under £1,000.00. I was tempted to get one of these myself but I decided on getting an ENVY 17" notebook which is very nice indeed.

I purchased an HP ENVY 17" notebook and I am very pleased. Well I say very pleased. After I created a dedicated pen drive so I can recovery back to factory settings. I re-imaged the notebook and then installed Windows 8.1 Pro minus the annoying HP software which is designed for n00bies, I shouldn't say that, politically incorrect of me. For the novice user, who don't know their way around Windows 8 all the HP software and nicks and knacks are great and very useful.

"Why aren't HP and Microsoft promoting the Envy Recline 23 when it fits so well with Windows 8?"

HP's PPS division continues to miss the boat because no one even knows they are there. For as much criticism as HP gets on their low end product line, there are some really damn good products out there. One that comes to mind is the Envy Revolve laptop/tablet. I managed to get my hands on a prototype last year and was blown away by the great construction and performance. But that is a business product and HP never seems to advertise those much. They don't do much more advertising when it comes to the consumer stuff..

Oh, and where they hell is a digital pen for this? The Recline seems to be a perfect form factor for artists. It just screams missed opportunity to me.

Yea, I get that too. I think reintroducing Win7 is very good from a sales perspective. I know plenty of enterprise customers that don't want to move to Win8. Heck, there is a still a ton of business out there for migrating from WinXP to Win7. From a consumer standpoint, I think there are still a lot of customers that simply fear change. Win8 was too much change at once. Win8.1 did help matters but not enough. IMO, the PPS group sees a very quick and easy way to boost revenue. It makes sense to do so. I just question how much effort they put into marketing Win7 vs our new products. Some of which are actually quite good.

ians18 said,
Too expensive, plus is it made of plastic around the edges?

Too expensive compared to what? People need to stop spreading the notion that only Apple is allowed to charge a premium. Besides, Apple sells nothing comparable to this.

The closest anything comes to this is the Dell XPS One Touch, and that runs well north of $1500 because of the larger and higher resolution display.

TMYW said,

Too expensive compared to what? People need to stop spreading the notion that only Apple is allowed to charge a premium. Besides, Apple sells nothing comparable to this.

The closest anything comes to this is the Dell XPS One Touch, and that runs well north of $1500 because of the larger and higher resolution display.

One of the reasons Macs don't succeed is the price.

Looks like a pretty nice workstation. Pity about the pre-loaded software though, I guess some things never change. My rule #1 of buying a pre-built.. reformat the thing and start clean without the crapware.

Yeah, and don't trust any of those "fresh start" options OEMs offer sometimes. Specified that on a custom Sony build and it still came with 3rd party apps and the Intel AppUp platform with no traditional way to remove it.

Don't bother with those options. Just accept that if you want a fresh start you're better off doing it yourself.

Max Norris said,
......

I did that on my touchsmart800 and now the hardware volume buttons on the main chassis do not work and I can't find the right driver on HP site.

Could also have been when I did the 'unsupported' upgrade to Win8.0 and then 8.1

I wonder if this design will stick to the wall? Of all these new PC form factors that come with Windows 8 which designs are doing well? I don't think any are really.

derekaw said,
I wonder if this design will stick to the wall? Of all these new PC form factors that come with Windows 8 which designs are doing well? I don't think any are really.

I was going to ask the same thing. The TouchSmart 9100 series, which came before, had a conversion kit. Installed about 30 or so of those in years past...pain to convert. I wonder if the base has the VESA slots right on it?

derekaw said,
I wonder if this design will stick to the wall? Of all these new PC form factors that come with Windows 8 which designs are doing well? I don't think any are really.

At those prices? It's impossible for them to 'do well' relative to regular PCs. So it depends on what criteria you judge them by. But in the end they are all experiments. The dominant design for future PCs is still up in the air. And it will stay there until prices come down.

Ronnet said,

At those prices? It's impossible for them to 'do well' relative to regular PCs. So it depends on what criteria you judge them by. But in the end they are all experiments. The dominant design for future PCs is still up in the air. And it will stay there until prices come down.


PC prices really do need to get higher, though. This bottoming out crap has got to be part of why nothing innovative has happened to the desktop in over a decade.

Joshie said,

PC prices really do need to get higher, though. This bottoming out crap has got to be part of why nothing innovative has happened to the desktop in over a decade.

Seeing these prices, I think they are high enough. I also wonder if these desktop innovations will work out. I think the desktop was such a succes because there was no alternative. Then came the laptop followed by the netbook and now the tablet. I think a lot of people have light computer needs that are easily satisfied by a cheap 7'' tablet. There is no way these desktop innovations will bring back these consumers.

Naturally there comes a point where the consumer needs to type a letter and for that a big screen and a keyboard are handy. So perhaps the direction the desktop should go to is that of a docking station. Something you can attach to your tablet. Personally I would be interested in a PC dock for my Surface as a replacement for my old laptop (connected to a flatscreen).

Ronnet said,

Seeing these prices, I think they are high enough. I also wonder if these desktop innovations will work out. I think the desktop was such a succes because there was no alternative. Then came the laptop followed by the netbook and now the tablet. I think a lot of people have light computer needs that are easily satisfied by a cheap 7'' tablet. There is no way these desktop innovations will bring back these consumers.

Naturally there comes a point where the consumer needs to type a letter and for that a big screen and a keyboard are handy. So perhaps the direction the desktop should go to is that of a docking station. Something you can attach to your tablet. Personally I would be interested in a PC dock for my Surface as a replacement for my old laptop (connected to a flatscreen).

Well, I don't know if innovations have to be about bringing "back" casual users. I think the innovations that could be made would represent the desktop shifting to its narrower demographic going forward. Rather than appeal to too many use cases, how can the desktop evolve to better suit the professions that would still rely on it, now that they're more important to its success?

If the desktop really can't ever differentiate itself from a docked laptop/tablet, then it really will just die. Even its proponents don't know how to argue in its favor anymore, only ever talking about its upgradability and roominess to support more powerful components (a crap argument that didn't work for 5.25" HDDs either).

But how many professions really rely on a desktop? I work in an office environment. Even we use laptops with docking stations so we can easily switch departments or join project groups.

I think the desktop still appeals to the heavy duty workers such as ICT and graphical artists. They aren't leaving the desktops whether it has these innovations or not. I think the trend simply is towards touch and mobility. It simply meets the demand better than desktops.

Ronnet said,
But how many professions really rely on a desktop? I work in an office environment. Even we use laptops with docking stations so we can easily switch departments or join project groups.

I think the desktop still appeals to the heavy duty workers such as ICT and graphical artists. They aren't leaving the desktops whether it has these innovations or not. I think the trend simply is towards touch and mobility. It simply meets the demand better than desktops.

It beats me, really. I can name professions that are still hotly divided on the issue, but where the issue is personal preference, the desktop will eventually lose out. Fandom isn't enough to maintain a market. I was going to mention graphic designers and artists in my earlier post, but even they could be won over by a suitable innovation in the mobile space (it'd be naive to think mobile will wait for the desktop to catch up).

What I *do* really love about the desktop is a good multi-monitor setup. You can do really cool things with displays on the desktop, and most laptops don't have the ability to support that (whether it's power or simply available ports). Of course, this is *also* something that could be addressed by the appropriate advances in docking technology.

Hell, I personally love-love-love docking my tablet because it gives my 'desktop' a touch/stylus input device. So I just don't know anymore. I do know that it won't be about what is ultimately the 'best' choice after extensive research. It'll be about what's innovative 'enough' and appeals to the market early 'enough' to set the course for the generation that follows. That's why this stuff is pretty much not going to be predicted.

Joshie said,

It beats me, really. I can name professions that are still hotly divided on the issue, but where the issue is personal preference, the desktop will eventually lose out. Fandom isn't enough to maintain a market. I was going to mention graphic designers and artists in my earlier post, but even they could be won over by a suitable innovation in the mobile space (it'd be naive to think mobile will wait for the desktop to catch up).

What I *do* really love about the desktop is a good multi-monitor setup. You can do really cool things with displays on the desktop, and most laptops don't have the ability to support that (whether it's power or simply available ports). Of course, this is *also* something that could be addressed by the appropriate advances in docking technology.

Hell, I personally love-love-love docking my tablet because it gives my 'desktop' a touch/stylus input device. So I just don't know anymore. I do know that it won't be about what is ultimately the 'best' choice after extensive research. It'll be about what's innovative 'enough' and appeals to the market early 'enough' to set the course for the generation that follows. That's why this stuff is pretty much not going to be predicted.

I think you answered your own question sort of - docking solutions. I have a Lenovo X1 Carbon ultrabook that I use as a netbook while at home/mobile and then dock it to my Lenovo USB 3.0 dock to power 2 x 24" monitors, 1TB portable HDD (hosting Software, ISO's, Virtual Machines and backups). With the laptop's own 14" display, I have a total of 3 displays docked in a desktop scenario. At the end of the day I just unplug 2 cables (power and USB dock), throw it in my backpack and off I got with my Core i7 + 8GB RAM + 256GB SSD mobile workstation. Don't even want to think about a desktop machine. The only reason I have for a desktop computer is a small server at home that I mostly play with more than anything else (I occasionally remote desktop into it or stream media over the network).

As for graphic designers and such, my old Dell XPS 17" was a multimedia powerhouse - two graphics cards (integrated Intel one and discrete NVidia 550GT with 768GB RAM - they had even higher options with up to 1GB RAM too). This machine even had a damn subwoofer (JBL) and sounded better than most cheap desktop PC speakers. Point being that laptop was ideal for graphic designers and even video producers in my opinion. It had 3 USB ports, 1 x USB/FireWire hybrid port and a HDMI and Mini DisplayPort allowing you to dock the damn thing to 2 additional external displays and have as many USB ports as you want without a docking station. The only problem with it was obviously size and weight but it was really a portable machine with performance of a desktop machine (even had 2 HDD trays - I had a 265GB SSD and a 1TB traditional HDD in it).

So my point is that you really don't need the desktop form factor anymore unless that is your personal preference and in my opinion the number of people who really prefer desktops is shrinking more and more. I used to swear by desktop PC's few years ago, building my own all the time. Now I have a whole closet of desktop parts and pieces that I will probably throw away soon because I have no need for...

The Multi-display enthusiasts and some other consumers will keep the desktop alive as a niche product, I'm sure. But we're transfering from a computer market where the desktop was the primary 'choice' to one where its a niche product. It makes total sense when you consider that the desktop probably never was people's first choice,. BAck in the day they simply had no choice and desktop became normal.

But now new types of personal computers are appearing. More and more people will come to realize they dont need a desktop. I personally think the dockable tablet or even smartphone has the future. Which is why I think Microsoft is doing the right thing in the long run. Tablets and phones will become people's daily drivers but they need to be docked every now and then for the heavy lifting.