HP Spectre One review: High-end wrapper, commodity filling

My experiences using the Spectre One with a Galaxy S3 and a Windows Phone 8-powered Nokia Lumia 920 were equally futile. The system made a noise like a digital trickle when I swiped the phones across the receiver, but nothing else happened. I cannot say whose implementation is at fault here, and a software update on Samsung's, Nokia's, or HP's side might improve matters. Until that happens, the reality is that using NFC to send data between this PC and a smartphone is a bust.

The other way HP imagines you might benefit from NFC comes via two adhesive tags included in the box. You're supposed to affix these to any object you keep near at hand -- like a wallet, or a cell phone case -- and then program each tag with either your Windows log-in information, or with a Web address. Once programmed, the idea is that you would then swipe the tagged object across the NFC receiver icon on the Spectre One, either logging you in automatically or launching a Web page you visit frequently.

Those functions do work as intended, but neither is exactly what I would call "killer app" material. Worse, HP put frustratingly little care into introducing users to using the tags.

To start with, it's up to you to somehow figure out what the tags are for. HP offers no indication as to their purpose, in either the packaging, or any paper or digital documentation included with the system. If you do figure out the point of the tags, you're then prompted to download two separate Windows 8 applications to program them. Both applications, HP TouchZone Writer and HP TouchZone Credential Reader, are HP-made, and HP has so far offered no explanation for not installing them in the first place.

Swiping to log in also presents a security issue; if someone has your wallet, they also have your PC's log-in information. That might not be a concern for everyone, and for those of you who log out or shut down their PCs frequently enough that you would benefit from saving a few seconds when you log back in, maybe the Spectre One's NFC feature has some appeal. Would you still rather have that and an extra 2GB of RAM instead of a larger, if not higher-resolution, screen? For most consumers, I expect the answer is a resounding "no."

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking tests -- iTunes and QuickTime (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking tests -- iTunes and HandBrake (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench 11.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

You can look at HP's application performance in a few ways. Coming in second behind the $2,299 Dell across our benchmarks points to the processing horsepower behind the Spectre One's Core i7 CPU. The fact that the Spectre One doesn't create enough distance between itself and the Asus ET2300INTI suggests that paying extra for the Core i7 chip isn't worth the HP's $300 price premium.

Overall, the Spectre One really only justifies the cost of its extra performance if you need that kind of pure CPU speed more than faster storage or graphics horsepower, and if you must also respect a $1,600 budget. Few other consumers would want this configuration, gamers included. The GeForce GT 610 chip is a bottom-of-the-barrel discrete graphics chip. It might play some games, but it can't handle newer, more demanding titles like Far Cry 3, even in low-detail mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I mentioned the HDMI, USB 3.0, and SD Card inputs on the Spectre One earlier. HP also includes separate microphone and audio-out jacks, but all controls for the audio output, the video signal, and the display brightness live on the keyboard as second-function keys. That's just as a good a place as any, and it helps HP preserve the Spectre One's tidy looks.

The only other notable feature here is the location of the motherboard. Remove one screw and the entire rear panel of the monitor support comes off to reveal the whole motherboard for the Spectre One. You get access to the memory and the hard drive easily enough. You can also see the MXM graphics card module. I expect an enterprising-enough enthusiast could upgrade it, but you would need to pry off and re-adhere the cooling pipes to both the 3D card and likely the CPU, since it all seems to operate on the same cooling circuit.

Conclusion
Where Dell, Asus, Sony, and other vendors have made serious efforts to diversify their Windows 8-era all-in-ones from the commodity herd, the HP Spectre One feels like it only pays lip service to the idea. An interesting new design and NFC capabilities seem to elevate this system, but its mass-market build materials and almost aggressively subpar features keep the HP Spectre One from serious consideration.

Performance testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations

Acer Aspire 7600U
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 768MB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive

Asus ET2300INTI
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i5-3330; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Dell XPS One 27
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro 64-bit; 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive

HP Spectre One
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400S; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB Intel HD Graphics 1000 (embedded); 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M ; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Vizio CA24T-A4
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000 (embedded); 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Editors' Top PicksSee All

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Where to Buy

    HP Spectre One all-in-one desktop

    Part Number: H3Y95AA#ABA
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 610M
    • Capacity 1 x 1 TB
    • OS Provided Windows 8 64-bit Edition
    • Video Memory 1 GB DDR3 SDRAM
    • Monitor Type LED - Multi-Touch
    Hot Products