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HP Envy 14 Spectre Review: A True MacBook Competitor

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: HP

User Interface, Display and Audio Quality


User Interface
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The Spectre’s keyboard is typical Envy. Island-style, with large gaps and square keys with slightly round edges. The layout is excellent. The extremely large Shift, Enter and Backspace keys deserve particular note as it’s not unusual for laptops of this size to truncate them in an effort to conserve space or squeeze in a row of Home and Page Up/Down keys.
Key feel does suffer because of the slim form factor. Each downward press is met with an abrupt bottom that is both jarring and vague. Don’t misunderstand me – you can enjoy this keyboard and type accurately on it. But it doesn’t manage to side-step the shallow key travel that causes all ultrabooks to fall short of the best mobile keyboards.
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Backlighting is standard, but there is only one brightness option available. This is disappointing. Also disappointing is the quality of the lighting. Many keys, particularly the larger ones, are not evenly lit. This can be overlooked on a laptop with a low price tag but it’s not acceptable on one that starts at $1400.
The glass touchpad offers a smooth feel and excellent multi-touch scrolling support for a Windows laptop. Even complex multi-touch gestures, like zoom, work well. Additional surface area would have been appreciated, as the Spectre doesn’t offer a lot of room for wagging your fingers, but what’s provided is adequate.
Display And Audio Quality
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You may not mind the Spectre’s bland keyboard and palmrest because you’ll be gawking at the display. It offers edge-to-edge glass to the max. Only a quarter-inch of black gloss borders the display on each side and the bezels above and below are also small. This feature contributes more to the Spectre’s feeling of luxury than any other.
The display is more than just a pretty face. It offers decent black levels, excellent contrast, a bright backlight, a resolution of 1600x900 and decent viewing angles. It’s easily among the top displays I’ve had the pleasure to use on any laptop it is also, in my opinion, more attractive than what is offered on the MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air. 
I also checked for the “red is orange” problem that showed up on Envy 15 laptops earlier this year by comparing the display with other laptops I had on hand including a MacBook Air and the venerable ASUS N56VM review unit. Reds are red, as they should be.
My only gripe about is the ease with which you can distort the image by moving the display forward or back. The pressure of your fingertips gliding across the skinny bezels will cause minor ripples along the edge of the LCD. Major issue? Nah. I was using the laptop for several days before I noticed it, but if you own the laptop you will, eventually, see the problem.
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The Spectre’s audio lives up to its Beats branding. I listened to a number of tracks via Grooveshark and found even those with significant bass to be enjoyable. There’s not much bass here, but there is a tad, and it is produced without completely distorting the rest of a song. 
I have heard better sound systems in gaming laptops and 15.6” multimedia laptops, but this is easily the best audio ever produced by a laptop under an inch thick. It absolutely dominates the tinny, lifeless sound available in various other ultrabooks. 

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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