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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  • sirizak - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Seriously pretty machine...

    Why plaster bloody stickers on it? Why have we not moved on from this yet?

    Honestly even Joe Bloggs (I'm Aussie, ie. John Smith) reads specs, we know its Intel based( 2 intel stickers...), we know it runs Windows. Yes they are an unobtrusive grey, but I think that's worse. If you don't want me to notice them, don't stick them on the bloody thing in the first place...
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    "Joe Bloggs" is the Australian. "John Smith"?! That's sweet.
  • Dug - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    No kidding. But that just shows the typical marketing idiots at work compared to Apple's marketing.

    The same guys that want stickers on everything, want glossy black bezels and palm rests.
  • ggathagan - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    As I recall, those stickers are part of the pricing deal from the respective manufacturers. If they weren't put on the computer, the price would be higher.
    If that is true, I'm OK with having to peel off stickers.
  • Beenthere - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    If they can sell this crap they can sell sand to the Arabs. You'd have to be braindead to buy an Ultrabook, but if that's what makes you happy, jump in.
  • kyuu - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    I'm not a fan of this particular model, but the notion that have a preference for well-designed, thinner & lighter mobile devices and being willing to pay a small premium for it somehow reflects on a person's intellect is ridiculous.

    'Course, there are plenty of well-designed, thin & light models that don't quite qualify as an Ultrabook to look at as well (I'm looking at the Gigabyte U2442N myself).
  • Beenthere - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    The premise for the "Ultrabook" is a low performance, shiny object that has an inflated price. These toys are for folks lacking in intellect. That is precisely why Intel has not been able to con most folks into buying them even with huge financial incentives to the toy makers.

    There are tons of better laptop choices at much lower prices that meet the needs on 99.9999999999975316% of consumers. This is why "ultra-Jokes" ain't selling.

    For those who chose bling over value and/or performance, then yes their intellect most certainly would be in question.
  • bji - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    The only intellect I question is the one who can't fathom why someone else would want a product that they themselves don't. It's called personal preference. Everyone has one and it's fairly moronic to claim that your judgement about what people need or wants trumps their own.
  • netmann - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Dustin, can the mSATA SSDs be configured in RAID?
  • Penti - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    It looks fairly decent when it comes to specs and features, it does have some I think are quite essential once you pass 900-1000 dollars which is DisplayPort, high-res screen and ethernet, but things like having two mSATA SSDs (as it doesn't really give them any space) and fairly small battery gives a lot of minus points. For about the same money you get a Dell XPS 14 with Ivy, 8GB ram, 512GB SSD, 1600x900 14" screen and GT 630M discrete graphics. Only 155 dollar difference to how yours is configured. As this Spectre is 1949 with 8GB ram, i7 processor and 256GB SSD I'm not too tempted.

    Sure I might would have wanted to see the Dell XPS 14 ultrabook with SSDs in the lower ends and more configurable, but that only adds to the criticism that the HP looks worse despite that. Of course if you just want a high-res screen then you got Asus, Samsung Series 7 14 , Series 9 13.3 with HD+ etc as cheaper options. NP700Z3C-S02US is spec'd at Core i5, 14" 1600x900 display, 6GB ram, HD4000/GT 630M, USB3 and Ethernet plus 750GB hdd for 999 at the "Microsoft store". No DisplayPort but possibly a Ultrabook that should have come with a SSD. Most options aren't really sensible though.

    Still finding lots of problems, good I'm not looking for one right now :) Spending 2000 dollars just to get high-res display and SSD seems excessive.

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