The Spectre is HP's return to the high line after the Envy line went from metal encased machines with top specs to something more mainstream and affordable. There haven't been many Spectre laptops, and the Gorilla Glass clad Envy Spectre XT (yes, both an Envy and a Spectre) is probably the most memorable. The Spectre 13 is both more practical and light, and it takes on the likes of the Asus Zenbook, Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Air. The Ultrabook has a "truffle brown" lid and a champagne interior, and if that sounds more like interior color options on a Mercedes or the menu at an elegant restaurant, it's because HP wants you to make that association. At $999, it's less expensive than some other luxury design models like the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and Acer Aspire S7.
Inside it's a standard 13.3" Ultrabook with 4th generation Intel Haswell ULV Ultrabook CPUs with Intel HD 4400 graphics, DDR3 RAM and an SSD drive. The display is IPS quality and full HD--no it won't wow you on specs like those 3200 x 1800 Ultrabooks on the market, but that's actually an ample and practical resolution given the way many Windows programs ignore scaling. And for those who do crave higher resolution, there's a 2560 x 1440 Sharp IGZO panel option that costs only $70.
HP knows that even elegant Ultrabooks have competition, so they added a standout feature. Honestly, it doesn't excite me wildly, but it does make the laptop look a little different from others on the shelf: a wider than normal trackpad with Control Zone navigation areas on the left and right for Windows 8's Charms and multi-tasking areas. HP though their trackpad might make these new Windows features more intuitive, and while I'm not sure I agree, the tactile feel of the left and right areas helps keep your finger in the center, avoiding accidental app switches or Charms activation. The Synaptics trackpad is smooth and easy to operate and the side zones are slightly rough. It behaved well enough as a standard trackpad with support for multi-touch gestures.
Here's our HP Spectre 13 video review. Our full written review will follow.