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HP Envy 14 Spectre Review: A True MacBook Competitor

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: HP

Cooling, Portability, Software


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If you’ve ever owned a thin laptop before you will already know what to expect from the Spectre’s system fan. It is quiet at idle, but can become annoyingly noticeable during high load. Gaming, as usual, will bring out the worst of it.
Temperatures are generally pleasant. At idle the laptop peaked at 88 degrees Fahrenheit along its bottom middle. Load brought these temperatures up to as high as 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which is toasty but not high for a thin laptop Most of the heat doesn’t reach the keyboard and palmrest - I measured a maximum temperature of 98 degree Fahrenheit.
I have a specific complaint that may not be related to cooling but will be important to some users. When the Spectre was sleeping in a quiet room I could perceive a high-pitch noise emanating from the rear quarter of the laptop. It’s the same kind of noise that’s made by some CRT and tube televisions as well as some power supplies. 
Not everyone can hear this noise because it is of such high pitch, but if you can, it is absolutely maddening. A quick search of Google shows that its common among HP Envy laptops as well as a few other models from other manufacturers. 
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The Spectre is referred to an ultrabook, but it stretches the definition. Its thickness of .79 inches just barely comes within tolerance but its weight of almost four pounds seems a bit hefty. Then again, ultrabooks like the U310 weigh nearly as much. 
Whatever the label given the Spectre there is no doubt that this laptop a bit heavier and more ponderous than a ASUS UX31/32, Toshiba Z835 or MacBook Air. This is a larger laptop than any of those options. I’m not sure that there’s any real impact to portability, however, because all of these laptops (besides the Air 11.6”) require a bag or backpack of roughly equal size to carry. They also all make use of slim power bricks that improve portability on long trips.
HP bucks the trend of integrated batteries by making the Spectre’s user serviceable. It’s covered by a panel on the bottom of the laptop but two easy to use latches allow the user to quickly remove the panel and access the battery. It’s a 58Wh unit, which is about 20% larger than the ultrabook average. What does that mean for endurance?
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It turns out that the Spectre's overall endurance isn't much different from the Acer Aspire M3 (with a 54Wh battery) or the Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook (with a 49Wh battery). The primary reason for coming right in the middle despite a battery that is a bit larger than average is the display. It is relatively large and bright, which consumes a bit more power.
HP thankfully is wise enough to keep extraneous software to a minimum with its premium laptop. You do receive a copy of CyberLink PowerDVD and Adobe Elements, but both of those products are useful and undeserving of the term “bloatware.”
Also included - and useful - is the Beats Audio software which can be accessed via the system tray or via a small button on the right side of the Spectre. This utility includes a variety of independent volume controls, an equalizer, and noise cancellation options. 
Norton anti-virus is preinstalled as trial. As with other such trials it is eager to warn you that your computer is or soon will be vulnerable. The only way you’ll manage to side-step issue is by purchasing a MacBook or from a boutique like Origin or Maingear. 

July 10, 2012 | 02:01 PM - Posted by Annoyingmouse (not verified)

At such a price, that is a really tough sell compared to the Zenbook Prime series.

July 11, 2012 | 08:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Fujitsu is introducing a Tablet/Hybrid with swapple DVD/RW drive, 2nd Hard/SSD dirve, or Battery. No more having to order an aftermarket SATA disk drive caddy and fiddeling with screws! I can only hope that this catches on with other laptop OEMs!

October 6, 2015 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Desiree (not verified)

It was designed for space-ships to mirror heat and lightweight.

July 19, 2012 | 05:36 PM - Posted by razor512

The noise issue mainly happens when the laptop maker uses cheap capacitors on their laptop.

I have had this issue with a cheap 300 watt power supply that came with an old case, I wanted to use it as pretty much a multi purpose power supply for powering various dev boards

I was able to get rid of the noise by replacing the 1000 hour 85c caps with ones that had the same capacity but supported a higher voltage and were rated at 2000 hours 105C

the noise went away and the power supply works even better than before (when tested on a old PC the voltage is more stable and is great when left at the side of my desk with a few splitters for running fans, lights and various other things (whats better is I have a decent supply of 12V, 5V, and 3.3V power and since I never load it up like crazy, I added a potentiometer to the fan and lowered the speed making it almost completely silent)

anyway, when you hear noise from your electronics then it is likely due to cheap components being pushed to their limits and if you can open them and still run them, then you can locate the noisy parts, then copy down their models and measure their height and width

after that, head to a site like the element 14 store then select a higher quality version from their drop down menu, then simply desolder the old part then solder in the new part and the noise will be gone.

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