HP Envy 14 Spectre Review

The HP Envy Spectre (credit: Alejandro Cortés)
As one of the new range of Ultras hitting the shelves the HP Envy is going to have to deliver across all of the key strands including weight, battery life and size if it is going to compete in what promises to be one of the bloodiest battle grounds for consumer choice in recent history. The price of these devices may have people searching for payday loans but in all other aspects they are extremely competitive.

So will the envy have what it takes?
Before we get started on the device and its specifications we have to consider the name. Envy and Spectre are some pretty obscure terms to bunch in to the title of a device. One of them alone is enough to force a scratch of the head. For the sake of ease let’s just call it The Spectre as that seems to be HP’s intention. (Or, perhaps, as a cursory instruction to all other devices in this category!)

Initially The Spectre does make a dazzling impression. This is due in no small part to the glass-topped display bezel and keyboard tray. Combine with the ultra slender exterior the device exudes the sort of class you would expect from a machine in this price bracket. The second impression it makes is not quite so inspiring. At 3.2 kilos this is beast of an ultrabook, about three times what you would really expect an ultrabook to weigh in at. This is the price you have to pay for looking good. The Spectre is covered in toughened impact resistant glass. Unfortunately as a result you do feel the need to wear a pair of antistatic gloves just to pick it up.

The display specifications
In terms of screen size the Spectre does outweigh its opponents in the field but at least in this respect this is a good thing.  The 13.3 inch size is at the top end of the ultrabook range, but within that frame the spectre has managed to cram in a 1600 x 900 backlit LED panel. The results in terms of the graphics it produces are very impressive. Video playback is particularly rich and well defined. The screen ratio lends itself well to photo editing which is much easier than on many of the other ultras that are hitting the market. Viewing angles from above and below the screen are superb, but if you look below the plane of the sweet spot there is some shift in colour and saturation.

How does this machine perform?
It is when you start running through the functionality and operations that things start to come asunder for the spectre. It scored just a 106 on WorldBench 7, coming in 3rd place out of 4 with other similar ultrabooks. Again here the price has been paid for appearance and devoting all the performance power into the high resolution display has taken away from the speed at which it is able to work. Although it does boast a battery life or 9.5 hours realistically it will last for some 3 hours less than that at optimum functionality. This kind of duration is about average for the ultras and certainly not likely to turn any of them green as a result.

Is the sound up to scratch?
Enhanced audio is one of the key selling points for The Spectre and as a result one of the biggest disappointments. Boasting, as it does, about the advanced beats technology like a rap star, you would expect this to be excellent, but it proves to be all swagger and no substance as is too often the case. If you are going to listen to sounds through the speaker system you will need to make sure you do so in a quietened room as the inbuilt sound system does not project very well. If you do listen through the system it is best not to listen to anything with a heavy baseline as sounds above 60% volume come through with considerable distortion and you do get the distinct feeling that the whole machine might vibrate apart.

Overall this is a great machine with many superb features, but not the best ultra you are likely to buy, but you could do a lot worse.