Being a media mom, it’s only to be expected that I have a “media family”. My kids and husband are used to being blogged about, tweeted and facebooked about, having their photos pinned to pinterest and being videotaped daily as part of our online digital life!
It might be a little surprising, then, that we haven’t had a family computer for the last 2 years!
Before we moved into our house in Alaska, we created the “Education Station”, which was an entertainment armoire that housed our family computer. It was a traditional tower PC and big bulky CRT monitor, and the tower was constantly filled with dust because it sat so close to the floor. We used that family computer for homeschool programs, educational computer games, and watching streaming video of cartoons, TV shows (like The Cosby Show) and family movies.
When we got ready to move into our house, we had to evaluate the family computer and it’s very large housing structure. We would need to have the giant CRT monitor safely kept away from the children so that it didn’t fall on them. The armoire got broken going into the moving truck, and the computer itself was old and outdated. We decided at that point that the old family computer was not coming to the new house with us.
For the next 2 years, the kids would have to use mom or dad’s laptop when they wanted to watch Netflix shows, play games, or do school lessons. This wasn’t an ideal setup, but we didn’t want to get into another situation where we had a huge family computer we were trying to keep the kids safe from and keep safe from them!
However, since our life is so digital and media-rich, there have been times when it was obvious that we needed a solution to the family computer problem. Especially with our son going to school this year, our back to school shopping interest turned to computers.
Enter the ENVY
Last month, during the bustle of back to school shopping, I heard from HP about their ENVY all-in-one computers. A while back, I saw an all-in-one when I was at an event for a client and thought it was quite different. An all-in-one computer is a PC that looks like a flat LCD monitor. The catch is that it has the actual computer inside the monitor too! Everything you need is included, such as disk drives, DVD or Blu-Ray player, etc.
I guess the concept for an all-in-one computer isn’t all that different than a laptop, it just so closely resembles a computer monitor that you expect there to be a tower for it somewhere else!
Unboxing the HP Envy
When the HP ENVY arrived at my house, I couldn’t wait to unbox it and see just what it looked like. It was a very different experience than I’ve had setting up computers in the past.
For anyone who has ever set up a computer, you know that you expect to take out the tower, monitor, speakers, mouse, keyboard, and tons of cables out of the packaging. You know the drill of setting up a traditional computer, which goes like this:
- crawl around under your desk and follow a giant color-coded diagram
- plug in the tower and monitor to electrical outlets
- use the monitor cable to connect the tower to the monitor
- unpack the speakers and connect one speaker to the other
- connect both speakers to the computer
- plug the keyboard in to the computer
- plug the mouse into the computer
- turn the power on for the monitor, tower, and speakers
…and there you have it! A lot of crouching, crawling, and a mess of cords, and you have your brand new computer!
The HP ENVY all-in-one computer is totally different. Included in the box were the computer, power cord, wireless keyboard, and wireless mouse. That’s it – just 4 things (unless you count the manual!) to unbox and set up.
Setting up the HP ENVY 23 was the easiest I’ve ever done on a computer; all I had to do was unwrap the items, plug in the computer, and turn it on! There were no cords on the mouse or keyboard since both are wireless. Also, the speakers, computer and monitor are all built together, so there’s no need to connect any of them to each other. I didn’t even need to set up the keyboard; the bluetooth already had it configured and ready to type.
HP ENVY: Minimalist Family Computer
For me, my minimalist tendencies inherently look for ways to make things more efficient, less cluttered, and fill more roles. The HP ENVY 23 turns out to be a pretty minimalist computer, whether it was intended to be or not. The lack of cables, consolidation of pieces, and multiple roles of the HP ENVY 23 make this all-in-one computer a minimalist’s dream!
In the videos, I talk about replacing your TV with the ENVY, and I feel that you really could. With its 23” diag. screen, built-in Blu-Ray player, TV tuner option, and wall mount option, there is no real reason you would need to have a traditional television anymore.
Especially for parents with small children, the storage and safety issue for the placement of a family computer becomes irrelevant with the ENVY 23. You see, if you wall mount the computer and have only 2 additional components (wireless keyboard and wireless mouse) that you could easily store in a drawer, your computer is safely out of curious hands but able to be used by your children for school work or as a media center for the whole family.
HP Envy: Your Family Media Center
Sound: Beats Audio™ makes poor computer audio a thing of the past. The full speaker bar across the bottom of the screen delivers cinematic quality in your TV and movie audio like you’ve never heard on a computer!
Gaming: What is a computer that can’t game?! I’m a lover of PC gaming (especially MMORPGs like World of Warcraft), and as a family computer, my husband, son, and I will all be fighting over who gets to play WoW on the HP ENVY! The game graphics are superb and in-game lag hasn’t been an issue.
HD: Streaming has never looked so good! The ENVY displays in full HD at 1080p, so your high definition videos are not being downgraded because of an inferior display.
Family Communicator: One of my favorite uses for the new HP ENVY is as a communication center for video chat with family and friends long distance. My kids will love chatting with Grandma on Skype on the big family computer, and our video and audio quality will be the best we’ve ever had for visiting with relatives online! The TrueVision HD webcam and super-sensitive microphone make a video chat like an in-person visit.
Storage space: My HP ENVY has 1TB of storage, which will house a lot of videos, photos, and music for the whole family to enjoy. However, if you’re a power user with bigger storage needs, you can choose up to a 3TB hard drive in the ENVY.
HP Envy Features
It’s not unusual for me to have YouTube videos uploading, have TweetDeck fetching real time updates, have Carbonite backing up my data, have OneNote open, Outlook checking email, and be streaming kids’ shows from Netflix all at the same time. On a lot of machines, that kind of load would lock up the computer. The core i5 handles it smoothly without lag.
Programs: Some of my favorite “toys” (features) on the HP ENVY were the built in programs that allow customization. I had a great time playing with HP Magic Canvas, which allows you to pin “magnets” to your desktop. The magnets can be notes, photos, even videos that play in place amidst your icons and shortcuts! with HP Magic Canvas, the icons can be displayed across the bottom of your screen in a carousel or, for the traditionalists, you can switch your icons to a grid.
Price: For a fully loaded computer that the entire family will be using daily, plus a Blu-Ray player, the HP ENVY’s price is a steal at $949.99.
HP ENVY: Back to School’s a Breeze
Since your kids are headed back to school right now, you’ll appreciate how easy the HP ENVY 23 All-in-One computer can make your life as a parent! In the video, I talk about how we have our family computer facing the living room so we can monitor our kids as they do school work. The ENVY makes monitoring schoolwork extra simple, since you can wall mount the machine and know for sure that your daughter is looking up details on quantum physics instead of chatting with friends on facebook!
Your kids will love using the ENVY to do their homework – from writing papers for health class, to creating presentations for communications class, to watching BBC productions of Shakespearean plays for English, to doing in-depth research for their history project. This processing dream machine can handle everything your child needs to do to work hard and play hard!
Students will definitely get more out of the year having a powerful learning tool to help them get it all done. And you’ll feel great knowing that they have all the tools they need to succeed and enjoy their school work.
HP ENVY: My New Vlogging Machine
I’m so in love with the HP ENVY 23’s HD webcam that I’m now using it as my main vlogging computer. By the way – this is a great way to catalog some of your family’s busy times together! Gather the family in front of the ENVY All-in-One computer after dinner to make a short vlog (it’s like a video journal entry) of what happened in your day. Looking back on some of these old videos makes for a great family movie night too!
I love my new ENVY and I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re a parent with kids headed back to school. The space saving features are fantastic and the price is right. Is an ENVY right for your family? If you want to check it out, you can buy it or look at the tech specs at the HP Store.
Disclaimer: In compliance with the FTC Guides, this post and these videos have material connections. I received no fees for the publication of this post or the videos contained within. HP provided me with an HP ENVY 23 All in One computer at no cost to facilitate the review process. This review is my honest opinion.