|Ports and connections||HP Spectre 13 ultrabook|
|Video||HDMI and Mini DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections, performance, and battery
With two video outputs, the Spectre 13 already has a leg up on most other ultrabooks. There are only two USB ports, but the Wi-Fi is of the faster 802.11ac variety, as in the latest MacBooks (note, however that 802.11ac is a $20 optional upgrade).
With a fairly common Intel Core i5-4200U processor, this system offers no real performance surprises. Apps ran smoothly, and switching between multiple Web browser windows, video playback, and other tasks was stutter-free. This sort of mainstream-level performance is more than enough for most users. If you plan on editing HD video or playing serious PC games, you may want to look for a larger laptop with a discrete video card.
An ultrabook lives or dies based on its battery life. In this case, the HP Spectre 13 lives up to the hype, running for an impressive 8 hours and 38 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's not quite the lofty level of a MacBook Air, but it's still more than enough for a typical workday, depending on your workload.
The HP Spectre 13 is built around a gimmick, an extra-wide touch pad with control zones that offer some (very limited) extra Windows 8 functionality. Interestingly, the gimmick is entirely unnecessary, as the Spectre 13 is excellent in its own right.
There's nothing especially ground-breaking here, but each individual component and feature is top-notch, including the backlit keyboard, large touch pad, bright display, and long battery life. For a starting price of $999.99 (I'd add the 802.11ac Wi-Fi and the higher-res display for about another $100), you get a very solid laptop, with no deal-breaking flaws, at a very reasonable price.
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HP Spectre 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB LiteOn-IT SSD
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,749MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB SSD
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 128GB Samsung SSD
Dell XPS 11
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GGB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 256GB Samsung SSD