HP Envy 14 Spectre review: first-look


HP isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to good looking laptops. It’s probably not even the fifth or sixth. But the HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook might just alter that perception.

We were given a hands-on demonstration of the Spectre at CES today, and it’s one of the most immediately impressive Windows laptops we’ve ever smeared fingerprints over. HP’s product group director had to keep a cloth close to hand, because this 13.3in laptop is pure glass on top, with a grippy rubberised base. With the HP logo glowing through the lid, it’s a visually striking and very smart looking laptop. The wrist rest is also a slab of glass, giving a smooth, cool-to-touch surface from which to type on. The touchpad, meanwhile, offers multitouch gesture support that’s as slick as anything we’ve seen outside of Apple’s laptops.

The attention to detail on the Spectre is exceptional. It’s fitted with a proximity sensor, which illuminates the backlit keyboard when you’re ready to type, and dims the keys when you’re sitting back and watching a movie, eliminating any distractions. Each of those backlit keys has its own LED, allowing HP to light up individual keys to suit the situation: illuminating the volume controls when the laptop’s playing music, for example.


Further care has been taken with the ports running down the left hand side. To keep the Ethernet jack the same size as the other ports, it’s fitted with a little drawer that widens the port when you plug in the cable. Alongside the Ethernet jack there’s a Mini DisplayPort, HDMI and two USB 3 ports – although HP has omitted the suddenly fashionable Thunderbolt port “for cost reasons”, which seems a little parsimonious on a premium laptop such as this. An enormous headphone socket and SD card reader rounds off the left-hand side of the laptop.

The right-hand ports are devoted to music controls, which allow you to listen to your music collection with the lid down. Here you’ll find a volume wheel, a mute button and another that launches the Beats audio control panel. The speakers are located on the base of the laptop, and emit a decent wallop of volume by rebounding the sound off the surface they’re placed on.

HP hasn’t taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the accessories, either. The charger is compact enough to fit in Ronnie Corbett’s top pocket, and includes a USB socket for charging MP3 players, smartphones etc, which is a thoughtful touch. The laptop arrives in a stylish black cardboard box that looks like it should be housing a cut-glass decanter, and there’s also a stylish fabric sleeve for the laptop inside the box. It’s the kind of package they wouldn’t be ashamed to hand out to celebs at an awards ceremony.


The Screen

Stunning packaging and all the other trimmings would be fore nothing if the core computer wasn’t up to scratch, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. For a start, the screen is stunning. HP claims it’s a 14in display trapped in a 13.3in laptop chassis, which we’re still struggling to wrap our Vegas air-conditioned brains around, but whatever the mathematical gymnastics, it’s a beauty. A resolution of 1,600 x 900 delivers a delectably crisp image, and the viewing angles are astonishing: at one point we were sitting at almost a right angle to the screen, and we could still comfortably see the demo video.

Inside, the Spectre can be specced with either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor (Sandy Bridge, not the much-touted Ivy Bridge revision, which has yet to make an appearance here at CES). It can be fitted with up to 256GB of solid-state storage and ether 4GB or 6GB of RAM.


Bundled software hasn’t been neglected, either. There are full versions of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements and a two-year licence for Norton Internet Security.

So how much will this tempting package cost? A minimum of €1,299, which pushes it towards the premium end of the Ultrabook spectrum and on a level with the 13in MacBook Air. We’ll wait until we get one into the Labs before delivering a definitive verdict, but we can’t wait to get our hands on one again.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos