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  1. #1
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    Feb 2011


    Default HP Envy 14 Spectre first look

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    Key Features

    • 14in 1600x900 screen in 13in form factor
    • Core i5 or i7 Sandy Bridge Processors
    • Sleek, glass-clad design
    • Beats Audio integration
    • Up to 6GB RAM, 128GB SSD

    HP Envy 14 Spectre First Look

    The first wave of Ultrabooks threw up a lot of laptops that aimed to replicate the MacBook Air look and feel with "unibody aluminium" type chassis and ultra thin edges. However we are now beginning to see some laptops striving to do something different and, like the Lenovo ThinkPad Ultrabook, the HP Envy 14 Spectre stands apart from the crowd.

    On first viewing the HP Spectre doesn't even look like an Ultrabook. Clad in "Midnight Black" glass, the lid is symmetrical and the overall design is not like the wedge shape we have become accustomed to with other Ultrabooks. It is squarer and therefore more like a conventional laptop.

    The elegant black surface is only disturbed by a backlit white HP logo in the bottom left hand corner. While the shiny lid is certainly attractive, in our short time with the unit, it attracted more fingerprints than the FBI database.

    The single piece of glass on the lid is replicated on the inside where a single piece of glass covers the 14in screen. HP has managed to cram a 14in screen into the 13.3in form factor, and that extra screen space helps boost the media credentials of the laptop.

    The screen itself is a 1600x900 backlit LED display, which has superb viewing angles, appeared very bright and sharp - though it did suffer from the issue of contrast shift that affects most laptops.

    Above the screen sits an HD webcam, which features auto zoom to follow you should you move away from the screen while chatting on Skype. This is thanks to a proximity sensor that sits next to the camera, also used to dim the screen when you move away from the laptop.

    The laptop comes with a felt carrying case and a second carrying case for the cables, which is always welcome. Another nice touch comes in the form of the slimmed down A/C power adapter that allows you to charge your smartphone or tablet through a separate USB port on the power brick.

    Looking at connectivity, on the right-hand side you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a Mini Displayport and a headphone jack. There is also a Gigabit Ethernet port with a retracting half-cover to allow for network cables of different sizes.

    The keyboard is backlit and has a nice action, though we would have liked a little more response from the keys. One strange decision - and one taken for aesthetic reasons only - is a very noticeable step down between the glass-covered palmrest and keyboard and its surround. While not something which is a complete disaster, it does seem a little pointless.

    HP laptops have become synonymous with the Beats Audio technology and the HP Spectre is no different. Below the red Beats Audio logo on the left-hand side of the laptop you'll find a volume dial and mute button which can be used even when the laptop is closed.

    Another button gives users instant access to the Beats Audio equalisation settings menu. HP has placed the two speakers on the bottom of the laptop at the front. This means that the sound from the laptop will differ depending on what surface it is placed on.

    We listened to the laptop while it was placed on a soft table cloth which did nothing for the sound and we'll have to wait until we test it properly before deciding if the speaker position is a success or not.

    The HP Spectre will come with an SSD option only of up to 128GB, which isn't much when you consider this is a media-focused laptop. It will be offered with Intel's second generation Core i5 or Core i7 processors, which can be paired with 4GB or 6GB of RAM. With Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks already on the horizon, HP may be missing a trick here, but for most people the Sandy Bridge processors should meet their needs.

    The HP Spectre will be available from March with prices beginning at 1,299, which is a lot more than the sub-1,000 prices Intel were promising when it launched the Ultrabook platform. With Intel now promising 600-700 laptops in the second generation of Ivy Bridge processor-powered Ultrabooks, the HP Spectre could look very expensive when it finally launches, though the premium materials and feel of the laptop will appeal to some.


    Unlike the evil villains of the James Bond movies, this Spectre is not scary at all - it is a beautiful-looking machine but could launch at the wrong time as its price and processors mean it could lose out to cheaper Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks.

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