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|
23-inch IPS full HD display (1920x1080)
10-point projected capacitive touchscreen
Intel Core i7-4770T
2.5GHz quad-core CPU
NVIDIA GeForce GT730A
1GB DDR3 discrete memory
|RAM||8GB DDR3-1600MHz (2 DIMM)|
|Storage||1TB 5,400 rpm Hybrid Hard Drive (8GB SSHD)|
Integrated Audio (Beats Audio software)
3.55mm headphone/microphone combo jack
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
HP TrueVision 720p HD webcam
Dual microphone array
2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI input
3-in-1 memory card reader
HP wireless keyboard
HP wireless mouse
ATSC/NTSC TV tuner (USB)
HP wireless remote
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.
|Boot Time||15 seconds|
Fire Strike 1.1: 1034
Cloud Gate 1.1: 6952
Ice Storm 1.2: 67857
Graphics Score: 5057
CPU Score: 22975
Home Conventional 3.0: 3036
Work Conventional 2.0: 3282
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.
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.
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.
Why aren't HP and Microsoft promoting the Envy Recline 23 when it fits so well with Windows 8?
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.