Like Dell with its XPS 13 Ultrabook, HP was late to the Ultrabook party. First we saw the mid-range Folio 13 in its family of laptops based on Intel’s ultraportable standard, which made up for its lateness with a price that undercut many rivals and a flat-lidded design that strayed from the wedge-shaped Ultrabook crowd. Now we’re looking at its premium bigger brother, the 14in HP Envy Spectre. This laptop takes an even more dramatically different design tack to its Ultrabook brethren, as it’s partially constructed from glass.
- Why not read our selection of the best Ultrabooks available.
While there have been quite a few laptops to use glass to protect their screens, the Envy Spectre 14 takes things a significant step further by using it for the lid and palm-rest/touchpad too. But is this daring choice, along with fitting a 14in screen into a 13in-equivalent chassis, enough to set it apart and justify its £1,200 price – especially since this puts it up against the Samsung Series 9 900X3B and Apple Macbook Air?
At first glance its specifications are nothing too out of the ordinary, with the usual selection of Intel Core i5 and i7 processors backed by 4GB of RAM, while graphics are provided by the default Intel integrated HD 3000 solution.
Like the Acer S3 and Dell XPS 13, there is a Spectre version with a 240/256GB SSD, but currently it’s not available in the UK so again you’re more likely to end up with the usual 128GB of solid state storage. However, where HP’s premium Ultrabook does again distinguish itself is that it’s the first of its kind to allow you to install twin SSDs – and just to prove it, our sample’s 256GB of storage is actually two 128GB drives.
There are quite a few other things that set this glass Ultrabook aside from its peers, some good and some… less good. Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The black glass lid looks great – until you touch it. Fingerprint-magnet doesn’t quite begin to describe this laptop’s top section; think iPhone 4s times ten. Incidentally, that’s an interesting comparison since both devices could have been designed by the same company. Hold them side by side, and you’ll see just how many touches they share.
But back to the Spectre, all that glass also makes it heavier than most, at 1.8kg. That’s heavy enough that, after toting around the 1.15kg Samsung Series 9 900X3B, this feels like you’re carrying around a regular 15-incher. Ultrabooks are meant to be thin and light… The smooth glass lid also makes the HP Envy Spectre 14’s top rather slippery, though this is mitigated by its soft-touch base when carrying it around.
On the good side, it’s a noticeably different look from your average premium laptop, very easy to clean, more scratch-resistant than some of the metal finishes we’ve come across, and it means there’s only minimal flex in the lid.
We must also complement HP on its power brick, which is not only slim and without captive cables, but also sports a USB port for handy charging of your devices. You even get a zippered black bag to carry it around in.
While you might assume all that glass to be rather fragile, HP claims its shatterproof construction will hold up just as well as metal-clad equivalents. The only bit we do have problems with is the plastic bottom part of this laptop. To either side of the keyboard where there is no glass, there’s a surprising amount of flex and even, on the side with all the connectivity, creak – not exactly what you would hope for from a £1,200 laptop.