HP’s laptop of the future or a mere spectre of past glories?
The HP Spectre XT is a new ultrabook that feels oddly familiar. Its slender wedge shape and metal build is not only reminiscent of the Apple Macbook Air, it is also very similar to HP's own Envy 6. We prefer that ultrabook's distinctive black and red appearance but it is a matter of taste.
The Spectre's metal build means it's both stylish and sturdy, although the lid was not quite as rigid as we would have liked and flexed under pressure quite a bit. The underside never became uncomfortably warm, but this is almost certainly due to the irritatingly loud cooling fan which is audible even during simple, undemanding tasks such as web browsing.
The most impressive thing about the Spectre is the keyboard. The keys are large and responsive so typing is fast and accurate – they are a real pleasure to type on. The keys also light up which is useful for working in dimly lit conditions. We also liked the touchpad. It is large, accurate and scrolling through long documents using felt smooth. The buttons are built into the pad itself and feel reasonably firm.
The Spectre XT weighs just 1.4kg so it is easy to carry around. The battery lasted just over six hours in our light usage test. This is respectable for an ultrabook and is long enough to last a transatlantic flight but other laptops have even longer-lasting batteries.
Although the 13in screen's resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is large enough for most tasks, we still wish it had higher resolution, such as 1,440x900 pixels. This would provide more room for large documents and programs with lots of windows and controls. The screen is reasonably bright, although when turned down by 50% to save battery life it looks a little dim compared to other lightweight laptop screens at the same setting.
Like almost all other ultrabooks the Spectre feels quicker and more responsive than a chunkier, bigger laptop since it has a fast solid state drive (SSD) instead of a slower hard disk. The trade off is capacity – the Spectre's SSD only has a capacity of 128GB so you'll have to be judicious about which files you carry around with you.
Although the 4GB of memory and dual core Intel Core i5 3317U processor are more than fast enough for today's tasks, it could struggle with newer, more demanding apps in future. More memory can't be added, not even when ordering. 4GB is the maximum amount possible.
Preinstalled on the SSD are copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 for editing photos and video, respectively. These are undeniably useful extras if you don't already own them, although bear in mind version of 11 of both are now available.
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A good-looking ultrabook with a great keyboard that is let down by an average battery life and a so-so screen. We expect better at this price
Thin and lightweight; Sleek looks; Useful bundled software; Great keyboard
So-so screen; Average battery life
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