Monday, December 17, 2012

HP Spectre XT Review

By Khaled Akbik

This is the site’s first review and I couldn’t have wished for a better device to start this site off with. The good folks at HP gave me the opportunity to review this beautiful device and blog about it. Here goes.

The HP Spectre XT is a follow up on HP Envy 13 that was released 3 years ago and a part of the beautiful Spectre family. Let’s take an in-depth look at this device:

First Glance

When I first laid my eyes on this ultrabook two things came to mind; one, it’s beautiful, two, it looks a lot like Apple’s MacBook Air. The machine boasts a shiny silver lid made out of an aluminum plate that sits atop a plastic bezel. It’s ultra-thin, 1.44-1.75 cm, and weighs a mere 1.39 kg. This laptop is made to carry around with ease and to impress your business partners and peers.

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way

Processor: Intel® Core ™i5/i7 1.7GHz CPU
Storage: 128/256GB SSD (Solid State Drive)
Memory: 4GB RAM
Operating System: Windows 8 (unit reviewed contained Windows 7)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
Price: AED 4,599 for 128GB with i5 processor and 5,699 for 256GB with i7 processor
Ports & peripherals:
Two USB 2.0 ports
Standard HDMI
 Ethernet (for wired LAN connectivity)
A full-sized SD card reader slot
3.5mm headphones/speakers jack
Stereo speakers with Beats Audio support
XMP webcam
This is pretty impressive for a device this light and this thin. HP has really outdone themselves with this.


The screen is 13-inch in size with a 1366 x 768 resolution display. This is the only downside in this laptop as it fairs quite poorly when compared to its peers. That said, the screen is bright and beautiful to look at when at maximum brightness, and it performs beautifully in the outdoors. You may be a little bothered at times with light reflecting off the screen’s glossy texture.


The keyboard looks and feels very similar to the MacBook Air. Its backlighting feature is very handy when typing in a dark environment. The keyboard backlight toggle button is always lit making it easy to spot in the dark, a very well thought out feature.
One thing I like about the keyboard is the function keys. The keys emphasize their multimedia functionality more than their “Function” labeling. For example, you don’t need to press the function (fn) key to Print Screen, and the Insert functionality takes a step back on the same key. I, for one, never used the Insert key, I do, however, use the print screen key extensively in my work.
There are dedicated keys to toggle the screen’s brightness as well, without having to press the Function key to get them to work.
Clearly, HP had practicality in mind when they designed these keys’ functionality.


The track pad is very impressive. It supports multitouch gestures with pinch to zoom and two-finger scroll up, down, right and left options. One genius design feature of the track pad is that it sits on a slightly lower ground from the palm support area on the laptop. This is very useful to avoid accidental touching of the pad while typing. I pretty much never accidentally touched the track pad while typing this review, while I’ve had lots of such difficulties on other laptops. To top it off, HP included a nifty little touch-based button on the top left corner of the track pad which turns the pad off with a simple double tap. A tiny LED light next to it lights up when the track pad is off to avoid confusion.

Beats Audio

The Spectre XT comes with Beats Audio support, as do all premium HP laptops, for stereo speakers conveniently placed under a speaker grill right beneath the screen and above the keyboard. The speakers offer a decent performance, sound comes out crisp, loud and clear, they lack good bass support though. Considering this laptop is primarily made for business and not an entertainment powerhouse, I’d say the speakers are more than enough to get the job done.
As is the case with most Beats supported devices, plug in your headphones and you’re transformed the real Beats Audio world. At that point, the question becomes: can your headphones keep up?


The device performs smoothly and without hiccups. The Solid State Drive allows the ultrabook to boot up in just 17 seconds. Rebooting takes 20 seconds. That’s one of the fastest times to boot and reboot I’ve come across on a notebook. This, again, is very handy for business people who want access to their notebooks on the get go.
When working with such thin devices, heating up is an issue that always comes up. HP managed to create an extremely efficient cooling system with a an ultra-quiet fan switching on and off when needed and at the amount of power needed. When the device is running tasks that require heavy lifting, the fans go on hyperdrive, without getting too loud.
Speaking of cooling, the Spectre XT comes with a neat feature called HP CoolSense. When switched ON, CoolSense automatically detects if your notebook is not in a stationary position and makes further adjustments to performance and fan settings to keep the surface temperature of your notebook at the optimum level of comfort.

Notable Add-ons

The HP Spectre XT comes with a two-year Norton Internet Security subscription already installed and free of charge. It also comes with the standard HP Support Assistant that comes in handy quite often.
Skype is also pre-installed on the notebook, making perfect use of the webcam for those overseas business meetings and family calls.
The basic version of Microsoft Office Starter is also pre-installed on the system giving you access to watered-down versions of Word and Excel.
The most notable of add-ons is that the unit comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premier Elements pre-installed on both iterations of the notebook. That's some major added value right there.


This is a very beautifully designed, well-engineered device that is designed for maximum efficiency. It’s light, thin, fast and easy on the eye. It’s ideal for users who are constantly on the move and need to carry their notebook with them without having to endure a heavy load. Priced within the price range of Macbook Air, it doesn't come cheap. Clearly HP is going with the premium design and premium price tag. This notebook is one of an elite few that are quite able to face-off with the Macbook Air. With a sleek design and killer features, this is the perfect notebook for those looking for something reliable and sexy.
If you find the Macbook Air sleek and sexy and wish to purchase a Windows equivalent, this notebook is the right choice for you.