HP Envy Spectre XT review: HP Envy Spectre XT

One nice touch is the inclusion of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Adobe Premiere Elements 10 -- not the full-featured software suites, but consumer versions that should be powerful enough for most.

There are a handful of upgrades available for the Spectre XT. CPU and SSD upgrades are expensive and won't add much to your experience -- if this is going to be your main machine, jumping up to a 256GB SSD is worth considering, but as a $200 add-on, it's painfully expensive.

The low-voltage Intel Core i5 CPU powering the Spectre XT is the same one found in many other slim 13-inch laptops. Performance numbers reflect this, with very similar scores from essentially similar laptops across different price bands, from less expensive laptops such as the Dell Inspiron 13z to more expensive ones such as the Samsung Series 9. Any of these is more than fast enough for everyday tasks, from Web surfing and productivity to HD video playback and photo editing.

With only Intel's HD 4000 graphics inside, this is not going to be your main gaming platform. That said, the HD 4000 GPU can handle some casual on-the-go gaming, and managed 24.8 frames per second in our Street Fighter IV test and 19.5 frames per second in Just Cause 2, both at the native 1,366x768-pixel resolution.

One area where the otherwise impressive Spectre XT falls short is in battery life. The system ran for 4 hours and 13 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, which is barely above the drop-dead ultrabook baseline of 4 hours. Dell's Inspiron 13z ran for nearly an hour longer, and Samsung's Series 9 13-inch ran for 2 hours and 40 minutes longer. The shorter battery life here is fine for runs to the coffee shop, but probably won't get you through a whole day of work.

HP does include some premium support services with the Spectre XT. The two-year warranty comes with a separate premium-level phone line for tech support, as well as a two-year subscription to Norton Internet Security.

The HP Envy Spectre XT is a high-end laptop at a mainstream price, but one that blurs the line a bit too much with HP's lower-priced offerings. The laptop itself is thin, light, and easy to use -- but after the original glass-covered Spectre, I expected more from the design. As it is, this is a great system for working at a coffee shop during the day, but it needs a better battery to be a real road warrior.

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)

Average watts (load test)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:
HP Envy Spectre XT 13-2050nr
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Samsung Series 9 NP900X3C (13-inch, 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB SanDisk SSD

Dell Inspiron 13z - 5323
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Adata XM11 SSD

Sony Vaio T13112FXS
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Lenovo IdeaPad U310
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Samsung 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

HP Envy Spectre XT

Part Number: A1A53AV_1738354

MSRP: $999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 3.07 lbs
  • Installed Size 4 GB
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