While I would previously welcome an All In One (AIO) for review, a recent trend has emerged that is somewhat disturbing – the tendency for manufacturers to slap a battery into their AIOs to make them somewhat portable. At first I thought this would be interesting, but it’s quickly given way to large 20”+ devices that are almost impossible to use as a tablet. The latest contender to join these ranks is the HP Envy Rove, a new 20” AIO that HP wants you to tug around your house. While it’s a somewhat capable device, it’s held back by exceedingly average performance and some truly horrible bundled peripherals.
Build quality & design
I have to admit that unpacking the Rove was exciting – despite being quite thick, the Rove was packaged neatly in foam that cleverly hid its true dimensions. Once out of its foam prison, you can actually stand back and admire it for a few seconds before you have to figure out how to actually make it stand on its own. There’s a sturdy-looking kickstand at the back of the Rove, which can be released by a large button at the back. Pressing down on the button releases the kickstand automatically, which then begins to lower like the drawbridge of a prehistoric fort. Despite taking its time to lower, the kickstand is surprisingly study, and no amount of poking and prodding at the screen will make it topple over. You won’t find any carry handle on the back of the Rove, which is odd, given that HP wants the Rove to be portable around the house. So get used to grabbing the Rove by the sides instead, or trying to tuck it under your arm.
Port wise, the Rove only has three USB 3.0 ports and a headphone/microphone combo jack. There’s no SD card reader or video in/out, which is a bit of a disappointment. HP does include a USB network dongle for anyone who needs to wire up the Rove, but otherwise the integrated high-speed wireless should be fine.
Benchmarks & Performance
As nice as the Rove may look, its performance is seriously underwhelming. The system started to slow down during my Chrome test, which involved five open tabs displaying mixed content. Watching a video on YouTube occasionally stuttered, with things improving if I closed down background processes or applications. Since HP have slapped on an integrated graphics chip, don’t expect to be doing any high-profile gaming on the Rove, as it can barely keep up with Windows 8.1 at times. Most common tasks like surfing the web or doing simple document editing will be fine, but anything too demanding will certainly suffer on the Rove. YouTube videos in 720p took a good few seconds to sync up the video and audio before they played properly, and a similar problem occurred even when playing local media files.
HP bundles a few of its apps on the Rove, but the most annoying is the included Norton Internet Security, which screams at you every so often to buy a subscription. Thankfully, this is easy to uninstall if you choose to do so.
Screen, Keyboard, and Mouse
What’s puzzling about the Rove is that the 20” screen isn’t full-HD, so you’ll be stuck with a resolution of 1,600 x 900. That means you won’t be able to watch full-HD content on it, and that’s actually a bit of a blessing. For something that’s supposed to be an entertainment hub in the home, it’s a pity that the Rove doesn’t provide full-HD quality viewing. Having said that, the touchscreen is super-responsive, with full 10-point touch capabilities. Multiplayer games and navigating around the OS is a breeze, compared to other touchscreens that don’t quite cut it at times.
Bundled with the Rove is a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. On one hand I’m grateful that these are Bluetooth, thus eliminating the need to use one of the precious USB ports for a wireless receiver. On the other hand, both the keyboard and mouse are decidedly average, with the keyboard being quite stiff to type on and the mouse being an absolute fingerprint magnet, thanks to its glossy plastic cover. It continues to baffle me why manufacturers would design these beautiful AIO machines and then cobble together a cheap plastic keyboard or mouse. There is of course the default on-screen keyboard, but this is awkwardly spaced out and makes typing a challenge with one hand if you’re holding up the Rove with the other.
Battery, Heat and Noise levels
One thing I do have to say about the Rove is that it is fairly quiet. Even when I was doing multiple tasks on the Rove, the internal fans never kicked up a fuss – in a very quiet room the Rove will just be barely audible if you’re close to it. The system also remained cool to the touch around most areas, which is important if you’re going to be propping the Rove on your lap. Battery life for the Rove clocked in at two hours forty-seven minutes, which involved playing a few touchscreen games, surfing the web, and watching a 720p movie.
The HP Envy Rove 20 is certainly not the last we’ve seen of these portable AIOs, but as a first-generation attempt by HP, it’s mostly smoke and mirrors. The sturdy design gives way to rather average performance that you might see from the likes of an Ultrabook, not an expensive AIO. On top of that, the Rove is a massive device in itself, and there’s no way that you’ll use this around the house unless it’s propped up on a desk or lying flat on a surface. It’s far too heavy and bulky to be remotely used as a tablet, unless you want severe cramps in your legs.