Launched yesterday at CES, HP's Envy 14 Spectre is not your run-of-the-mill Ultrabook. For one thing, it doesn’t look anything like a MacBook Air, with a black glass lid that fits a full 14in. screen into a 13in. machine that's only 20mm thick and weighs 1.8kg. In a world where every Ultrabook seems to be a clone of an Apple design, the Spectre's glass gloss is a refreshing change.
Reflective black and good looking, the Spectre builds on the design language used in the rest of the Envy range. The glass lid is scratch resistant, and the same glass is used on the palm rest and touchpad. The display has a wide angle of view, and its 1,600-by-900-pixel resolution can handle a wide range of HD content. Above the screen is an auto-zoom HD camera that will zoom in on you if you walk away from the device in the middle of a video conference.
Performance should be good, with 4GB or 6GB of RAM and Core i5 or i7 processors, with USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet connections, as well as HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort. Storage is SSD only, with 128GB as standard. Claimed battery life on the Dynapack battery is 9 hours, making up for the fact that the battery isn't removable. Although you can remove the cover, the battery is screwed in place and will need to be replaced by HP (it's rated for 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, and so should last a long time).
The Spectre is fitted with Beats Audio and has a separate set of separate audio controls — including one that behaves like an analogue volume wheel! It's a touch of retro on a machine that's the epitome of modern design, all black glass and shining aluminium. Speakers under the keyboard reflect sound off a desk for improved quality; if you prefer to use external speakers, there's also support for HP's Wireless Audio, which will stream audio content to any device that supports the KleerNet protocol.
Envy is HP's premium brand, and in line with Intel's position that Ultrabooks are familiar notebooks just thinner and lighter, HP has given the Spectre many of the features of its larger siblings (including a dedicated support line). The Envy 14 Spectre will be available at the end of March in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the UAE, with a base price of of €1,299 (including VAT).