Trying out HP's new Spectre laptop
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
The good: Insanely thin, Beautiful design, Excellent keyboard
The bad: Sluggish trackpad, Sometimes noisy fans
Who should buy: Those seeking a slim laptop for work and entertainment
When Apple unveiled the MacBook Air in 2008, it set a new standard for laptops, ushering in an era of premium lightweight laptops called “ultrabooks.” Eight years later, new processor designs have allowed PC makers to develop slimmer-than-ever laptops.
HP’s Spectre, which the company is touting as the world’s thinnest, is one such example. With its high-quality hardware and refined design, the $999.99 Spectre seriously raises the bar for ultra-thin laptops.
Still, there are some important considerations to make before picking one up. Here’s a closer look at what it was like to use the HP Spectre.
How it Looks and Feels
The HP Spectre looks unlike most other laptops out there. Made of aluminum and carbon fiber, the notebook has a sleek black appearance accented with a shiny gold hinge. HP clearly paid attention to the details here: the keys feature a gold trim to match the notebook’s glossy hinge. Meanwhile, the speakers, located to the left and right of the keyboard, look as if they’ve been etched into the keyboard deck. The gold hinge, however, does have the unfortunate tendency to collect fingerprint smudges.
At roughly 0.41 inches thin and 2.45 pounds, the Spectre is supremely slim and light. Apple’s MacBook Air, by comparison, is 0.11 inches thin at its slimmest point but 0.68 inches at its thickest, while Dell’s XPS 13 is between 0.3 and 0.6 inches thin.
The Spectre has a 1,920×1,080 resolution 13.3-inch screen, which is sharper than that of the MacBook Air but not as dazzling as those offered on some other ultrabooks. Still, for most people, it’ll be more than adequate for watching Netflix or browsing photos.
Keyboard quality is arguably one of the most important characteristics of a laptop. A poor keyboard can make it difficult or just plain frustrating to interact with your computer. Thankfully, the Spectre’s keyboard is among the best I’ve used on a laptop. The key travel is deep, providing rich feedback and making it comfortable to type at a quick pace. It’s exactly what should be expected of a premium notebook. The touchpad, however, could use some improvement. I found it to be sluggish and laggy at times, and I had to tweak a few settings to get an enjoyable experience.
If you’re seeking a laptop primarily for work and entertainment, the Spectre should be plenty fast. It runs on Intel’s latest processors, and buyers have the option of choosing between a Core i5 or Core i7. I’ve been using the $1,099 Core i7 variant for a mix of web browsing, casual gaming, light photo editing, and streaming Netflix, and I haven’t come across any stutters or hiccups. However, the Spectre’s fans get noisy fairly often, which can be distracting.
Those who typically watch TV shows or blast tunes from their laptop will likely be pleased with the Spectre’s Bang & Olufsen speakers, which offer rich and powerful audio. But the productivity-minded should keep in mind that the Spectre offers only three USB Type-C ports, plus a headphone jack. USB Type-C is certainly the future, but for now you’ll need adapters to connect the Spectre to most equipment — like external monitors.
I didn’t get great battery life out of the Spectre, but I believe my testing circumstances were part of the problem. The notebook’s battery depleted after about four hours of use, which is unusually low. That said, the Wi-Fi signal in my office kept dropping in and out over the course of writing this review, and the battery may have been drained while the laptop was searching for a signal. It’s probably safe to expect around six hours of battery life out of the Spectre under normal circumstances.
With its latest Spectre, HP has proven that there is a way to improve laptop design without compromising the computing experience. The HP Spectre is a marvelously slim, attractive machine that tackles all of the basics, offering a sturdy keyboard and fast performance.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider other options. If you don’t need a Core i7 processor and don’t mind something slightly thicker, the Dell XPS 13 is definitely worth a look, especially since it’s about $100 cheaper than HP’s notebook and provides a similar experience. Chromebooks, meanwhile, are increasingly compelling options for the budget-minded. But in general, the Spectre is priced fairly considering most ultrabooks cost around $1,000. All told, HP’s Spectre is a top contender among today’s Windows 10 laptops.