HP let our imaginations run wild with its Spectre teaser video last week, but it's time to put all those dreams of it being a flying, self-opening laptop to rest. The company is officially releasing its Envy 14 Spectre today, and while it may not be what you imagined, it's one heck of a machine. Termed a "premium ultrabook" the laptop takes everything we've liked about the Envy line and brought it to a .78-inch / 3.9 pound laptop. There's a lot to talk about inside and out of the Spectre — a scratch-proof glass lid and palmrest, a bright and high resolution display, and NFC integration. Below is a breakdown of everything you need to know about HP's new ultrabook.
Hardware / design
No, it's not as thin and light as others like the new Samsung's Series 9, but that's because the entire lid is layered with a piece of Gorilla Glass. That same glass covers the beautiful screen (more on that below) and the palmrest. It's a bit odd that the palmrest is elevated, but it seemed pretty comfortable when I set my wrists on it to type. Unfortunately, the glossy black glass lid attracts a ton of fingerprints.
Like the Folio 13, HP didn't skimp on the ports — it has an SD card reader, two USB ports as well as HDMI, MiniDisplay, and Ethernet ports. Unfortunately, those two USB ports are located right next to each other, which will likely make it hard to plug in two peripherals at the same time.
HP's using a similar keyboard to the one of the Envy 15, meaning it's backlit, well-spaced, and the keys have a soft coating. The touchpad has integrated buttons and is also coated in Gorilla Glass; I found two-finger scrolling to be really smooth and navigating to be pretty decent in my quick hands on time, but I did find it to be stiff, just as we noted in the Envy 15 review.
Display / speakers
If you're an Envy fan, you likely jumped right down to this section. Yes, HP's using the same 14-inch, 1600 x 900-resolution Radience display that it had on its previous Envy 14. That means that you don't only get a screen with a higher resolution than most, but viewing angles and brightness are superb. Naturally, HP brought the Beats branding and the new little jog dial from the Envy 15 and 17 over. The dial lives on the right side of the system with another Beats button, which launches the Beats software.
Specs and NFC
The $1,399 Spectre starting configuration will come with a Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB mSATA SSD. There will be Core i7 and other configuration options. Those are some rather standard internal specs, but inside the left edge of the palmrest is something a bit different — an NFC chip. While HP says it's just an "experimental feature" at the moment, it will be releasing an Android app for NFC phones that will let you "touch to share." Functionality will be pretty limited at first; you'll only be able to tap your phone and transfer a URL to the laptop or visa versa. As you would expect, HP's unfortunately not going to release a webOS app for the functionality.
Will the Spectre's extremely unique glass shell be worth the thicker build and heavier body? That's ultimately going to be the major question about the ultrabook. I'm hoping to spend even more time with the Spectre here at CES, but I feel really confident in saying the Spectre is one off, if not the, best ultrabook of the show.