HP Envy 14 Spectre Hands-On Preview

HP nabbed a ton of attention at CES 2012 with its HP Envy 14 Spectre “Ultrabook”. One of several laptops competing with Apple’s MacBook Air, the Envy 14 Spectre stands out with its premium build. However, it also has a slightly higher-than-average price and weight for this product category. This $1,399 laptop packs a 14-inch screen in a package that’s 0.79-inches thick and weighs 3.9 pounds. As with most HP premium laptops, the Envy 14 Spectre boasts Beats audio. Here are the full specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2467m 1.6GHz
  • Screen: 14-inch Radiance display, 1,600 x 900 resolution
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • Storage: 128GB mSATA SSD
  • Thickness: 0.78-inches
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Dimensions: 12.87 inches x 8.7 inches x 0.79 inches
  • Ports: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, SD card reader, Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet
  • Keyboard: Chiclet, backlit with sensor to brighten when you approach
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, WiDi
  • Battery Life: 9 hours estimated

After opening the laptop and messing around with keyboard, I was impressed by its luxurious feel. The lid, screen, touchpad, and palm rest feature Corning Gorilla Glass for a premium feel and great durability. The keyboard felt very comfortable; while I’d need more time with the machine to say for sure, my initial impression is that it’s as good as the one on the MacBook Air 13 but with a stiffer feel (really a matter of preference). Clicking, dragging, and two-finger scrolling on the touchpad felt very smooth.

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The lid of the Envy 14 Spectre is gorgeous…until you touch it. It is, by far, the biggest fingerprint magnet I’ve seen in years. Considering that it’s black glass, I shouldn’t have been surprised, yet I was still taken aback by the amount of smudges the lid picked up. If you’re the least bit affectionate with your electronics then you’ll be cleaning the Spectre every three minutes or so. The running joke among tech writers is that this is a security feature being tested by HP since the laptop picks up fingerprints easily. (Tech writers are generally not that funny.)

The Spectre’s screen is bright and beautiful, with broad viewing angles for sharing. The 1,600 x 900 resolution is unusually high for a 14-inch screen. Some people love the extra pixels and detail. Others, particularly those with bad eyes, might end up enlarging the text size to make things usable. Personally, I loved the display, despite my eyes sucking. The high res “Radiance” display adds to the premium look and feel of this notebook.

The HP Envy 14 Spectre stands out from the crowd with its liberal use of Gorilla Glass and beautiful screen. However, with other vendors aggressively pricing their Ultrabooks, will people be willing to pay a bit more for a laptop that’s a bit slicker and heavier? I’d love your take on this product. Please let me know if you’re interested in the HP Envy 14 Spectre and if you think it will be a top-selling Ultrabook.

Author: RPadTV