During CES 2013, HP’s announcing a gaggle of new monitors – For the sake of this piece, though, let’s focus on two that stand out to me: The ENVY 27 and the new Pavilion xi-Series. Both have some uniquely sleek looks and pack IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels. One, the ENVY 27, even packs in a pair of Beats Audio speakers into the design. I’ve had some quality hands-on time with the new IPS panel being used. Want to hear some initial relatively unfiltered thoughts? Keep reading….
The ENVY 27: A monitor that sounds as good as it looks
Way back in the day, I remember buying a monitor that had the speakers built into the sides. They sounded tinny. And the beefy CRT tube? Hey, it worked….if you want to call that “working.” What a difference a couple decades make. Here we are with our first ENVY monitor that takes those early notions and rocks it.
I’ve only had a limited bit of time with the ENVY 27 during demo days, but let’s talk looks: The thin aluminum base has a funky off-center strut that supports the 27-inch IPS panel. It’s off center design takes up a thinner footprint than a traditional base design. BONUS: I got a new place to stick my keyboard. ahem.
The ENVY 27 has the same sort of IPS panel as you’d find in the “xi” models mentioned below, with a swank-looking glossy finish that give you a crisp edge-to-edge display (13.95mm thin at the top) set at a native resolution of 1920 by 1080. Go on, plug in a device via HDMI or DisplayPort (yep, a consumer unit with DisplayPort) and see for yourself. With the 178-degree view, gawkers walking by can see what’s up as well. (Feel free to skip down for a hands-on with the panel for a first taste preview….)
The short version: The big noise we’re making about this panel is…well…the audio. Developed collaboratively with the Beats by Dre™ crew, the two built-in speakers are angled upward to deliver mid-range and high frequencies with equally rich bass. You might have noticed how I’m talking generally about the audio quality here. That’s because I haven’t had ample quality sit-down time with the ENVY 27 monitor. Yet.
The audio is fed from your PC to the monitor via an analog jack in back....or piped directly through the HDMI (and DisplayPort) cable. While you can, of course, take advantage of the built-in speakers, there’s a conveniently located headphone jack, subwoofer-output and an optical audio out thrown in for good measure. (Available Feb. 3, 2013 for $499)
The Pavilion xi-Series monitors: Sweet, Silver, Slim [A QUICK HANDS-ON]
If you looked at the SpectreONE a couple months back and thought “MAN! I wish I had that sweet design sitting on my desk,” but you’re happy with the computer you’ve already got, then I’ve got the monitors for you – the new Pavilion xi line. Slick lines and a slim panel manage to pack an awesome deal inside an awesome IPS panel. Now this guy, I had plenty of time with – so I can give you a better idea of how this works in the field. Mind you, the xi line ranges from a 20-inch unit to as big as 27 inches, with 3 other sizes in between. My tests were with the 27-inch beast. That’s how I roll.
The edge-to-edge panel in the display sharpens up images with some impressive clarity. Not only is this monitor big-and-beautiful, it’s great for handling video. And by video I mean more than watching movies (or TV). With the HP Enhance+ mode engaged, images did look crisper. Ideally, that mode makes it a good choice for photo-editing, watching videos and such. When I went and checked out the pixel-pushing enhancement, though I noticed that at the high-settings, text is going to seem a little too sharp. How so? Well, let’s say you’re watching a movie with subtitles…or playing a video game with on-screen text. That lower-resolution text can pop out with jagged edges. If you drop Enhance+ mode to medium or low, it looks great – think of it as if you’re tinkering with Anti-Aliasing settings in a game to ultimately get a better picture.
And speaking of a picture…I plugged in Far Cry 3 to see how it’d fare and all I can say is….wow. The dense forests look appropriately lush and the landscape, even at night, has a gorgeous glow – a bright, sharp picture all around-- ] even when sitting in front of a wide-open window on a sunny day. The only thing I wish I had: A second monitor so that I could push this landscape to two screens (The game supports AMD’s EyeFinity multi-display tech). How does it look? Well, you really need to check it out for yourself. When it comes to monitors, I always tell people to go and see it for yourself, first (when possible). That said, I was having a tough time deciding whether I wanted to look out the window or keep nose-pressed into the game. HINT: The game won.
One thing I should mention: if you’re not a fan of reaching out and navigating the touch-inductive button panel along the bottom right of the 27xi (it works great, fwiw), you can install the My Display software that comes in the box. I know, I know….I often skip installation discs whenever possible. And for a monitor? Just hear me out on this one. This gives you full control of your display. It’s easy to switch between inputs, tweak the color settings and instantly see the difference. In my initial tests, I didn’t see any noticeable performance hit for My Display. There’s also a partition mode in the software so that you can instantly snap open multiple apps and drop them into specific quadrants on your desktop – if you have a burning need to multitask in a hurry.
The 21.5-, 23-, 25- and 27-inch models have VGA, DVI-D and HDMI ports to cover most of the connectivity gamut. VGA seems a little old-school to me – I’d want to see some DisplayPort love in there, but I’m crazy like that. Two things to give you a head’s up on: First, the 20- and 21-inch models come with a matte screen. Second, the 20-incher is a VGA monitor with a native resolution of 1600 by 900. (Available Feb. 3, 2013 and ranging in price from $129.99 to $339.99)