HP Envy 14 Spectre review: HP Envy 14 Spectre

The Spectre packs in a 14-inch screen, which is bigger than the typical 11 or 13-inch displays found on most ultrabooks. It offers a 1,600x900-pixel resolution -- the same as you'll find on the 13-inch screen of the Asus Zenbook UX31 -- so we're a little disappointed not to see a few more pixels here.

The screen is both bright and vivid so your movies or YouTube clips will look great. The glass front goes from edge to edge, which is an attractive look -- as there is no physical bezel around the edge -- but it's rather reflective so you may find yourself staring back at your own mug.

The bezel beneath the glass is really slim. HP has been able to cram the 14-inch screen into a body size that would normally house a 13-inch display. The Spectre may not be the most portable of ultrabooks, but it's got one of the nicest displays we've seen.

HP Envy 14 Spectre screen
The bezel is so thin that HP has managed to cram a 14-inch screen into a case that would normally suit a 13-inch display.

Performance

Our review model of the Spectre came packing a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state disk.

At the time of writing, HP said it had no plans to offer the Spectre in other configurations. That's pretty annoying as Core i3 and i7 variations are offered by most other manufacturers. It's a shame that HP isn't letting you customise the Spectre to your own needs.

Still, the Core i5 chip is at least in the middle of the range. It's arguably a fair compromise of power and cost. To see what sort of grunt it provides, we booted up the Geekbench benchmark test and were given a score of 5,699.

That's pretty much the same score achieved by the 11-inch Asus Zenbook UX21 , which also packs a Core i5 chip. It's not a bad score by any means, but considering the Spectre is a full £350 more expensive than the UX21, we'd really want some extra power from it. The 13-inch Asus Zenbook UX31 managed to achieve 7,547 on the same test and that only costs £1,000.

General performance from the Spectre was nippy though. It's certainly got enough power for office tasks and will happily handle high-definition video. It managed to encode our 11-minute 1080p resolution video into 24fps H.264 in just under 23 minutes. That isn't exactly speedy, but it's pretty good for a machine designed for portable use.

It will handle some light photo and video editing -- for which Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements come pre-installed -- but don't ask it to handle high-resolution raw image files or render massive 1080p videos.

It's not designed as a gaming machine, but we still threw the 3DMark06 benchmark at it to see just how it handled the polygons. It gave a score of 3,466, which is about what we expected. It's not going to handle the latest games such as Skyrim, but it may handle older titles, so long as you dial the settings down a lot.

The 128GB SSD provides your storage and the faster read/write speeds of these drives over traditional hard disk drives means that the Spectre achieves a quick start-up and a resume-from-sleep time of only a couple of seconds.

In general, while the Spectre does offer enough power for most everyday applications, it doesn't provide any extra juice over and above much cheaper models. If power on the go is most important to you, the Spectre won't be the best choice.

HP Envy 14 Spectre ports
The Spectre will have Intel's Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive, but no other configurations yet.

Battery life

Ultrabooks are designed for slinging in a bag and carrying off on your adventures. You'd therefore be right to expect the battery to last long enough to keep going away from the plug.

We launched our battery test and the Spectre was able to keep going for 2 hours and 6 minutes. The UX31 managed to keep going for over three hours, so we're a little disappointed with the Spectre's performance here.

It's an incredibly brutal test though. It runs the processor at a constant 100 per cent so you'll find that you can get much better battery life with cautious usage.

Conclusion

While it's refreshing to see HP offering an ultrabook with a different look to the plethora of new models arriving, we can't help but feel that the glass panels detract from the slim and light nature of the genre.

With a steep price tag and only average performance, HP might have a challenge on its hands convincing people to shell out their cash.

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    Quick Specifications See All

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

    • Weight 3.97 lbs
    • Installed Size 4 GB
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