HP Spectre XT review: first look

HP has unveiled its latest range of Ultrabooks at its Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai.
Leading the charge is the Spectre XT, which slots into the firm's range alongside the Envy 14 Spectre, and it makes an enviable first impression: it's just 15mm thick and weighs 1.4kg, which makes it slimmer and lighter than most of its Ultrabook rivals - and significantly slighter than the older model, which was 20mm thick and weighed 1.8kg.
There's no denying the Spectre XT is a looker, either: the lid and wrist-rest are both constructed from brushed metal, the 13.3in screen is surrounded by a slick black bezel, and the base is coated with the red of Beats Audio, which comes as standard.
The screen, meanwhile, has been slimmed down from the original Spectre - it's now 13.3in rather than 14in. Resolution has taken a step down, from 1,600 x 900 to 1,366 x 768, but it looks as though HP has been able to preserve the enviable levels of quality, with vibrant colours and decent detail in evidence when we used the XT.
The only thing missing is the Gorilla Glass covering of the original Spectre, and the loss of that dose of originality is our only major complaint about the XT's looks - and, of course, the simpler design has allowed HP to make the XT slimmer and lighter. That's a trade off we suspect many will be happy to make.
There's plenty to like in the ergonomic department, too. We criticised the original Spectre for its poor build quality, and we're happy to note that HP has addressed our concerns; while there's still a little give in the rear of the screen, the desktop isn't distorted, and the wristrest is far firmer than it used to be.
There's a little flex in the base of the keyboard, but the Scrabble tile keys are still responsive and comfortable and, as with the original Spectre, it's still backlit. The entire trackpad is smooth and responsive but, like last time, the two buttons at the bottom of the pad are simply seperated with a thin white line - and they're still a little too tough for our liking.
Under the hood, HP's latest offers precisely the kind of specification we'd expect from the next generation of Ultrabooks. Processing power - at least in the model we've used - comes from one of Intel's Ivy Bridge chips, the 2GHz, low voltage Core i7-3667U, and storage is provided by a 256GB Samsung SSD - plenty of room for Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 10, which are included as standard. There's also four gigabytes of RAM, and HP is claiming eight hours of battery life.
HP is being coy about UK pricing, but the Spectre XT will cost at least euros 999 when it arrives on these shores at the end of June. We'll have a full review at launch but, until then, what do you think? Is this the machine to make you buy an Ultrabook, or are you still to be persuaded? Let us know in the comments.

HP has unveiled its latest range of Ultrabooks at its Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai.

Leading the charge is the Spectre XT, which slots into the firm's offering just beneath the Envy 14 Spectre, and it makes an excellent first impression. It's only 15mm thick and weighs 1.4kg, which brings it into line with the best Ultrabooks around, including the Dell XPS 13 and Asus ZenBoook UX31 - and that also means it's almost half a kilo lighter than the original Spectre.

There's no denying the Spectre XT is a good-looking laptop. The lid and wrist-rest are both constructed from brushed metal, the screen is surrounded by a slick black bezel, and the base is red to signify the inclusion of Beats audio.

The screen, meanwhile, has been slimmed down from the original Spectre - it's now 13.3in rather than 14in. Resolution has taken a step down, from 1,600 x 900 to 1,366 x 768, but it looks as though HP has been able to preserve the enviable levels of quality, with vibrant colours and decent detail in evidence when we used the XT.

The Gorilla Glass covering of the original Spectre has been removed, and the loss of that dose of originality is our only major complaint about the XT's looks. If that's helped make the Spectre XT thinner and lighter, though, that's a trade-off we suspect many will be happy to make, with a little extra portability arguably more important than snazzy design.

There's plenty to like in the ergonomic department. We criticised the original Spectre for its mediocre build quality, and we're happy to note that HP seems to have addressed our concerns; while there's still a little give in the rear of the screen, the desktop isn't distorted, and the wristrest is firm.

There's a little flex in the base of the keyboard, but the Scrabble tile keys are responsive and comfortable and, as with the original Spectre, the keyboard is still backlit. The entire trackpad is smooth and responsive but, like last time, the two buttons at the bottom of the pad are simply seperated with a thin white line - and they're still a little too tough for our liking.

Under the hood, HP's latest offers precisely the kind of specification we'd expect from the next generation of Ultrabooks. Processing power - at least in the model we've used - comes from one of Intel's Ivy Bridge chips, the 2GHz, low voltage Core i7-3667U, and storage is provided by a 256GB Samsung SSD - plenty of room for Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 10, which are included as standard. There's also four gigabytes of RAM. HP is claiming eight hours of battery life, and connectivity includes dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and a pair of USB 3 ports. A separate Spectre XT will also be released to appeal to businesses thanks to the inclusion of Windows 7 Professional and a TPM security chip and the removal of third-party software such as the two Adobe apps and Norton Internet Security.

The Spectre XT will cost at least £899 when it arrives on these shores at the end of June, with the business-specific XT a little cheaper at £859. We'll have a full review at launch but, for now, it looks as though HP has managed to put together a good looking, fast and light Ultrabook. So, does this look like the machine that will open your wallet, or are you still to be persuaded by Ultrabooks? Let us know in the comments.

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