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Hands-on review: HP Spectre - the world's thinnest notebook

20 Jul 2016

If you’re beginning to wonder about a recurring theme in my recent reviews, let me start off by reassuring you that I’m a free-lance writer with no personal axe to grind, save my almost fanatical devotion to a brand named after a fruit guaranteed to keep the doctor away.  Maybe that’s why the editor keeps me away from that brand.  Mind you, the lovely folks at HP seem to be determined to turn me to the Windows side, and with the Spectre, they may be edging ever closer to success.

This Spectre comes with a 13.3” monitor, 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and an Intel i5-6200U CPU @2.30GHz, up to 2.40GHz. It’s a sleek and sexy little model, almost paper-thin and weighing in at…er… (pause to find my Weight Watcher scales) 1102 grams! Crikey! My model was enclosed in a matte black with a golden trim along the hinge area. That’s also where the three USB C ports are located. HP had predicted my hackles rising because they included an adapter, so I could still connect all my USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices.

I was interested how this monitor would compare with the Elitebook Folio. While the Spectre came with a 13.3-inch screen (compared to the Folio’s 12 inches,) I’ll admit that I had problems reading the text on the Spectre when browsing the Web. Watching video caused no problems, but the size of text did cause me to squint.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try office software on this machine, but the keyboard and trackpad felt responsive and pretty easy for my fumble-fingers.  To me the trackpad was a cut above the Folio, but the Spectre doesn’t share the Folio’s tablet-like touch screen.

The Spectre is a notebook squarely aimed at the business user.  It will fit easily into your briefcase, protected by its super-slim slip. At one stage I mislaid the Spectre under a couple of sheets of paper on my coffee table. I shouldn’t be surprised, as with this model, HP have created the lowest profile yet of any laptop.  Just between you and me, when I surreptitiously glanced at a foreign reviewer’s article, I read that HP chose to reveal this model not at an IT show, but at a fashion show.  “Aha!” I thought to myself. “They are trying to seduce me!” So, yes, it’s aimed at the business user with a sense of fashion and style. That explained the sexy stylised logo.

While the Spectre’s screen resolution is not as sharp as the Folio, it’s not noticeably inferior.  You may need to tweak the screen resolution a little if you’re as myopically challenged as my almost but not quite sexagenarian eyes are.  Packing the features into such a small space, you may notice that the sound isn’t quite as loud, and the picture not quite as sharp as other bigger, heavier and bulkier models.

If you are continually on the go, rushing from one meeting to another, this Spectre won’t weigh you down.  Coupled with HP’s lightweight dock, you will have the power to use your Spectre as a lightweight presentation tool. The combination of the Solid State Drive and i5 processor means that it delivers whatever you need quickly. Lightweight it may be, but with a lot of substance.

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