30/04/2012 12:44 | By Cliff Joseph, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

HP Envy 14 Spectre review

Though it's not quite as portable as we're entitled to expect from an Ultrabook, this is an undeniably classy piece of kit.

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What is it?
HP's gleaming, glassy new Ultrabook.

What's great?
Eye-catching glass paneling, and plenty of ports and connectors.

What's not?
Expensive, larger and heavier than most Ultrabooks.

Bottom line
A classy piece of kit, but not as portable as it could be.

It's a little on the chunky side for an Ultrabook, but HP's new Spectre is still a striking piece of laptop design.

We have to admit that at first glance we didn't realise that the Spectre was classed as an Ultrabook. It doesn't have the slim, tapered design of rivals such as Dell's XPS 13 and, at 20mm thick, it's close to the maximum size allowed by Intel in its official definition of an Ultrabook. It also weighs in at about 1.8kg, which is almost half a kilo more than most other Ultrabooks that we've seen in recent months.

Some of that can be put down to the fact that the Spectre's 14-inch screen is larger than that of its 13-inch rivals. However, the Spectre's unusual design also plays a part here. The entire top panel - both the screen itself and the back of the screen panel - is coated with a strong layer of scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. There's also another strip of Gorilla Glass on the wrist-rest area just below the keyboard.

HP Envy 14 Spectre is rated four stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets (© HP)

All that gleaming glass gives the Spectre a sleek, glossy look that really stands out, and HP has gone to town with the machine's other features too. The 14-inch screen looks great, thanks to its bright and sharp 1600x900 resolution, while the comfortable, moulded keyboard is equipped with a motion sensor that can tell when you're near and automatically activate or deactivate the backlight accordingly. The speakers are better than average too, thanks to HP's Beats Audio system.

And, unlike most Ultrabooks, the Spectre is equipped with a good set of ports and connectors. You get both USB 2.0 and high-speed USB 3.0 ports, a memory card slot, HDMI for connecting to a flat-screen TV, and a connector for a separate computer monitor. And, thankfully, the Spectre even has an Ethernet network port - enabling a wired internet connection in areas of poor wi-fi reception.

Battery life is good too, lasting for more than five hours when streaming full-screen video off the BBC iPlayer. It even includes some decent bundled software, with Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements for photo and video-editing, and a two-year subscription to the Norton anti-virus software. There's no DVD drive, though, so you'll need to provide that yourself if you want to play DVDs or install software off disk.

That spec list does come at a cost, though, and the Spectre is pretty pricey even by Ultrabook standards. The basic model costs £1,199 with a dual-core i5 processor running at 1.6GHz, 4GB of memory and 128GB solid-state drive (which is smaller, but faster and lighter than an ordinary hard disk drive). That's powerful enough for most day-to-day computing tasks, but it's still quite a modest speed for a laptop in this price range - especially since it doesn't include a separate graphics chip that would let you play the latest 3D games.

The Spectre is an undeniably classy piece of kit, but its size and weight do leave it at a disadvantage compared to some of the slimmer and lighter Ultrabook models that are already available.

HP Envy 14 Spectre is rated four stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets (© HP)

Essential info:
Typical online price: £1,199
URL: HP Envy 14 Spectre
Screen: 14 inch, 1600x900 resolution
Processor: Intel i5 at 1.6GHz
Memory: 4GB
Hard disk: 128GB solid-state drive
Weight: 1.8kg

Also consider:
Samsung Series 9 - not officially an Ultrabook, but still slimmer and lighter than the Spectre.

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