HP Envy 14 Spectre review: HP Envy 14 Spectre

The audio subsystem is, as in all Envy laptops, from Beats Audio. This technology has filtered down to some other HP laptops as well, including the excellent Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition . The sound-shaping software can do a lot to customize the headphone experience (less so for the adequate built-in speakers) but the EQ presets focus on Beats-branded headphones. The Beats effect is too bass-heavy for many, although that's a main selling point for the brand, and I always find too much of a pumping, compressorlike quality to the sound via headphones. A small volume wheel and physical mute button along the right side of the laptop are welcome, but I kept accidentally triggering the wheel and its onscreen indicator when moving the laptop even a tiny bit.

HP Envy 14 Spectre Average for category [midsize]
Video HDMI plus DisplayPort VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers plus subwoofer, combo headphone/mic jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None DVD burner

Compared with other 14-inch laptops, the Spectre has a sparse lineup of ports and connections. But if you compare it with other ultrabooks, it's more generous, with two video outputs, an SD card reader, an Ethernet jack, and other things that have gotten cut from some of the 13-inch ultrabooks.

Laptop performance has greatly evened out in recent years, and unlike the benchmark arms race I used to see on the desktop side, here one can generally expect laptops in the same class to perform similarly, as they all share a handful of common CPUs. In this case, it's an Intel Core i5-2467M. Performance on CNET Labs' multitasking and single-app benchmark tests was nearly identical among the current lineup of ultrabooks, most of which have the same or a very similar low-voltage Core i5. Comparing the Envy 14 Spectre with a thicker 14-inch laptop, the $899 HP Pavilion dm4 , that full-voltage CPU was faster in every test, but not by a margin that should be noticeable in everyday use.

Graphics are restricted to Intel's built-in HD3000, which is what one would expect from a slim laptop, so don't think of this as much of a gaming machine. However, when the next generation of Intel CPUs comes out, which should be within the next several months, it would be interesting to revisit this system, as the line code-named Ivy Bridge is said to have much better integrated graphics capabilities.

Juice box
HP Envy Spectre 14 Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.67
Sleep (10%) 0.78
Idle (25%) 16.21
Load (05%) 27.59
Raw kWh number 51.79
Annual power consumption cost $5.88

Annual power consumption cost
HP Folio 13
$2.80 
HP Envy 14 Spectre
$5.88 

The big, bright 14-inch screen, backlit keyboard, NFC antenna, and specialized audio system must take a bite out of the Spectre's battery life. Fortunately, the system still ran for a healthy 5 hours and 7 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's not as long as a 15-inch MacBook Pro lasts, and it's a bit shy of a full day of on-the-go work, but it's in the ballpark of other ultrabooks.

HP offers a two-year parts-and-labor warranty for the Envy 14 Spectre, but unlike most other HP laptops, this model is covered by something HP calls its Concierge Service. That promises a separate team of phone support for Envy products, and an additional $209 extends that to three years of on-site service, including accidental damage protection.

The HP Envy 14 Spectre is already in line to be one of the most talked-about laptops of the year, and that's with systems featuring Windows 8 and Intel's Ivy Bridge chips still to come. Its design is funky without being impractical, and it doesn't become a prisoner to its novelty. It is, however, expensive, without offering higher-end components to help justify the cost.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

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

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

HP Envy 14 Spectre
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Samsung solid-state drive

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Samsung solid-state drive

Asus UX31E-DH52 (Zenbook)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB(Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 128GB solid-state drive

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-2677M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 256GB JMicron 616 solid-state drive

HP Folio 13
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Samsung solid-state drive

HP Pavilion dm4-3090se
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2450M; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 520GB Intel 7,200rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

MSRP: $1,599.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 3.97 lbs
  • Installed Size 4 GB
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