First look: HP Pavilion Wave

Is that a Mac Pro? No, but it looks to be even cooler

HP Pavilion Wave

If you haven't been watching along, HP has been on a tear this year, revitalizing all of its offerings in laptops and tablets. Now, in time for IFA 2016, it's the PC's turn.

This is the HP Pavilion Wave, which we wouldn't blame you for mistaking for a super fancy Bluetooth speaker. That's because it is, in a way, a speaker.

But, it's also a shoe-in for that space beneath, beside or on top of your entertainment center that's been screaming for a home theater PC for a long time.

A design you'll want to display

Of course, we wouldn't blame you for mistaking this device for Apple's "hip and cool" update to its Mac Pro. While it's been far too long since we've any update at all on that front, forget about it, because this is a similarly designed device that does more – and it's one you can actually afford.

The Pavilion Wave, measuring 6.81 x 6.62 x 10.29 inches, is arranged vertically in a rounded, triangular, cylinder orientation … thing. Anyway, the whole device is wrapped in thick-threaded fabric that you would normally find on a subwoofer or fancy all-in-one speaker.

HP Pavilion Wave

However, sound doesn't emanate from the Wave's sides at all, but rather from the top. That matte-finished lid with the chrome HP logo on it hides vents underneath that are doubly useful.

For one, sound blasts from a Bang & Olufsen speaker inside the device upward, reflecting off the underside of the lid in all directions. While we weren't able to get the best idea of its volume or depth on the IFA show floor for obvious reasons, it certainly looks like this speaker can shout. (HP says that the fabric is engineered for acoustic transmission, but if all audio is spitting out of the top…)

Secondly, those vents underneath are also where all of the heat that the PC generates easily escapes by way of physics – you know, heat rises and all that? Knowing that, it's admittedly a brilliant design, one that builds on previous approaches to cylindrical PCs in a clever way.

Inside, the Wave is comprised of three chambers. One houses all of the heat-generating components, the second the device's storage and the third a series of pipes that draw heat from the motherboard and push it upward and out of the system. (The speaker module sits on top of all that and centered between them.)

The Wave also includes integrated dual microphones for a holistic Cortana solution in Windows 10, something at least this editor has yet to see on a desktop PC.

HP Pavilion Wave

What's inside of it?

While we've made a few comparisons to Apple's Mac Pro in describing the Pavilion Wave, do not come here expecting comparable power. That's just not what this machine is about.

Rather, this is a home theater PC designed to sit somewhere noticeable in your living room or den. That said, you can expect the Wave to power 4K video and maybe even some light, light gaming.

A sixth-generation, quad-core, desktop-grade Intel Core i3 or i5 processor runs the whole show here (there are two SKUs available for the Wave). Supporting that is 8GB of DDR4 memory in either configuration, and either a 128GB, PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) or 1TB spinning drive at 7,200 rpm.

Both versions come housing three USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port, a combo headphone/mic jack, an audio out Jack, HDMI, a DisplayPort, an SD card reader and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Of course, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 come standard throughout.

What's odd about these choices is that the 1TB drive is paired with the Core i3 model, while the SSD is paired with the Core i5 version. Being a home theater PC, wouldn't you want the most space paired with the beefier chip? Especially if all you're calling up is your local library of music and streaming 4K movies and TV.

HP Pavilion Wave

Luckily, it seems that you can further configure either model to your liking. HP says the Wave supports as much as 16GB of RAM, up to a 1TB solid-state hybrid drive or 2TB of straight spinning storage and up to an Intel Core i7 chip.

To that point, either version of the Wave comes with the option for an AMD R9 M470 graphics chip inside. That should help along that 4K video playback even further and allow for some light couch co-op gaming.

Our first take

The HP Pavilion Wave honestly surprised us. In an age where desktop PCs have, outside of gaming, become overshadowed by laptops, tablets, and fewer and fewer all-in-one devices, the Wave arrives with a focus on an area of the PC space that could very well boom with the onset of 4K everything.

It's icing on the cake then that the Wave was designed to be attractive enough for folks to want to put it beneath or beside their 4K TVs. Not to mention it was cleverly designed to double as your living room's audio system.

HP Pavilion Wave

Finally, we lather on this early praise knowing that the Pavilion Wave will start at just $529 (about £398, AU$701) when it hits HP.com and store shelves on September 16. Now, it's time to start building that 4K library in time for a full review.

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