HP Envy 34c Monitor Review

HP’s new 34-inch curved Envy 34c sports a high-contrast SVA panel and DTS-tuned speakers; features that set it apart from the competition. Today we check out its performance in our benchmark suite.

While some users are still asking “why?” when it comes to curved monitors, every major display manufacturer has now introduced at least one such display to the market. At first they were aimed at the luxury business class but now we’re now seeing their value for gaming and entertainment. We recently looked at Acer’s XR341CK, a 75Hz FreeSync screen and BenQ’s 144Hz XR3501. There’s no doubt that the 21:9 aspect ratio coupled with a curved panel can significantly change your gaming experience.

The other two curved screens reviewed recently here at Tom’s are Dell’s U3415W and LG’s 34UC97. Both displays are premium-priced and aimed at well-heeled business users. There’s no doubt they can do some unique things and that they make a bold statement on any desktop.

Today we’re checking out HP’s Envy 34c. By adding a high-contrast SVA panel and forward-firing DTS-tuned speakers to the mix, it has created a stand-out product that manages to do a few things better than the competition.

The first thing that pops out of the spec table is a panel type we haven’t looked at before – SVA. Like VA and AMVA, SVA uses a better light valve to more completely block the backlight in low or zero-signal conditions. It’s derived from PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment) which is part-manufacturer Samsung’s take on the Multi-Domain Vertical Alignment technology first seen in the 1990s. Rather than tweak or imitate the work done by others, it created its own variant from the ground up. What all this translates to is deeper black levels and better contrast.

The best IPS and TN monitors can achieve around 1000:1 in an on/off contrast test. But an AMVA panel like the one used in BenQ’s XR3501 can almost double that. And the VA-based Philips BDM4065UC recently shredded our contrast record with a 6259.4:1 result at maximum output.

We consider contrast to be have the greatest impact on image quality so naturally the more there is, the better we like it. Color accuracy, saturation and resolution are very important as well but in our experience, low contrast can mask positive results in those other areas. Regardless of how saturated the color is, elevated black levels will throw a haze onto the screen that makes the picture look flat.

Like its competition the Envy 34c sells for between $900 and $1000. But with its high-contrast and a pair of excellent speakers, it offers a little more to entice the buyer. Now all that remains is to assess its performance. Let’s take a look.