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HP Envy 23 TouchSmart review

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The £1,049 model HP Envy 23 TouchSmart all-in-one PC, available in Currys and PC World, has a third-generation Intel Core i5-3330S processor, 6GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon HD 7450A with AMD App graphics card, and an impressively large 2TB hard drive. It's also got a 23-inch touchscreen, a Blu-ray disc optical drive, and built-in Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n. The Envy 23 TouchSmart runs Windows 8.

While the HP Envy TouchSmart 23 isn't the fastest, most powerful machine out there, it's an excellent choice for people who are interested a sleek-looking all-purpose machine. I may not love HP's frame-like stand style, but I can't knock it for being easy-to-use, flexible, and sturdy. Plus, the Envy 23 TouchSmart has an excellent touchscreen, speakers enhanced with BeatsAudio, and very solid overall performance.

Design and usability

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart looks and feels the way that an all-in-one should: it's sleek and easy-to-use, with a sturdy, easily-adjustable stand and well-positioned ports.

HP Envy 23 Touchsmart review

The TouchSmart has a large, glossy 23-inch screen surrounded by a thick black bezel. The screen and bezel are covered with edge-to-edge glass, giving the system a somewhat bezel-less look when the screen is turned off. The bezel, which has rounded corners and a slim silvery border, has a small Envy 23 logo in the upper right corner and a small BeatsAudio logo in the upper left corner.

Below the screen and bezel are the system's speakers, which are clad in matte black aluminum. A small silver HP logo is located in the middle of the thin speaker strip.

The TouchSmart sports HP's signature all-in-one frame design. While I am not a huge fan of this design, I will admit that it works very well - it's one of the sturdiest all-in-one stands that I've come across, and it's extremely easy to adjust. Basically, the screen appears to be enclosed in a frame - at the bottom of the screen, at each corner, two solid silver-coloured frame pieces come down and tuck under a large, brushed-aluminium stand. The stand has a hump (to accommodate the frame), and extends backward to ensure the heavy system stays standing. Adjusting the screen is as easy as pushing or pulling it with your hand; it moves smoothly and doesn't feel like it will fall over.

The stand can be a little annoying, since you're unable to store any peripherals (such as the keyboard) under the screen.

HP Envy 23 Touchsmart review

The TouchSmart comes with a pretty standard wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is large and black, with regular-style keys and a shiny black plastic border around the edge. Tactile feedback isn't great, and the keys have a tendency to feel like they're sticking as you type on them. The large optical mouse, which has two buttons and a scroll wheel, is responsive and accurate. Both peripherals are perfectly usable, but they aren't really the sleek, sexy peripherals I'm used to seeing with relatively high-end all-in-one desktops.

Ports are mostly located on the back of the screen, in the lower left corner. There are a couple of convenience ports on the left side of the screen, including a card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and headphone and microphone jacks. The back ports include four USB 2.0 ports, audio out and subwoofer jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, and a lock slot. The right side of the screen houses the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, as well as buttons: game mode, output, and plus and minus buttons for moving through menus and changing the screen brightness. There's also an HDMI output in on the right side of the machine.

Performance

You'll have to bear with us here, because the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart we tested is not the one you can buy on the high street in the UK. The model tested in our lab in San Franciso - and presumably available in the US - has a Core i7 chip, 12GB RAM and a 3TB hard drive, as well as Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics. That particular flavour of the Envy 23 TouchSmart scored a comfortable 72 out of 100 in our Windows 8 benchmark. This means the TouchSmart is 18% slower than our testing model, which has a third-generation Intel Core i5 desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. You can expect a small drop in performance for the UK SKU of the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart. That would still mean it scores better than other all-in-ones in its class.

The TouchSmart holds its own in individual tests, coming out just below full-spec desktop PCs. It starts up relatively quickly in 22.2 seconds. It also encodes video and audio fairly quickly (152 seconds and 203 seconds, respectively), on par with other desktops we've tested on WB8. For example, the Lenovo ThinkCentre, which has an Intel Core i7-2600 processor and 8GB of RAM, encodes video in 152 seconds and audio in 218 seconds.

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart doesn't perform quite as well against other desktops in the PCMark 7 productivity test. In this test, it scored 1543, which is significantly lower than our testing model (4633) - again, something you might expect from an all-in-one PC.

Graphics performance on the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart is decent, thanks to its AMD Radeon HD 7450A discrete graphics card. In our Dirt Showdown Ultra graphics test, the TouchSmart managed 71.6 frames per second (maximum quality settings, 1366 by 768 pixel resolution). The Satellite, which has the same mobile graphics card as the TouchSmart, managed 76.2 fps, while our testing model (which has a desktop-class graphics card), managed 117 fps on the same test.

Screen and speakers

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart sports an attractive, glossy 23-inch touchscreen with a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The screen looks good as a screen - unlike the Toshiba Satellite LX835, this screen has no rendering issues, and images and text look crisp and clear. Colours look mostly accurate, but can look washed out at brighter settings. Off-axis viewing angles aren't fantastic - when you move to either side of the screen, the colours seem to take on a pinkish hue, and contrast suffers quite a bit.

HP Envy 23 Touchsmart review

As a touchscreen, the TouchSmart's screen is excellent. It's smooth to the touch, which makes using it very comfortable, and it's responsive and accurate. Multi-touch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, are very smooth and quick. Overall, everything feels snappy on this screen, which is great considering the other input peripherals aren't exactly top-of-the-line.

Video looks and sounds fairly nice on the TouchSmart's screen. Action scenes were fluid, though I did notice some slight artifacting around the corners of darker, high-motion scenes. HD streaming video played without a hitch, and regular video also looked nice and not too choppy.

If you've read any of my earlier reviews of HP machines, you'll know that I am a huge fan of the BeatsAudio enhancement that the company has been including with just about all of its systems. The TouchSmart is no different - audio from the all-in-one's built-in speakers sounds very good, with warm, thumpy bass and full-sounding surround-sound. The speakers get fairly loud and can be a little harsh at higher levels, but you should be fine if you keep them in the middle range. The headphone jack, which is enhanced with BeatsAudio as well, also sounds excellent.



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