After being showcased at CES 2012 at the start of the year, HP's flagship notebook has finally hit Asian shelves. The HP Envy 14 Spectre has a heavy emphasis on design and predictably enough is fully loaded with all the bells and whistles you could want. But the ultraportable market isn't the open road that it was 12 months ago, with Apple recently upping the ante with its MacBook Air upgrades. So has HP balanced form and functionality? Can it take away the ultraportable crown from Apple's Airs? Or has it overstepped the budget expectations of its customers? Let's take a look at the Spectre and find out.
Out of the box, the Spectre scores big on style. The ebony lid is made of glass, giving a seductive finish. It's a little smudge-prone, so needs frequent wiping, similar to the iphone 4, but it's worth it, we say.
Inside, the aluminium body is layered with a glass palmrest, which is a practical solution for the all-metal interior. Another nice touch is the back-lit keyboard, which the new Air range was given in the recent update. It can be turned off to save battery life too.
Its small dimensions still afford strong connectivity, with HDMI and Ethernet ports included on the side _ both of which are omissions from the new Air range _ as well as USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPoer connectors.
Another design feature is the power or "travel" adapter, which is nicely portable and small, although it does heat up in use. It also features a thoughtful USB port for charging other portable devices, so merits its "travel" tag.
Overall, it's an impressive and sturdy design from HP with a dashing lid, albeit at a cost of the significant 1.8kg weight. But this will be tolerated by plenty for the aesthetics alone.
Inside, the glass lid houses a 14-inch digital radiance LED display with a 1,600x900 resolution. It's bright and clear, and the viewing angles are wide. There's only some contrast and colour loss on vertical angles, which can be countered by tilting the screen. It's a little glossy, so is best suited to indoor use.
Under the bonnet is an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor running at 1.6GHz _ not quite as impressive as the updated Ivy Bridge processors in the new MacBook Air range but up to all tasks below heavy gaming and heavy multimedia use. Storage is provided by two 128GB SSDs, and there's 4GB DDR3 memory on board. Interestingly, there is no graphics processor, so heavy gamers are left out of the equation.
Similar to the Envy 15, the Envy 14 Spectre has Beats Audio on board, which includes a dedicated audio button, volume wheel and mute button on the side panel, and the system's speakers are the best we've heard on a notebook. Sound quality-wise, the bass is still lacking, but mid and higher ranges are well represented.
For input functionality, the trackpad is sensitive and responsive but the software lacks the recognition of multi-touch gestures that are a blessed feature of Apple's notebooks. This will perhaps be incorporated in software updates in the future, patent issues pending.
For portability, battery life is advertised as nine hours, but offers closer to seven to eight hours of light usage, or four hours of constant use, similar to Apple's Airs. It conveniently charges in a couple of hours.
HP has put together a considered package in the Envy 14 Spectre. Users will like the aluring lid and other design perks, good connectivity and bright screen, but will be put off by the price, glossy glass cover (for non-polishers) and weight.
Rather than being a workhorse, it's an ornament as well as a techno tool. Form outweighs function here, unlike with the Airs, where Apple has balanced the equation with the finesse of a ballerina. It's not better than a MacBook Air, and has some weaker points, as well as some stronger. Instead, it's an eccentric alternative that will cater to contrasting individual preferences, and is a beginning to rounding out the future shape of the market for portable computing.
The HP Envy Spectre is available for 59,990 baht. Visit www8.hp.com/th/en/home.html. Email email@example.com with any thoughts, gadget-related or otherwise.
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