Introducing the HP Envy 14 Spectre

It's interesting, we recently met up with HP in San Francisco to see what they have planned for the future (and they do have some very compelling stuff in the pipeline), but one of the quirkier things I noticed was a shift in branding. For a while now, HP has had three lines in the consumer range: G series, Pavilion, and Envy. Envy was their absolute top of the line, but now it's being essentially decremented for the more-premium-than-premium Spectre. Our HP Envy 14 Spectre review system is the first of this new line, but it won't be the last.

A 14" ultrabook that almost looks like it's cribbing from Apple's iPhone design, HP's Envy 14 Spectre is nothing if not eyecatching and a testament to the American PC industry's increasing understanding that performance isn't everything. Featuring a 900p screen, backlit keyboard, and a healthy amount of scratch-resistant glass, the Envy 14 Spectre is premium through and through and commands a premium price. But is it worth the expense, or has HP misfired?

Usually when I test hardware I have a pretty good idea of who it's intended for, but I'll admit the Envy 14 Spectre is one of the few times when I've been at least a little bit perplexed. HP's engineers may be liberally lifting from some of Apple's design language, but there's a lot to the Spectre that's wholly new. It's one of those products where you can trace it's lineage reasonably well but you're still perplexed as to how it was the result. That's not necessarily a bad thing—we like innovation—but it's a curiosity to be sure.

HP Envy 14 Spectre Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3667U
(2x2GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.2GHz, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM76
Memory 4GB Samsung DDR3-1600 (Maximum 1x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 900p
LGD0306
Storage 2x 128GB Samsung PM830 mSATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Realtek RTL8168 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino 6235 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio IDT 92HD91BXX HD audio
Stereo speakers
Combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-cell, 56Wh
Front Side Speaker grills
Right Side Mute button
Volume dial
Beats Audio shortcut button
Kensington lock
AC adapter
Left Side Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
Ethernet
USB 3.0
USB 2.0
Mic/headphone combo jack
SD/MMC card reader
Back Side Vent
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.8" x 8.7" x 0.79"
325mm x 221mm x 20mm
Weight 3.98 lbs
1.8kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
Beats audio
Backlit keyboard
SSD
NFC radio
Warranty 2-year limited hardware
Pricing Starting at $1,399
As configured: $1,849

The Intel Core i7-3667U processor in our review unit sits at the top of Intel's ultra-low voltage food chain. Based on Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge architecture, it starts at a nominal 2GHz but is able to turbo up to a very respectable 3GHz on both cores and 3.2GHz on a single core. As with all of Intel's 3rd generation mobile Core processors, it includes the HD 4000 integrated graphics part, which runs at a 350MHz clock speed but can also turbo up to 1.15GHz as needed. Intel's made great strides with the HD 4000 IGP, but I feel like we're going to be waiting until Haswell before we really stop feeling the pinch that results from not having dedicated graphics.

Now here's something interesting about our review unit. HP only advertises the Envy 14 Spectre as being available with either a 128GB SSD or 256GB SSD, yet ours is equipped with two 128GB Samsung SSDs. Both AIDA64 and Intel's own Rapid Storage Technology confirm this with two different serial numbers for the drives. The PM830 is a very respectable piece of hardware, and while the storage capacity isn't going to knock your socks off it's definitely going to be at least adequate for most users. It's interesting that HP opted to use a pair of 128GB drives instead of a single 256GB drive...but then didn't configure them in RAID.

The rest of the Envy 14 Spectre is fairly respectable, though the memory is unfortunately confined to a single channel just like the Folio 13. A second DIMM slot would've occupied roughly the same amount of space as a second mSATA drive, so I have to wonder what the rationale was behind this trade-off as it definitely negatively impacts the IGP. What may raise some eyebrows is HP's inclusion of a Near-Field Communication radio, and I can tell you it looks like HP is definitely doubling down on this technology in the near future. The applications are impressive; an NFC-equipped smartphone can theoretically transfer photos and data directly to the Envy 14 Spectre with no need for cabling or Bluetooth (which is also included.)

In and Around the HP Envy 14 Spectre
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  • warisz00r - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Can't wait for you guys to review the X1 Carbon. Reply
  • barry spock - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    me too. what I've read it seems the best match head to head with the MB air. Reply
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    The MBA "fails"(relatively speaking) under Windows. So the comparison is moot. Reply
  • Braumin - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I second this! I don't know what you need to do in order to get Lenovo laptops, but please add them to your list! The X1 Carbon looks amazing. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    Don't hold your breath. Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Why - does Lenovo not bother to send out review units? Reply
  • AssBall - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    ... but the batter life pretty much a joke for the price. Why even bother with ultra-light if you can't carry it everywhere without bringing the cord. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    I know. If battery life isn't there, literally nothing else matters.

    Reviews of the X1 kept mentioning that rapid charge battery tech, but I just don't care since the battery life is DOA.

    These are mobile devices. Battery life matters.
    Reply
  • RamarC - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Yup. Battery life is definitely top 2 factor. Otherwise you'll have to fight a martial arts chick over the plug! Reply
  • mtoma - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    According to HP, Wikipedia and Intel specifications, Spectre should be an 14 inch Ultrabook. It has mSata drives, ULV processor, the right dimmensions. I see some Samsung and Lenovo models with 14 inch displays, which are .. a little bit heavier and bulkier, but are classified as Ultrabooks.
    Because of that, it seems odd for me that Dustin has opted to compare HP Spectre with other regular notebooks.
    Reply

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