HP Envy 14 Spectre Review

Digitalnerds blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. we never accept free products from manufacturers.Learn more.

One of the first high-design laptops of the year is this Envy 14 Spectre from HP which was one of the most popular laptops revealed at CES 2012 and it also managed to win an award for the best product in the Computers and Hardware category. We’re dealing with one of the first ultrabooks fitted with a 14-inch display, but we should mention that it is a bit heavier and thicker in comparison to what we’ve already seen from other ultrabooks.

Probably the most interesting feature of the HP Envy 14 Spectre would have to be the use of Corning Gorilla Glass for the edge-to-edge display, wrist rest, as well as for the entire back of the lid. In addition, it comes with a built-in NFC receiver which is a rarity nowadays among ultrabooks. The model has a base price of $1,399 which is substantially more expensive if we look at other ultrabooks that have similar hardware specifications. However, the premium price tag is partially justified by the better design.

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www8.pcmag.com)

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www8.pcmag.com)

The entry-level variant is equipped with a second-gen Intel Core i5-2467M processor that works together with 4GB of DDR3 memory clocked at a speed of 1,333 MHz. For storage it has a small 128GB SSD which might not be enough for some users, but for an additional $300 you can upgrade it to 256GB. The chipset under the hood of this HP Envy 14 Spectre is an Intel UM67 while the graphics department holds no surprises as it packs the same Intel HD 3000 as other ultrabooks available on the market today. The system is running on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit version.

The system has the following physical dimensions: 12.9 x 8.7 x 0.79 inches (W x D x H) and tips the scales at 4 pounds while its AC adapter weighs an additional 0.8 pounds. Design-wise, it certainly is significantly different when put side by side with other ultrabooks and this can only be a good thing. When you hold it in your hand it feels quite dense, while the glass construction makes it lighter than the 15-inch version of the MacBook Pro but at the same time it is heavier than most ultrabooks. We like that the footprint of this model is very small for a 14-inch laptop. An important design flaw would have to be that it is quite hard to open the lid due to the reason that there is only a very small catch for the finger.

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www6.pcmag.com)

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www6.pcmag.com)

As far as the keyboard is concerned, it is just about the same as the one you can find on recent high-end laptops from HP. It is called a “radiance backlit keyboard” so the keys are going to light up when you use them and will dim in order to preserve the battery life. This keyboard consists of island-style, flat-topped keys with large Tab, Enter and Shift keys, while the spacebar is a little bit shortened. You will probably appreciate the reversed function keys so you won’t have to perform the Fn+F-key combo in order to get the alternative function of the button.

Regarding the generous touchpad, this reminds us of Apple’s own trackpad, but also a little bit like those all-in-one clickpads which we’ve seen on Windows-running laptops in these last few months. We should mention that the left + right mouse buttons have been integrated in the pad’s bottom corners. This clickpad sits flush with the ultraportable’s wrist rest while the clickpad/wrist rest combo has been raised a bit off the keyboard tray.

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www9.pcmag.com)

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www9.pcmag.com)

The HP Envy 14 Spectre has a 14-inch display with a maximum resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels which is higher than the standard for this size which is 1,366 x 768 pixels (720p). Just like all Envy laptops launched by HP, this model is equipped with a Beats Audio-branded audio sound system. We should warn you that the EQ presets are focusing on the Beats-branded headphones. If you did not know, the main selling point of the Beats Audio is the heavy bass which for some people is too heavy. On the right spine of the Envy 14 Spectre you’ll notice a tiny volume wheel, as well as a physical mute button.

Let’s have a look at the ports and connectivity features that this ultraportable have. For video it has an HDMI port and DisplayPort as well, while in the audio department you get those stereo speakers with a subwoofer, along with a headphone + microphone combo jack. For data transfer it has an SD card reader, one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port, while for networking it comes with an Ethernet port, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www7.pcmag.com)

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www7.pcmag.com)

If we compare it with regular 14-inch laptops, it doesn’t have a generous list of ports and connections but if we look at other ultraportables we will begin to appreciate what HP has installed on this Envy 14 Spectre. We’ve talked for several times about the Intel Core i5-2467M so it doesn’t bring any surprises; while the integrated Intel HD 3000 is what you would expect from an ultraportable so don’t think of this model as a gaming machine.

With a large and bright 14-inch display, the NFC antenna, Beats Audio-branded sound system and the backlit keyboard, we should expect a rather modest battery life, but the good news is that the laptop can run for a little over five hours during a demanding video playback test. Even though it is not as long as the battery life provided by the 15-inch version of the Apple MacBook Pro, it still is a great performance for an ultrabook and with a little bit of tweaking it should be able to last for a full day’s of work.

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www8.pcmag.com)

HP Envy 14 Spectre (Source: www8.pcmag.com)

This is probably one of the most interesting ultrabooks launched so far, but we should expect more attractive models once Intel’s Ivy Bridge platform will hit the market which will bring significantly better integrated graphics solutions, among others. Getting back to this HP Envy 14 Spectre, it is indeed a great-looking laptop but it is quite expensive and this steep price tag is not justified by the hardware components.