HP Spectre review: an ultra shiny, ultra portable MacBook competitor – The Verge
In terms of other traditional laptop qualities, the Spectre hits the right marks. The keyboard is comfortable with good travel and backlighting. I had no trouble getting up to my usual speed typing on it. Likewise, the trackpad is smooth and glassy and tracks very well without making the cursor jump around erratically. It’s smaller than the trackpads on Apple’s computers or even other Windows machines, however, and that can make it feel cramped. I didn’t miss a touchscreen on the Spectre very much… until I got frustrated with the small size of the trackpad and wished I could just reach up and poke my finger at the display.
The Spectre is also more powerful than you might expect such a thin laptop to be. The Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM in the model I’ve been testing have had no trouble handling the various day to day activities I’ve been throwing at them. The Spectre can multitask between a bunch of apps easily, crunch through Word documents and Excel spreadsheets without issue, and can even handle image editing in Photoshop without really breaking a sweat. The Spectre is by no means a gaming machine, nor is it designed to be, but it’s more than powerful enough for productivity work.
Part of the reason the Spectre doesn’t break a sweat is because of the fan system HP designed for it. Most ultrathin computers, such as the MacBook, use Intel’s weaker Core M processors, which don’t require a fan. But as I mentioned earlier, the Spectre has the Core i chip, and it needs a fan system to keep it cool. HP’s solution for this maintains the laptop’s ultra-thin profile and sucks in cool air from underneath the computer and directs the hot air out the back of the machine. It’s a clever bit of engineering and it’s effective at keeping the processor running at its top speeds. (HP refers to the system as “hyperbaric cooling.”) I occasionally heard the fans spin up when doing demanding tasks such as system updates or heavy photo editing, but most of the time they were not noticeable to me.
The Spectre doesn’t skimp on performance
Like many other ultrathin computers recently released, the Spectre relies on USB-C for all of its wired connectivity. But instead of just one port as you might find on the MacBook and other tablet / laptop hybrid computers, HP has installed three USB-C ports on the Spectre. You can recharge the Spectre through any one of the three ports, but two of them support high-speed Thunderbolt connections, so you can actually push multiple external 4K displays with the Spectre. Having three ports is definitely better than one, but because USB-C is still so new, I had to carry around a handful of adapters to plug anything into the Spectre, even if I just wanted to charge my phone. (HP is throwing in a USB-C to USB-A adapter with Spectre machines bought from Best Buy; others, such as HDMI or ethernet adapters, run $49 a piece.)
Not everything is perfect with the Spectre. Despite having four speakers and Bang & Olufsen branding, audio output is tinny and unpleasant. But I’m more disappointed with the Spectre’s battery life. Despite HP’s claims of 9 hours and 45 minutes of stamina, the Spectre lasted 7 hours and 21 minutes in our rundown test using the Edge browser, and 5 hours and 10 minutes with the same test in Chrome. In my everyday use, which consisted of a lot of web browsing in Edge, and using apps such as Word, Twitter, Slack, and Mail, I was able to use the Spectre for about six hours before it needed to be recharged. That’s long enough to cover me in a cross country flight, but not long enough to last an entire workday. Depending on your needs, the Spectre’s battery life might not be a deal breaker, but if you’re looking for the ultimate mobile machine, the Spectre probably isn’t it.