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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  • Beenthere - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    HP is going to be out of Biz before long the way they are going. They are so confused they don't even know if they are in or our of the PC Biz.
  • ggathagan - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    The idea of HP getting out of the PC business was pushed by a CEO (Leo Apotheker) that was fired the month after he spewed that nonsense.
    Given that this all occurred a year ago, you might want to get a fresher news source.
  • MrTeal - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I can't help but notice that the UX31A is in your charts for this review. I sure hope this means that a review of the new 13" Zenbook Prime review?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Coming very soon. :-)
  • seapeople - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    Sooo... the spectre gets beat at Futuremark by two other laptops with the same thermal envelope, graphics, and slower processors (Asus and Intel UB), yet supposedly runs extremely cool at max load so therefore has no thermal issues?

    Is the cooling really that great, or are they throttling to reduce temperature?

    Also, did I miss the gaming review section?
  • CaioRearte - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    Please review the HP Envy 14z (the one with Trinity). I think it's a nice comparison, then we can finally see the graphics power difference clearly.
  • joshv - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I was one of the unfortunates who bought an original HP Envy 15, right after it was first released.

    The '2' key was stillborn, requiring a trip into the shop. Then the video intermittently began to fail. This resulted in about 4 to 5 round trips to the repair service. Every time but the last failing to fix it. Once it finally returned with a brand new motherboard, 2GB of RAM had gone missing (still recognized by the BIOS, but not by windows) and the BIOS they shipped me was so old it had this nasty little bug: . I had to fix it myself. Still can't figure out what's wrong with the RAM.

    So after that six months of fun I sat down to finally start using my ENVY, just in time for numerous other keys on the keyboard to fail.

    $2,000 - down the toilet - the thing is a useless brick.

    HP can't make quality, durable hardware. I should have known better.
  • Sunburn74 - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Funny how the bench's for the asus ux31a are available for viewing in this review.
  • CharonPDX - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    ...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.

    Absolutely, I'd love to have a replaceable battery!

    The other disappointment with the HP Envy 14 Spectre was its battery running time.

    Or not....

    Non-replaceable means the space used to make it replaceable can be filled with more battery.
  • th3architectto - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    it's a classy amazing design, the best out there, good for "music and watch pictures". no this could be better if it has a 15 inch 1080p resolution display at minimum, upgradable aftermarket ssd, more memory capable, discrete graphics 1 gb ddr5 at least and handles ivy bridge 35/45watts processor, well making the classy design funtional real functional and they can do all that without over raising the price they're gonna be making them best business ever.

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