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HP Envy 14 Spectre

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What's hot: Unique and gorgeous looks, high end materials, long battery life, IPS class display, great keyboard.

What's not: Display not bright, heavy and delicate vs. mainstream Ultrabooks. Expensive.


Reviewed March 11, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

What if you could have a notebook computer that looked just like your black iPhone 4? HP has the answer with the HP Envy 14 Spectre, a Gorilla Glass-clad Ultrabook whose black glass lid is a perfect match for Apple's darling. In fact, the Envy Spectre has Gorilla Glass on three surfaces: the lid, the display and the keyboard deck. It's stunning to look at--trust me, you have to see it in person to appreciate how it makes even the most attractive machines from Apple and Asus look a tad dull. But is the Envy 14 all looks? Read on.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

HP says they began development of the Spectre before Intel announced their Ultrabook initiative, but HP still calls this an Ultrabook, even though it diverges in size and weight from Intel's 13" ultraportables that weigh 3 lbs. that have Intel ULV CPUs inside. The Envy Spectre weighs 4 lbs. (glass is heavy), but it sticks with standard 13.3" Ultrabook internals like ULV Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, SSD drives and a fairly slim 0.79" profile. Like the HP Folio 13 Ultrabook, it's thicker than the MacBook Air, Asus Zenbook UX31 and others, but it's significantly thinner than most laptops on the market and is about the same thickness as the Folio 13 and MacBook Pro. The base $1,399 machine has a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 ULV CPU, 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD. You can order the 1.8GHz Core i7 ULV with 256 gigs of SSD storage for a whopping $1,899.

So yes, it's an Ultrabook, and not the usual HP Envy powerhouse with full mobile Core i5 and i7 CPUs and dedicated graphics. Be aware folks: this thing won't run circles around your buddy's rig playing Battlefield 3 and Skyrim; in fact it barely plays those games with its Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics. This Envy is about incredible good looks rather than performance. But HP throws in some goodies like dual external display support, an Ethernet jack, an IPS class display and Beats Audio with their new rotary controller.

Design and Build

The Envy 14 Spectre (don't you think the "14" should be at the end of the name?) is undeniable eye candy. It will make your friends jealous. It drew crowds at our local computer store the minute the sales associate whipped it out. It's understated elegance and not gaudy. In terms of design, HP shows extreme attention to detail with elegant surfaces mating with curves and chiseled edges. The Gorilla Glass is fused to the aluminum casing. But HP's manufacturing quality control hasn't been tops lately as we noted with our HP Envy 15. Our retail purchased Envy 14 Spectre is perfect except for a lid warp on the right front corner and a few scratches on the plastic under the battery cover (where you'll never see them on a daily basis). For the $1,400 base price, we expect better.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

The Nero Black lid is covered in Gorilla Glass and it looks great with less glare than you might expect. It really is a match for the iPhone 4 and 4s in black. When closed, light bounces off and it looks very glassy, but when open, the sheen is subdued. Nice. That means the person across from you in Starbucks might not use it as a mirror to pick poppy seeds from their teeth. Eew. The display is covered in edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass, and this is a 14" HP Radiance display (HP-speak for IPS or IPS class like IFSS or AFFS). Again, lovely looking. The wrist rest area is covered in clear Gorilla Glass, so you can say goodbye to plastic wear and staining. Keep in mind, all this glass requires care and feeding: it shows fingerprints and even if it is scratch and shatter resistant, Gorilla Glass can break. Ultrabooks are about metal surfaces, portability and durability; but not the Spectre. HP ships it in a box within a box and the notebook is inside a neoprene sleeve: keeping it safe boys and girls.

The light silver metal keyboard deck looks like the latest generation HP Envy 15 and 17 notebooks, and it's attractive, though a bit MacBook Pro combined with Sony Vaio Z derivative. The keyboard isn't sunk like the HP Envy 15, and it doesn't need to be since the wrist rest is raised a few mm courtesy of the glass panel.

HP's usual large buttonless Synaptics trackpad is here and it actually works decently well for multi-touch and the buttons are just right: not too stiff or soft. The chassis is no larger than the 13" Folio, quite a feat for a 14" notebook, and HP manages to squeeze in a good number of ports by Ultrabook standards. Most of these are on the left, and you'll find a Mini DisplayPort, full size HDMI, 2 USB 3.0 ports (1 sleep and charge), and a combo mic/headphone jack there. The right has the charging port and Beats Audio rotary control, mute and settings button.

The bottom of the notebook is matte black coated metal and plastic, much like its bigger Envy brothers. There's a large battery door release latch that reveals the non-swappable battery that's affixed with several Philips head screws (again like the Envy 15). There are no obvious screws holding the remaining bottom section, unlike the bigger Envy models, so it's not readily apparent how you access the RAM, SSD slots and wireless card inside. The dual mSATA SSD connectors are under the battery (not too difficult to access, really). The single RAM DIMM slot is rather hard to get at, and you'll disassemble right down to the motherboard to access it. We wish HP offered an 8 gig RAM option out the door so folks wouldn't have to consider this level of surgery.


Deals and Shopping:


HP Envy 14 Spectre Video Review


HP Envy 14 Spectre 3D Gaming

Ultrabooks and Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics really aren't the perfect match for today's demanding 3D games. But we put the Envy Spectre and Intel graphics to the test with Skyrim and FEAR 2; both very demanding games that are meant for machines with dedicated graphics. The Envy Spectre did better with Skyrim that we expected, and we got manageable gameplay at 1280 x 720 resolution. We played FEAR 2 at native 1600 x 900 resolution and though the game ran at 20 to 25 fps it felt surprisingly playable. When we dropped resolution, we had 30fps.

Radiance HD+ Display

The HP Envy 14 Spectre has a 1600 x 900 Radiance gloss display. Yes, the reds are true and aren't warm/orange like the HP Envy 15. It's a very pleasing display with strong contrast and rich colors, but it's not terribly bright. We suspect that HP did the same thing with the Spectre that they did with the Folio: increased claimed battery runtimes by using a dim display. It's fine for subdued indoor lighting, but it isn't nearly as bright as the Envy 15, Dell XPS 13 or Asus Zenbook. Since backlighting isn't that bright, you'll notice the gloss display's glare more. Viewing angles are near 180 degrees and backlighting is even with no hotspots.

It's rare to see dual display outputs on an Ultrabook, so we're thrilled to see HP has included both a Mini DisplayPort that can drive very high resolution external monitors and a full size HDMI port. The Envy Spectre has Intel WiDi wireless display, unlike the HP Folio 13-1020US that ships without the required Intel hardware for this feature. That means you can use your TV as an external HD display wirelessly if you have an adapter connected to your TV (the Netgear Push2TV is the most popular and worked fine in our tests).


What a lovely keyboard! There's none of the Envy 15's flex, and the white backlighting is perfect. Each key has its own LED and lighting is even with no leakage around key edges. There's an ambient light sensor that notices if you've left and dims the light, and this is triggered by a red IR sensor LED above the display vs. two on the Envy 15. The backlighting gradually dims rather than the row at a time effect on the bigger Envy.

The chiclet keys have good tactile feel and travel, and it's a pleasure to type long pieces on this keyboard. The top row of keys controls display brightness, keyboard backlight, multimedia playback and other functions (no need to press the Fn key). Volume is controlled by the Beats Audio rotary control wheel on the right front corner of the notebook (a feature we love).

Beats Audio

Smaller notebooks don't usually deliver good audio or much volume, but the Envy 14 Spectre is an exception. This is an extremely loud machine and we rarely raised volume over 50%. It is bass-heavy (more so than the Envy 15), and that can muddy voices in movies when background music overwhelms, but you can adjust the EQ to remedy this. It's not the 5.1 Dolby surround of the HP Envy 15, but the downward firing stereo speakers on the front edge deliver some serious sound. The notebook has a combo 3.5mm headphone/mic jack that likewise sounds good but emphasizes the bass by default. There's a built-in mic and webcam above the display.

Performance and Horsepower

This part isn't as exciting. As noted, this is no Envy multimedia and 3D gaming beast. It's a sheep in wolf's clothing. HP goes with pure Utrabook internals that are perfectly good for everyday work and school use for MS Office, photo editing with Photoshop CS 5 and even some light video editing (though export times aren't fast if you're working with 1080p footage). It is not the machine for the serious video editing professional, nor will it play current demanding 3D titles with high frame rates at high resolution and settings. But if you're willing to make quality and and resolution conscessions, you do get a playable game (see our 3D gaming video above). Older RTS games like Rise of Nations and easy-going first person shooters like Left 4 Dead 2 play very well.

The base machine has the dual core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M, the ubiquitous Ultrabook CPU. You can order the 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-2677M, though we'd spend the money on more SSD storage over the faster CPU. Both CPUs are second generation Sandy Bridge ULV (ultra low voltage) processors designed for ultraportables rather than the beefier Intel Core i5 and i7 Sandy Bridge CPUs used in larger notebooks. The Envy 14 Spectre is only available with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics (there's no room for a dedicated GPU and heat would become an issue). The HD 3000 can handle 1080p video playback nicely and even Photoshop offers HD 3000 graphics acceleration. It's perfectly fine for 2D work, but it won't fly for 3D applications. In terms of horsepower, you're looking at the same internals as the $949 HP Folio 13 Ultrabook.

HP sells the base model with a 128 gig SSD (SATA 2 rather than the speedy SATA 3 used on the Dell XPS 13 and Asus Zenbook UX31), and it's the same drive you get in the Folio 13. You can order a 256 SSD model, and HP states that you'll get dual 128 gig SSDs, which is rather unusual. Our 128 gig machine had 65 gigs free after setting up/updating Windows and MS Office 2010 Starter Edition. The machine has 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and as mentioned earlier, it's a standard notebook DIMM that is replaceable and upgradable like regular notebooks and unlike Ultrabooks where memory is permanently soldered to the motherboard to save space.

The Envy Spectre runs quiet and cool. The fan doesn't come on at idle or when doing web surfing and it kicks up just a bit when streaming YouTube and Hulu video. CPU temperatures are quite cool at 37-45 degrees Centigrade when doing MS Office work and email. When working the laptop harder (playing games and video), the CPU rarely passes 50-60 degrees Centigrade. The keyboard and deck don't get hot, and the bottom panel stays below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.


Ultrabooks do very well on benchmarks thanks to their speedy SSD drives rather than their power-saving CPUs and integrated graphics, so don't be fooled by the high numbers relative to the HP Envy 15 with a 7200 RPM conventional spinning hard drive.

Windows Experience Index:
Processor: 6.3
Memory: 7.2
Graphics (Aero): 4.7
Gaming Graphics: 6.2
Disk: 7.5

PCMark Vantage:

HP Envy 14 Spectre: 9448
Dell XPS 13: 9850
HP Folio 13 (1.6GHz Core i5): 8936
Asus Zenbook UX31 (1.7GHz Core i5): 10,021
Toshiba Portege Z830 (1.8GHz Core i7): 9,938


The HP Envy 14 Spectre comes with Intel Advanced-N 6230 WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 High Speed. That's a good wireless card with dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, 300Mbps throughput, 2 antennas and support for Intel WiDi wireless display. That's the same card used on the Dell XPS 13 and it's a step up from the Broadcom single band WiFi card with no WiDi used on the HP Folio 13 quick ship model that's also sold in many stores.

NFC is on board, and while we're just starting to see this appear in smartphones, we've never seen it on a notebook computer. NFC isn't widely used yet, but it's intended for contactless payments (you can pay for your latte at Starbucks using NFC). There is no NFC-specific software on the Spectre.

Battery Life

The HP has a 4 cell battery that's not user replaceable, though you can see it clearly if you remove the battery panel underneath. It's held in place with several screws, so HP considers it a non-user serviceable part. HP claims up to 9.5 hours of battery life, and they clearly didn't push CPU performance or give us a very bright display so they could meet that claim. We're still doing tests, but so far we've managed 7 to 7.5 hours on a charge, which is excellent and at the higher end of Ultrabook endurance.

The machine ships with an interesting charger that looks much like the Zenbook's, and it has a USB port for charging your smartphone too.


The HP Envy 14 Spectre is an unusual notebook in a class by itself, and it's hard to assign a star rating. It reminds us of Sony's heyday when they made incredibly sexy luxury products that took chances with design and pricing. If you want a notebook that's unique and truly stunning, the Spectre might be for you. We're a little scared of that unprotected glass lid, and only time will tell if it stands up to normal portable use. Utrabooks are about durability and portability, while the Envy 14 Spectre is more of a coffee table book. In a way, I think HP would've done better to market this as a luxury portable rather than an Ultrabook.

We appreciate the non-cosmetic upgrades like the high resolution display, dual monitor outputs, dual mSATA slots and the (sort of) upgradable RAM. But for a 50% price premium over other Ultrabooks, some of which sport very nice metal casings and luxury designs; the Spectre fails to wow us in the performance category. It's perfectly adequate for everyday use but doesn't live up to the high performance Envy name and it's no faster than $999 Ultrabooks. Luxury products are very personal, and only you can decide if there's an Envy 14 Spectre with your name on it.

Price: $1,399 to $1,899

Warranty: 2 years, upgraded Concierge phone support included for Envy line.

Web Site:



HP Envy 14 Spectre vs. MacBook Air Comparison

Ultrabook Information and Guide



HP Envy 14 Spectre


HP Envy 14 Spectre


HP Envy 14 Spectre


HP Envy 14 Spectre


HP Envy 14 Spectre


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Display: 14", 1600 x 900 HP Radiance display with wide viewing angles. Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics. HDMI and Mini DisplayPort.

Battery: 4 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, not user replaceable.

Performance: Intel Core i5-2467M processor (1.60 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.30 GHz). Intel Core i7-2667M processor 1.8 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 2.9 GHz 4 gigs DDR3 RAM (single DIMM) and 128 gig or 256 gig SATA 2 SSD drive.

Size: 12.88 x 8.71 x .79 inches. Weight: 3.97 pounds.

Camera: Webcam with mic.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headset jack. Beats Audio.

Networking: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 High Speed. Supports Intel WiDi wireless display. Wired Gigabit Ethernet with RJ45 port. NFC (near field communications chips).

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. MS Office 2010 Starter Edition, Adobe Premiere Elements 10, Adobe Photoshop Premier Elements 10, Norton (2 year subscription) and various HP utilities.

Expansion and Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports (1 sleep and charge), RJ45 Ethernet, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort and 3.5mm headset jack.



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