The Bottom Line
Sep 11 2012 - HP's Envy Spectre XT on the whole is a good overall ultrabook but the problem is that it doesn't really stand out in a very crowded market especially with the Premium Envy name. Performance is good and the build quality is better than average. HP does manage to include dual band Wi-Fi and a gigabit Ethernet for networking which is nice at this price point but not unusual. The problem is that there are enough smaller issues that make it just an average system. This is especially annoying when it comes to the storage space which while already limited from the 128GB SSD is even smaller due to the large recovery partition.
- Good Build Quality
- Comfortable and Accurate Keyboard
- Dual Band Wi-Fi
- Trackpad On The Small Side
- Limited Storage Space Due To Recovery Partition
- Only One USB 3.0 Port
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Solid State Drive
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
- 12.4" x 8.8" x .7" @ 3.1 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, Photoshop and Premiere Elements, Norton Internet Security
Review - HP Envy Spectre XT
Sep 11 2012 - The overall design of the Envy Spectre XT can be considered a cross between the Envy Spectre with its high quality materials and workmanship with more affordable elements taken from the lower cost Folio 13. It still has aluminum clad lid and deck but uses a soft touch base that has the look of metal but the feel more of plastic. It is certainly much lighter than the larger Envy Spectre or the Folio 13 but it still tops the scales at over three pounds which is a bit disappointing as much of the competition is now lighter.
Powering the HP Envy Spectre XT 13t is the new Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3317U dual core processor. The processor is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory which is typical for the ultrabook category. This provides it with a smooth overall experience in most applications but it does fall short of what more traditional laptops can achieve. For instance, it can be used for desktop video editing but it will just be slower when compared with a larger, more powerful laptop computer.
For the storage on the Envy Spectre XT, HP decided to use the solid state drive rather than using a more affordable hybrid solution that is typical of many of the new more affordable ultrabooks. The standard configuration offers up 128GB of storage space for applications, data and media files. Note that there is a good portion of this space allocated to a restore partition so you will have much less total storage space. Some users that want this as their primary computer may want to look into getting a 256GB version but this does add to the cost of the laptop. Performance from the drive is very quick with boot times range around 15 seconds which is quick but not as fast as the MacBook Air 13 or the Aspire S5 with its dual SSD drives. If you do need additional space, there is a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage drives. It would have been nice to see both of the USB ports use the new superspeed rather than one new and one slower port.
While HP offered a higher resolution display with the Envy Spectre and its 14-inch display, the Envy Spectre XT uses a more traditional 13.3-inch display and 1366x768 native resolution. The display is certainly brighter than the dismal Folio 13 display it still has rather plain color and brightness levels. Then again, this is a more mainstream than premium ultrabook so its not going to have a display as stunning as the high resolution ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A. Like all ultrabooks, it uses the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that is built into the processor. This is fine for most basic work but still lacks much 3D performance for even casual gaming other than older titles at lower resolution and detail levels. What it does offer though is the ability to accelerate media encoding when using Quick Sync compatible applications.
One feature that is directly lifted from the HP Folio 13 is the backlit keyboard. This is a standard isolated key design that offers a very comfortable and accurate experience. The trackpad thankfully is not the same as the Folio as that one had major issues. The trackpad does feel a bit small compared to some other ultrabooks and it does use integrated buttons. Many of the issues from the earlier models have been corrected such that multitouch gestures work better and right and left clicks are more accurate. HP did recess the trackpad slightly to help prevent accidental bumps from wrists while typing.
The battery pack for the HP Envy Spectre XT is a 45WHr capacity rated internal battery pack. This is a bit lower than some of the other ultrabooks on the market. the company claims up to eight hours of battery life. In my digital video playback tests, the system was able to run for four and three quarter hours before going into standby mode. This is respectable but falls short of what the HP Folio 13 or the MacBook Air 13 can achieve with almost six hours. With more traditional usage, it could run around six hours but still well short of HP's claimed eight.>
With a price tag of just under $1000, the HP Envy Spectre XT is right at the original price point Intel wanted for ultrabooks. In terms of the competition, the closest options would be the revised Acer Aspire S3, Samsung Series 5 and Toshiba Portege Z935. Acer's offers a faster processor with two USB 3.0 ports at a lower price but with less battery life or build quality. The Samsung Series 5 offers nearly identical features but comes with one additional USB 2.0 port but is heavier. Finally, the Toshiba Portege Z935 offers similar performance but with a thinner profile and lighter weight but without the dual-band Wi-Fi or same level of build quality.