Performance is in line with your average Ultrabook, with the Envy Spectre 14’s twin SSDs seeming to make little difference in our test sample. The processor you’ll get on the 14-3000 retail model currently available in the UK is also a 1.6-2.3GHz Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5-2467M rather than Core i7 as fitted to our machine, but unless you deal with very heavy workloads like HD video editing, you’re unlikely to notice the difference.
Both configurations are backed by the usual 4GB of RAM and again, the version you can buy today will come with a single 128GB SSD. Graphics are of course handled by Intel’s rather poor HD 3000, which only managed 52fps in the old and undemanding TrackMania Nations test at 1,280 x 720, and barely scraped 17.3fps in the more challenging Stalker Call of Pripyat. In other words, if you’re even a casual gamer it’s well worth waiting for the next-gen Ivy Bridge to make its way into Ultrabook innards with its more capable HD 4000.
(40 percent screen brightness, wireless radios disabled, mixed productivity)
So far then, we have a very mixed picture of the Spectre 14. While it’s great to use, sports a relatively good screen and has some nifty connectivity, it’s relatively heavy and bulky, and in places its build quality leaves something to be desired when compared to similarly-priced rivals. However, we figured that – in light of the DM4-2101 - HP’s nine-hour battery life claim might be spot on the mark, which would give this Ultrabook a unique advantage.
Unfortunately, despite its chunkier profile, this HP doesn’t even match far slimmer Ultrabooks such as the Toshiba Satellite Z830. Compared to that laptop’s seven hours and 20 minutes, the Spectre only manages five and a half hours – nothing to Envy there then.
However, HP’s premium machine does have an ace up its sleeve: it’s the only Ultrabook we know of to feature a user-replaceable battery. Mind you, with a set of screws holding it in it’s no on the fly job, but when it dies permanently you should easily be able to swap it out yourself.
Its high £1,200 price is the HP Envy Spectre 14’s greatest stumbling block. Unless you really must have a predominantly glass ultraportable, you require its dual drive capabilities or audio is a singularly important element for you, there are cheaper and better Ultrabooks out there that are significantly thinner and lighter to boot. The Samsung Series 9 900X3B with its superior matt PLS screen springs to mind…
Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements do add value, but again they’re not quite enough to pull this Spectre back from the Proton Pack.
HP’s Envy Spectre 14 dares to be different with its glass lid and palm-rest, and as long as you don’t touch, it’s a very attractive look. However, ultimately it adds unwanted fingerprints, slipperiness and weight, and HP’s decision to combine it with plastic detracts from the laptop’s premium feel. This Spectre does have a few other aces up its sleeve. Class-leading audio, a high-res 14in screen and removable battery are among the highlights, as the ability to install two SSDs is not currently available in any UK configuration. Overall then, the HP Envy 14 Spectre does appeal but not quite enough to justify its cost.