HP Spectre 2016 review (hands on): Sleeker than a 12in MacBook, this is the world’s thinnest laptop

When clearing out my attic recently, I came across an Asus Eeee PC 701. It was my first laptop, bought back in 2008 when I’d decided that laptops had finally got small enough to carry around all day. What struck me about it eight years later was just how thick the thing is. Even the workhorse laptops of 2016, which don’t aspire to be paper-thin, look positively emaciated next to the machine that started the short-lived netbook boom.asus_eeepc

Nowadays, manufacturers from Apple to Lenovo are set on convincing us that undernourished appearance doesn’t lead to underpowered performance, and it’s with that in mind that last night HP invited us to take a look at the HP Spectre laptop, a notebook it’s billing as the thinnest in the world.

It’s certainly that, as the images in the above gallery will testify. To put a tape-measure figure to it, it’s a mere 10.4mm with the lid closed, and weighs 1.1kg. Obvious comparisons come against Apple’s new 12in MacBook, but as promised, HP has the lead in the svelte stakes: the MacBook is 13.1mm thin, although it is significantly lighter at 0.9kg.[gallery:5]

Its appearance is likely to divide, however, and it’s mainly down to the new-fangled “piston hinge”. While laptop convention tells us that the screen and keyboard segment should be the same length, the Spectre’s screen is actually a little shorter, hingeing around the point of the escape key. It’s purely an aesthetic point, and while it’s nice to see a company adding a new twist to the tried and tested, for me I’m not certain it works.

The reasoning for this, presumably, is to allow the laptop to keep some kind of connectivity. While Apple’s 12in MacBook now offers a single USB Type-C port for all of your charging and connectivity needs, HP has decided to go one better. Well, actually three better. Turning the laptop around reveals three USB Type-C ports, one of them chiefly for charging, the other two meaning you’ll be able to multitask with your peripherals without the need for awkward adapter cables.[gallery:0]

Hard specifics on the components are a little hard to come by for the time being. The model I saw had an Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. HP tells us that it will also be available with a Core i5 when it launches. And despite its tiny frame, HP is claiming nine hours of battery life for the Spectre – that’s in the same ballpark as the MacBook, and should be enough to get you through a day of light work.

As for ergonomics, the HP Spectre does surprisingly well. Where the keys on the 12in MacBook’s keyboard have virtually no travel, and tend to divide opinion among even the most feverish of Apple fans, the Spectre’s have much more depth to them. In terms of the amount of travel on offer, there isn’t quite as much as on my MacBook Pro, but it feels perfectly pleasant to type on. The glass-topped trackpad is going to take some getting used to, however. It’s just not as smooth and responsive as the MacBook.

Finally, to the screen, which is just as luxurious as the rest of the laptop. It measures 13.3in across the diagonal, has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and is clad in scratch- and shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass 4. Some might argue it isn’t sharp enough, especially in a laptop that’s likely to retail around £1,000 and up, but to my eyes it looks to be perfectly decent, quality-wise. It’s vibrant, bright and as crisp as you like.[gallery:2]

The HP Spectre arrives later on this summer, and on this evidence it should be able to give Apple’s finest a good run for its money. Watch this space for the full review.

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Image: Jolicloud, used under Creative Commons

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