HP Spectre 13 Review: The Laptop That Wants To Be King Of The Ultrabooks – Forbes

Can you combine power and capability with thin and lightweight design cues in a laptop? HP challenged itself to do just that, and the result is the Spectre 13. At 10mm in depth and weighing just 1.1 kg, is this ultrabook the ultimate portable laptop?

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

The obvious comparison is with Apple’s laptop range, especially the MacBook Air and the new twelve-inch MacBook. When you are leaning heavily on being as thin and as light as possible, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion.

But HP has something on its side that Apple’s ultra-portable do not have – the ability and belief to push the design away from the ‘basic two sheets of hardware with a hinge at the very back.’ HP uses the word artisan in the marketing, and that’s a wise choice. From the two distinctive curved hinges that hold up the screen (and lift it a little higher above the keyboard – always a bonus) to the use of dark ash and copper coloring, the Spectre 13 is a laptop that stands out with a unique blend of subtle colors.

Design wise, the Spectre 13 is fabulous.

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

The screen is gorgeous, although HP seems to have held back a touch on ultimate specifications to ensure it can get as much value and impact out of the screen. By going with an IPS LCD screen (unlike the OLED screen of HP’s larger Spectre x360) that runs at 1920×1080, the Spectre 13 resolution is comfortably in the middle of the pack. Where it wins out is in the colour and contrast. HP has tweaked the screen towards more natural colours rather than popping saturation, and has focused on creating high levels of contrast. This combination works really well.

Part of the quality of the display is down to the lack of touchscreen. This takes away a few layers that can dull the vibrancy shining through, which has the added benefit of reducing the depth of the machine, which is one of the design goals of the Spectre 13. While it should not be a deal-breaker – Windows 10 can run comfortably without a touchscreen (unlike Windows 8) – I’ve grown accustomed to it on other high-end Windows 10 devices. I occasionally found myself tapping the screen, but those moments are few and far between. Anyone purchasing the Spectre 13 will be focused far more on the design, and this is the correct compromise to make for the screen.

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

As with many ultrabooks that focus on thin, some smart engineering has gone into the keyboard. The pressure required to make a keystroke works well with my style of typing. With minimal travel I found that the keys hit the limit of their travel very quickly. There isn’t a huge amount of ‘bounce’ in the keys, but they spring up at a good speed so the keyboard does not feel dead – the key is always at the top of its travel and ready to be pressed, no matter how fast I type.

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

It’s nice to see a backlight under the keys, but it’s either on or off. Some intermediate levels would have been nice. I’m also not sold on the rounding of the keys at the four corners of the keyboard, it notably reduces the target area of the already small escape and delete keys. I can see why the designers have decided to round off the keys to match the curve of the recessed tray, but this is one area I would have wanted practicality to win out.

The trackpad is a touch too small for me, needing multiple swipes to traverse the screen while retaining the accuracy that I like. Yet it picks up finger taps and clicks with ease. Again HP’s engineers have found a sweet spot between a smooth surface and the tactile nature required. But with a lot of spare space above the keyboard I wish it could have moved up to give more vertical space on the trackpad.

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

HP Spectre 13 (image: Ewan Spence)

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