Review: HP's Spectre XT Is The Ultrabook For The Business Man

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Written by Tony Ibrahim     10/09/2012 | 00:00 | Category name i.e.HOME OFFICE

HP's Spectre XT crams a full-sized notebook into Ultrabook proportions, but has HP been forced to sacrifice functionality? And if so, what's been given the axe?

Styling

The Spectre XT is uniquely good looking, with its propped up profile accentuated by conforming brushed aluminium lines. This brushed finished contrasts with it shaved steel edging—similar to Samsung's series 9—and gives the notebook a premium look.


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While balancing the needs of the businessman—who demands little weight and size—HP has resorted to using a lightweight lid that is flimsy in design. Two sturdy hinges mount it to the rigid base, but the screen wavers when it's touched and it feels frail in the hand.


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Despite its 14.5mm thickness, HP has managed to endow the Spectre XT with all of the connections endemic to a notebook. On its left hand side is a USB 2.0 port, SD card reader, AC port and headphone out/microphone in combo jack. An interesting snap-back Gigabit-Ethernet port ensures the right edge is consistently tapered and is joined by a full-size HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port.

Keyboard & Trackpad

Opening the ultrabook requires two hands: one bracing the base and another flipping the lid open, otherwise the Ultrabook enthusiastically topples and skids, a little like a dog chasing its tail. It's not that the weight hasn't been well distributed, but rather the hinges are tightly wound.

Once opened, you're greeted by a welcoming interior. The black, Chiclet keyboard is subtly backlit and is the best iteration in the category. Even by personal computer standards, it is comfortable, ideally ergonomic and spaced.


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The top row, which was traditionally reserved for scarcely used 'function' keys, has been reprogrammed to manage the computer's volume, brightness and music controls. This break away from tradition is a needed one that most manufacturers lack the courage to action.

The trackpad is a worthy accomplice, facilitating fluid canvassing and credible use of multi-finger gestures. Although left and right clicks are designated to the bottom of the track, it will recognise taps accurately anywhere on the trackpad.

Theatrics

The Spectre XT has two 'Beats by Dre' speakers that produce loud, clear and for an ultrabook, actually impressive sound. Although Beats is a brand renowned for its perspective on base, the Spectre XT's sound appears more enhanced and less manipulated, and is easily good enough for on-the-go presentations.


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The downside is the 1,366 by 768 resolution screen fails to perpetuate the same charm. Although brightness is on par, it has poor viewing angles which results in a loss of colour and compromised integrity. The inclusion of proficient speakers with an underwhelming screen is a paradox as the two go hand-in-hand. It's a shame as a good screen would've made this an ideal Ultrabook to watch movies on.

Hardware

A spec'd out Spectra XT includes a third generation Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM, Intel HD 4000 Graphics and a 256GB solid state drive. Our review unit sat a little lower in the food chain with a core i5 processor clocked at 1.7GHz and 128GB of RAM, but even with this configuration it scored really well.

Using Cinebench software, we tested the Spectre XT's CPU and graphics capabilities. The CPU scored a reputable 2.42 and 14.51 in the Open GL test, proving a superior performer to Samsung's 900X3C (CPU: 0.77, OpenGL: 8.12fps) and Dell's XPS 13 (CPU: 2.19, OpenGL: 8.87fps).


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The Spectre XT blitzes through run-of-the-mill use, including office applications, communications and basic multimedia management.

To measure the battery, we looped a video at half of its brightness and the XT lasted 4 hours and 25 minutes, which is simply on par with its rivals.

Final Word

Professionals and scholars of all ages will appreciate the Spectre XTs serious demeanour. Powerful innards, excellent connectivity and decent sound are wrapped in an attractive and lightweight body, making it ideal for on the go use. Was it not for the lid/screen duo, this would've been a Titan amidst the slew of Ultrabooks available.


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Price: $1,399 equipped with an i7 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD drive.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Excellent connections; Great audio; Great keyboard and trackpad;

Cons:

Screen quality and construction;