HP Pavilion Wave – A PC Wrapped in Fabric?!

Would you believe me if I told you that what you’re looking at here is not an artisanal craft good bought at a home decor store? Nope, it’s actually a speaker. Oh, and a full PC. Too. It’s the HP Pavilion Wave, and it’s set out to grace your family’s living room with a sophisticated yet welcoming feel. It’s good for whatever a computer does, but in a pinch, it’s also good for a warm hug. Mmm.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fabric-covered PC before. Probably because they tend to warm themselves just fine without any extra insulation. But you can throw away any qualms you might have about the Wave overheating. It uses the same cylindrical, bottom-to-top, single fan cooling setup we’ve seen first in the Mac Pro, and then more recently in the MSI Vortex. It seems like trash can PCs are here to stay. Ok, that’s fair to say for the Mac Pro, because it actually looked exactly like an existing trash can. The Wave, on the other hand, looks like a high-end speaker. And that’s because… it is.

Unlike those other cylindrical PCs I mentioned earlier, the other reason for the Wave’s unusual shape is its singular speaker, located in the center of the system. It pumps audio at the parabolic reflector at the top, which directs audio in a 360-degree arc. The vents at the top also serve to expel heat, so you can expect some HOT beats… coming out of this thing. Huh..yeah. The audio is not bad at all for a single speaker, with plenty of volume and good representation of the treble and bass, but the mids could use a bit of a bump. The Wave also has two integrated microphones, so you can use Cortana or video call to your heart’s content.  HP worked with Bang + Olufson on this peculiar audio setup, and I think they did a Bang-up job. Puns.

Now let’s finish our look at the layout. The Wave sits 26 cm tall, or around 10 and a quarter inches, and around 17 cm across, or just under 7 inches. Weight will depend on the specific model’s specs, but ours was surprisingly light. The fabric exterior breaks at the rear, where the main I/O is situated. There we have the power jack, HDMI, Displayport, Ethernet, two USB 3.0 Type A ports, a USB 3.1 Type C port, SD card reader, and power button. At the front, there’s also another USB 3.0 Type A port and 3.5mm audio jack, along with the B&O logo. For internal specs, this particular model has an Intel Core i5 6400T, that’s a quad-core, but no multithreading – 8GB of DDR4, that’s upgradeable to 16, a 1TB Hard Drive which can be upgraded to an SSD as well, an optional AMD Radeon R9 470 for graphics, as well as AC Wifi, Bluetooth 4.2, and Windows 10 Home Edition. As I said, some specs are configurable when you buy the Wave, but this model with those specs goes for 649 US.

Now – those seem like decently powerful specs for what is ostensibly intended to be used as a family living room PC. Indeed, the presence of the SD card reader, and the Wave’s ability to power 1 4K display or 2 1440p displays indicates this machine could very easily be used for professional work or a bit of light gaming. So I ran a couple benchmarks. In Cinebench, I got an OpenGL score of 83.65 and a CPU score of 422, which puts this system far below powerful i7 processors, but it’s still got plenty of performance for watching video, web browsing with a bunch of tabs open, and using Office or what have you. I installed Overwatch and played around to see how that would perform, and at 1080p and high settings I was getting a solid 30-40 fps – so you should have no problem running some light games and some 3D-intensive programs like Sketchup or AutoCAD as well.

So this sounds like a pretty sweet deal! But there are a couple things i took issue with. First, the thing looks like a big speaker, I mean it is a big speaker, and it has Bluetooth. So why can’t you use it as a Bluetooth speaker? Obviously, that’s not an expected feature of any Windows PC with speakers, but it would have been cool if HP added it. Second, the thing is pretty hard to open if you want to do repairs or upgrades yourself – the Wave’s rubber feet hide screws which you can remove to take the bottom off, which then releases the fabric-covered plastic exterior, but the front I/O is connected by a number of tiny delicate wires that I didn’t want to try to disconnect in order to fully remove it. The hard drive looks like it would be easy enough to replace, but I didn’t wanna delve into the belly of the beast to upgrade the RAM. So there’s that.

But all in all, the HP Pavilion Wave is a pretty solid home computer, with plenty of ports, USB Type C, and a small profile that’s helped even more by its warm design. It’s not often you see a piece of technology that doesn’t look like technology as much as it looks like a fancy room decoration. And isn’t that what we all want? Down here? Some of us, anyway? If you’re interested in the Wave, you can click the link up in the corner for more details and for buying info.

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