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Hands-on with HP's Apple rivalling Envy 14 Spectre

updated 03:55 am EST, Wed January 11, 2012

We test the HP Envy 14 Spectre at CES

We had an opportunity to try the HP Envy 14 Spectre this evening. The ultrabook is HP's most advanced and bears an uncanny similarity to a cross between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro through its attention to design. Is it a replacement for a Mac, though, or a try at riding Apple's coattails? Read on for our take.

The Spectre is in line with the design principles of the recent Envy line in mind. There's no getting around the obvious: the design is very reminiscent of Apple's smaller notebooks. Even the hardened glass back is reminiscient of an iPhone.

That's not a bad thing, though, as it's certainly a handsome-looking design at a time when many Windows PCs are still very utilitarian. Part of it comes from HP trimming the bezel down to a much smaller width, likely through the use of an LG Shuriken LCD panel. Regardless of the origin, the panel if it's mixed with a dark screen creates an illusion of seamlessness that's nice to see; it's a 1600x900 IPS panel, too, producing rich colors. The backlit keyboard can even be programmed to light up or darken in a "wave" when woken up or put asleep with the keyboard visible: it's a trivial notice, but it shows an attention to detail.

We're not sure how the glass lid back will hold up in an unprotected bag, but we do like the glass on the palm rest. Having a smooth, uninterrupted surface for your hands is an unusual feeling, but a good one and a trick that helps keep the palm rest from showing visible signs of wear.

HP has done a good job with both the keyboard and trackpad, either of which are comfortable, and in the keyboard's case, backlit. We'd still give the edge to Apple for at least the trackpad, since it doesn't need a dedicated button area for right-clicks and supports considerably more multi-touch gestures.

Whatever you think of Windows will dictate the Spectre's appeal as well, but it at least has a minimal amount of bloatware. The 1.8GHz Core i7, solid-state drive, and load time optimizations are certainly used to great effect. We saw the system reboot and reach Windows in what looked to be in or near 10 seconds, which certainly defied logic given Windows' reputation for being slow to start.

The core drawback of the design is that it's heavy -- noticeably heavy. HP is keeping it under four pounds, but there's very noticeable difference between this and the three-pound 13-inch MacBook Air. Neither is a burden compared to most larger notebooks, but it somewhat defeats the point if the design is heavy

Any definitive look at the Spectre would have to wait for a full review, but for now it's a step forward for HP. Earlier Envy models were a sign HP was taking higher-end PCs seriously; this shows that its design philosophy could be here to stay.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Bengt77

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looking good!

    I still wouldn't be willing to give up Mac OS X, though. But all these new ultrabooks are a definite step in the right direction. It's also very good that the masses are educated about reasonable pricing through this ultrabook initiative. They learn that Apple wasn't as ridiculously priced as they always thought. They just always had the better products. And guess what, you actually pay for that...

  1. LMGS

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yet another copy

    Just one more copy of a successful Apple product..

    When the first Macbook came out with that keyboard, everyone complained about it.. Now everyone copies it.. Just like the first iPhone was panned, and now copied.. No originality on the Windows side..

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looking all the same...

    They all go after Apple design, same rip-off keyboard and same rip-off glass display. At the end they all have the same issue: Running windows.

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Holy Cow!

    Is it called the "Envy" because of the obvious extent to which HP designers envy their compatriots at Apple? I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but this is getting truly ridiculous. Is this the new direction that evil Meg will be taking poor old HP?

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just another...

    Macbook Faux.

  1. Jubeikiwagami

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Have they learned nothing? Look at the thickness of the screen. The lines are not smooth on the body. You have that growth coming out of the side for the ports....

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    it's the same ugly black keys on aluminum look that apple has!

  1. chas_m



    So ...

    Sir Jonathan is now the design head at THREE major computer manufacturers. Cool.

  1. rumplestiltskin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So let's say they manage to cut down the weight and the cost to match Apple's MacBook Air. Then it's, presumably, back to the Mac vs Windows argument. In this arena, at this cost, Apple has 85% of the market. Look it up. OSX is simply superior to Windows 7 in experience.

    BTW: What's with the glass top? I want to knoe where the guy or gal who designed that is now so I can order fries with that burger.

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