In and Around the HP Envy 14 Spectre

As I mentioned before, HP's Envy 14 Spectre may have clear inspirations for its design, but is a unique product in and of itself. For the Spectre HP went whole hog with aluminum and glass, and I'll admit that it's very interesting to see a notebook use glass on surfaces other than the trackpad (which many high end and enterprise notebooks do). The result of the aluminum and glass design is a notebook that at least feels sturdy in the hand, if a bit heavy.

It starts with the lid, which has a black aluminum trim and essentially sandwiches the display between two pieces of solid glass. The lid itself is very rigid, with only the most minimal amount of flex, and it's capable of photographing attractively, but it does suffer from two flaws. First, because it's glass it has a very glossy finish that can be hard to keep clean; that's not a major problem since we've been coping with gloss on notebooks for some time now. The second is that jostling even the hinge or the glass, front or back, can cause ripples in the display. On our review unit, the bottom corners of the screen shimmer a little bit when you open or close the lid or adjust the hinge.

And what a hinge. The Envy 14 Spectre is attractive and the hinges are sturdy, but they're almost too tight; I actually had a little bit of trouble opening and closing the notebook. There's a very small plastic lip on the lid for opening it up, but it's a two hand job, and that lip is almost too small.

When you do open the Spectre, you're greeted with HP's signature backlit keyboard along with a glass palmrest, glass clickpad, and glowing Beats audio logo in the bottom right corner. HP is employing the same keyboard pretty much across their entire line, but I don't have any complaints; as far as chiclet keyboards go it's among my favorites. I must be getting used to clickpads, too, because the one used here is fairly easy to use. HP also includes a volume dial on the right side of the notebook, but I'm sorry to say this is not an analog volume dial. Oddly enough it seems to have its poles crossed, too; scrolling towards you turns volume up, while scrolling away turns it down.

Finally, the bottom of the Spectre is a soft-touch plastic, and consumers of the world rejoice: the battery is removable and upgradeable. You'll have to actually unscrew it with a torx screwdriver, but you can get to it, proving you can still get a fairly slim form factor and be able to replace parts. Apple should consider taking notes.

The HP Envy 14 Spectre is certainly a sight to behold and attractive on its own, but I can't help but nitpick. It's true that glass is an attractive material, but there's a reason it's seldom employed to this extent on notebooks: it's heavy. There's something about the feel of the Spectre; it's heavy in the hand and feels very dense. Some users will undoubtedly appreciate that solid feeling. I also feel like practical sacrifices have been made in the name of aesthetics: the hinge is almost too stiff, the rippling at the bottom corners of the display whenever the lid is jostled is worrisome, and the glass surfaces will be difficult to keep clean.

Ultimately, the aesthetics and practicality of the Spectre are going to be a matter of individual taste, which I think is part of what HP is going for.

Introducing the HP Envy 14 Spectre Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    That's because good ultrabooks inherently demand "Mac prices."

    It's funny when PC OEMs try to make an Apple-like product and the price ends up similar to the Apple counterpart. When you stop shoving nice specs into a box, and actually care about the box, your BoM goes up. Keyboards, LCDs, and batteries aren't cheap.

    There IS a markup on Apple products, but it's not as large as people think it is.
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    It's selective. Markup is more evident on POS devices like the MBP 13".
  • damianrobertjones - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Apple were not the first to make a thin laptop or to use the chiclet type keyboard
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    But they did it best. Others have caught up since, but it took a while.
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    That's debatable.
  • bobsmith1492 - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    "HP also includes a volume dial on the right side of the notebook, but I'm sorry to say this is not an analog volume dial. Oddly enough it seems to have its poles crossed, too; scrolling towards you turns volume up, while scrolling away turns it down."

    You can change the direction of the knob in the "Beats" control panel.
  • Voldenuit - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    It's a rectangle with rounded edges!

    Get them quick before Apple sues hp for patent infringement and gets an injunction to have them removed from the market...
  • Penti - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    They lost the iPad trade dress and design patent claims against the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 which don't infringe any of it so I'm sure a company that made slates back in 1992/3 and tablets back in last year with the same damn screen as iPad is fine today. They won on specific claims of the '381 patent claim 19, '915 patent claim 8 and '163 patent claim 50. Those include the patents who has been called after the features i.e. bounce back, one finger to scroll & pinch to zoom and lastly tap to zoom patents and only those patents where infringed when it comes to none design registration stuff. Which is weak to say the least. Several of the patents where issued after the products where released which would at least under US law mean you can't date back any damages before that point, but I have no idea how the jury came up with the numbers or why the judge thought it could be awarded damage that way.

    All the patents is essentially none-technical not forming any invention or use. Basically all stuff that according to EU law doesn't fit the criterion to be patented in the first place. No hard patents sure isn't a huge win. It's more ridiculous then Samsungs counterclaims. Also I'm not sure why a LG P970 would be scot free if SGS isn't. It's at least as much in similar shape and size i.e. visually as the SGS if not more so. Plus tablets if free when it comes to design claims and trade dress so there is no stopping. That this is all Apple has to fight with speaks to the fact that they got nothing and will loose the fight in the end. Samsung, LG, HTC, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, RIM etc got way more real and recognized patents in this field. If you put all that together I'm sure '915, '163 and '386 will get demolished plus they have no reason to care outside the US market where those patents isn't valid to begin with. While they might have patents stopping Apple products there instead. Apple and the competitors is just creating unnecessary work for themselves and only the lawyers are laughing.
  • Focher - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    LG devices weren't covered by the lawsuit because - well - they aren't Samsung devices.

    As for the judge and that damages calculation, the jury instructions - including the damages calculation - were negotiated between Apple and Samsung. The judge just approved them at the end.

    It's true that the decision in the case doesn't apply outside the USA, but there's no doubt Samsung cares about the decision's impact on the US market.
  • Penti - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I do blame both sides. I don't blame Samsung for their design though, side by side there is no mistake to be made while I'll dislike the cheaper Galaxy line and TouchWiz it has more to do with the divergence from standard theme and phone looks. On the higher end and updates to their software/theme it has certainly got better in both looks and performance.

    I do see it as a blow of course but it comes down on all players. For Samsung in the US though they are still free to sell SGS3, Galaxy Tab etc as those where not in the case or where freed on design claims if they just remove stuff like bounce back in the UI. Apple might think it's fine to get damages from patents that weren't issued at the time but in the end it will hurt them too. If the trade dress holds up on the phones though they would have no problem going after everybody else in other lawsuits. It's not like these features is worth the amount Apple is claiming even if it where real stuff plus when it comes to Apple overseas is still their biggest market. The claim that Google knew that this would happen because "Samsung was copying them" and warned them is also bogus when Nexus products where also effected (not by design patents though) and Nexus 7 looks way more like a small iPad then Galaxy Tab ever has.

    Nexus S (4G) deemed infringe on two of the utility patents ('381, '915) was awarded 1,828,297 USD and freed on '163, that is for the Sprint Nexus S phone. Nexus S the original version it self was launched before '163 where issued. Nexus One for example where launched before both '163 and '915 where issued. Hardly much to come with, a change in the gesture features would make those products ok which just mean it's ok to have the bounce back effect in Canada but not over the border. Doesn't give much credence to Apples claim of 30-100 dollar per devices for licensing 2-3 patents either. If they where prepared to license it at some point why not force them today? It would be like 1 dollar per device. Max. As you could obviously get away from the iPhone trade dress despite having an all glass front and rounded corners. Not sure why they would go after SGS2 and not Nexus S though on design claims. Any way they are quite desperate when they claim a Sony Tablet S is an example of an design which don't infringe their design and trade dress which they lost against Samsung when their argument was that it was just with rounded corners on one side of the device. It looks way more similar then the Galaxy Tab series despite that.

    Let's see what happens to those old products, newer ones generally differentiates more in shape and sizes thanks to them being built around larger displays. Might be a heavy fine, and mean more ridiculous lawsuits, but products will still be there. It basically all resolves around a none-technical patent on UI, judged by an jury which you could circumvent by using alternative methods. I'm not to concerned about trade dress claims, basically only the original iPhone design patent and iPhone 3G design where protectable not combinations. It's laughable that Galaxy Ace where freed on all accounts concerning design and awarded no damages while SGS and SGS2 where found infringing. It's otherwise what I would say the most similar looking device. Size, shape, style all off it. It's off putting, but apparently ok.

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