HP Envy 14 Spectre first look — the perfect ultrabook?

The keyboard is backlit and the palm rest is covered in glass.

HP has been slow to jump aboard the ‘ultrabook’ bandwagon, but the HP Envy 14 Spectre is its first attempt. We went hands-on to see what it was like.

HP has been slow to jump aboard the ‘ultrabook’ bandwagon, but the HP Envy 14 Spectre is its first attempt. We went hands-on to see what it was like.

HP Envy Spectre First Look video

For more ultrabooks, see our Best ultrabooks at CES 2012 video round-up.

HP Envy 14 Spectre – what is it?

This is a 14-inch screen laptop, but in a body the size of most 13-inch laptops. It’s one of a new segment of laptops known as ‘ultrabooks’ — a term coined by Intel to describe thin, portable but powerful laptops. Similar laptops include the Asus Zenbook UX31, Apple MacBook Air and newly announced Acer Aspire S5.

HP Envy 14 Spectre – what are the key features?

Like most ultrabooks, the Envy 14 Spectre has lots of premium features. This includes a 128GB SSD (Solid State Drive) – like a hard drive but with no moving parts – a low-voltage Intel Core i5 processor, a 1,600 x 900 resolution screen, USB 3.0 connections and a stated battery life of up to 9 hours. It weighs around 1.8 kg and measures just 20 mm thick. There’s also a backlit keyboard to make it easier to type in dim lighting.

HP Envy 14 Spectre – what’s unique about it?

HP has a long-running partnership with Beats Audio for improved audio and the Envy 14 Spectre is no exception – HP reckons its ultrabook has the best audio of any ultrabook. HP has also invested in software — every Spectre will ship with Adobe Photoshop Elements (photo editing) and Premier Elements (video editing) and a two-year license for Norton Internet Security. Owners also get access to ‘premium’ technical support services. There’s also a an HD Webcam and a proximity sensor that detects when you leave the laptop, automatically turning off the screen.

HP Envy 14 Spectre – Andy’s first impressions

There’s a great deal to be impressed about in the Envy 14. It looks and feels the part — it’s made out of aluminium but with infusions of glass for the palm-rest and on the front and rear of the screen. The screen and speakers are very impressive – the screen is bright, colourful and has outstanding viewing angles.

But not everything is so convincing. At 1.8 kg it’s heavy compared to other ultrabooks, and it feels it. Based on its weight one could argue it’s underpowered – it weighs about the same as a 13-inch MacBook Pro (or similar), but uses a slower ‘low-voltage’ processor.

Also, while it looks lovely, the glass finish on the rear of the screen is a magnet for grease and fingerprints – I had to wipe it clean twice while shooting our hands-on video (coming soon) and photos. HP says its scratch resistant, but it’s definitely not grease resistant! Similarly, the glass finish on the screen is incredibly reflective — as you may notice in the hands-on video.

My first impression, then, is this: it feels like an odd one out. It’s much heavier than other similar size ultrabooks, but no faster — it simply sounds better. This gives it a niche of its own, but given the choice I (and I suspect lots of others) would prefer something lighter. Different isn’t bad, though, so we’ll see what the lab has to say when it goes on sale.

HP Envy 14 Spectre – pricing and availability

The HP Envy 14 Spectre is expected to go on sale in limited numbers from March at €1,299 (£1073).

In the full review…

These are just our first impressions of the HP Envy 14 Spectre – we haven’t sent it to our labs yet. But when it goes on sale we’ll give you the definitive verdict on the following:

Wi-fi signal quality – unlike other review websites, we test the range, quality and reliability of every laptop’s wi-fi connection.

Real-world battery life – we don’t use synthetic tests to estimate battery life, we perform real-world tests that measure battery life when using wi-fi and when watching films on DVD.

Screen quality – we compare every laptop we test for screen quality using professional measuring equipment and a panel of expert testers that view laptops side-by-side to see which is best. We also test how easy it is to view in bright light.

For more details, visit our how we test laptops page.

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Categories: CES

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3 replies

    1. This is the problem with tech today, everybody thinks everything is a copy of Apple. So what, backlit keys, glass and aluminum weren’t used before the Macbooks?

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