Pros: Fast, powerful ready to run everything from Crysis to Far Cry.
Cons: Poor case design. WINDOWS 8.
The HP ENVY H8 can be equipped to spec on HP, BBY’s or Costco’s website. In the configuration I got, I received a Core i7 (3770)processor at 3.4Ghz running Windows 8, a 1 TB Hard Drive with 910 GB available to the user, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, BEATS audio 5.1 channel sound output, dual DVI outputs, and a wireless –N LAN adapter.
The computer offers 2 USB 3.0 Superspeed ports on front and 2 on back, 2 USB 2.0 ports up front, and 2 on back, an Ethernet port and a 15-in-1 flash card reader on front.
Mass storage is handled by a DVD-RW/CD-RW writer, but you can option in a Blu-Ray disk burner. I’m doing the next best thing: using USB 3.0 Hard Disk Drives and high capacity flash drives for backup. The Blu-Ray writer makes no sense this day in age when Terabyte hard drives can be had for less than $100 and just about everything recognizes USB.
Unfortunately, this is where things get screwy.
For some reason, some genius at HP (who should be fired immediately) placed 2 of the USB 3.0 ports on top of the computer facing away from the user. Not only that – the mic and headphone ports are besides it. If you want to plug in anything, you’d need to stand up, and plug things in backwards. It makes no sense at all and only causes cord entanglements. While I can accept the headphone and mic cables coming from the rear of the tower, why aren’t the headphone and mic ports on the front? Plugging in USB flash drives will require you to maneuver your wrist like Spiderman and eventually you’ll damage the connector.
No matter what angle you view the Envy, you’ll be met with the BEATS by Dre logo. Despite my disdain for BEATS (which are substandard headphones and software being sold for top dollar), the PC’s case is stylish and attractive without the miniature “B” dimples. Having the BEATS sound system in this computer gives you a built in sound card which is ready to accept 5.1 speakers. what's even more disappointing is the lack of "BEATS" software and graphic equalizer. My Creative Labs software allowed me to individually adjust individual channels while BEATS does not. The BEATS 5.1 firmware inside, just like the firmware in my Envy laptop, is there just to automatically add more low frequency bass to generic low-end speakers. To truly play with the audio system here, you'd need to visit Window's Media's SRS WOW suite - which is designed to add sound effects to music. Whether it’s bass boosting or 3D surround, it doesn’t really matter whether you have the BEATS technology or not. What does matter is your audio equipment. If you’ve got a great 5-piece speaker system with its own powered subwoofer, you’ll get more powerful, clearer and sharper sound by default. If you make the mistake of buying a PC like this and run it on a pair of cheap $30 speakers Best Buy threw in to the package, then there was truly no point in buying the BEATS option in the first place.
I plugged this computer in to a Klipsch Promedia 5.1 system – which used to be plugged in to a Creative Labs Soundblaster 5.1 card. Did I notice a difference with the Beats audio firmware? I’d be lying to you if I said that I did.
This is not to say it’s not worth getting the BEATS sound card however. With that option checked, you’ll now have the ability to plug in a 5.1 system out of the box - rather than needing to buy a separate sound card and plug it in.
As I opened the case for this computer to start upgrading it, I found that the motherboard supports a single PCI express X16 video card and up to three PCI express X1 devices. There is enough space for a dual bracket card. You won’t be needing a sound card if you got the BEATS option.
The computer came equipped with 16GB of memory (4 slots each with 4GB). The computer may be expanded to 32GB of RAM, but I won’t be doing that till memory gets cheaper. I've got my eye on Kensington's 32GB Hyper-X memory kit.
Video output is limited to 2 motherboard mounted DVI-out ports. There is no 15-pin VGA and no HDMI – which there should be. Out of the box, you can run this computer in expanded desktop mode, and video quality is “perfect” for a Windows machine. Unfortunately there isn’t enough horsepower in the onboard graphics to run any PC-quality games. Crysis, Crysis 2, and especially the most sophisticated Far Cry 3 failed the install immediately. To remedy this, I slipped in a Geforce GTX with 2GB of RAM. Far Cry 3 now ran in its highest resolution and looked absolutely gorgeous.
Just to be sure I more than adequately cover what could be major aspects of this machine, let me add that the power supply is 300W unless you have the factory upgrade the video card to a card which requires a larger internal power supply. Some video cards without their own AC-adapters won't be able to work with this computer - so keep that in mind if you try to go cheap during the ordering phase.
WINDOWS 8 EXPERIENCE
This is the first desktop computer I’ve worked with using Windows 8. Till now, I’ve used a combination of XP, Vista and Windows 7 to accomplish my tasks. Without a doubt, I can say that Windows 8 completely ruins the user experience in a way that would have any person ready to take this entire computer back to the store. I won’t go too far into detail about Windows 8 because I can write a separate review for that alone (which I will do soon).
XP, Vista and Windows 7 function quite similarly to the classic windows operating systems. There are numerous features inherent to Windows platforms that have not changed till now. Unfortunately, any user who’s experienced with Windows enough to memorize command trees will be completely lost in Windows 8 for the first hour or two of use.
#1 The START button is gone. Till now, we’ve used the Start button to properly shut down the computer and as a reference point for documents, programs, the system settings, and quick access to music and pictures. Now – it’s gone and you’ll need to use the Windows “metro” interface. The power button toggle isn’t immediately noticeable either. I looked online and noticed some users hack the system registry to get the interface looking like Windows 7’s, but I ask you: what novice user could realistically do that? Nor should they have to.
#2 Windows Metro is designed for tablets. This interface is HORRIBLE for desktops (and laptops). Basically, Window’s new interface is designed to mimic the app-oriented layout that Google Android stole from Apple’s iOS (YEAH I SAID IT!!!). On a touchscreen device, it would be decent for the computer illiterate, but for someone like myself fluent in Windows, Android and Mac, this new metro interface comes off feeling like an unorganized Android version. There’s simply too much information displayed at once and nothing feels organized or organizeable. Simply figuring out how to organize the Start screen app requires a tutorial. Figuring out how to remove, resize or delete apps takes yet another.
#3 Basic window’s functions have been removed or inconveniently placed. I searched high and low (and online) for ways to do normally simple things such as “changing my password”. Apparently windows 8 won’t allow you to use any password you want – you must use combinations of capitals and numbers. How about simply using the internet? If you make the mistake of going through the Metro interface to do it, you’ll be met with a fullscreen, Safari-like browser that doesn’t work as well as Safari. If you can make it to the Desktop and use that Internet Explorer button, fortunately you can use the classic IE with tabbed browsing. But WHY SHOULD IT BE SO CONFUSING???
More ranting to come in my Windows 8 review…
What the hell happened here???
The desktop is powerful and can be well equipped but this is the worst tower design I’ve ever seen from HP running the worst operating system I’ve seen from Microsoft.
It took me so long to simply figure out basics of operation in Windows 8, that I was actually getting angry at the computer – which in and of itself hadn’t done anything wrong.
Let me ignore Windows 8 and merely rate the computer. It’s a great computer. The case design could use some redesigning, but that wasn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for the price I got it for. I loved the power offered by the i7, the 5.1-ready ports and the memory allotment, but HP should definitely make sure it focuses on front facing ports rather than backwards facing.
I can recommend this computer based on its power and its price. Unfortunately you don't really have a choice when it comes to the operating system. Many games coming soon demand Windows 8.
Some of the equipment in here won't work properly if you downgrade the OS.
What choice do you have?