The 2016 version of the HP Spectre series is a beautiful super-slim machine (just 10.4mm thick). In fact, HP is marketing it as the slimmest laptop on the market. It has a beautiful design (we found the hinge particularly striking), solid performance, a good keyboard, an impressive display, a fine webcam, and a lightweight build. However, the speakers are not the best and the color scheme might not suit everyone’s taste.
Surprisingly, the Spectre breaks the old tradition of “the thinner the laptop, the more the heat.” It is common for thin laptops to charm you in design but fail you awfully when it comes to cooling. However, with this laptop, HP proves otherwise by using a new cooling technology (we will talk about it later).
Overall, we’d recommend the Spectre for those who are looking for a blend of performance, splendor, and ultra portability.
The top surface is made of aluminum, with a new attractive gold-colored HP logo at the center. The bottom surface is carbon fiber. You can tell that it’s durable, just by touching it. There’s no much material flex like what you have may have seen in other typical thin laptops. At the back, there’s a metal bar adorned with a flashy gold color that goes well with the HP logo I had mentioned.
A revolutionary thing in Spectre’s design is the screen hinge. It uses a piston system which I find really cool. The hinge feels very solid, although there’s a bit of play in the screen framework when it’s in open position. However, i can guarantee that this isn’t much of a bother when using the laptop.
Everywhere else, the build quality is pretty good. Nothing feels cheap or flimsy. The screen chassis flexes when you try to bend it, but it’s expected for such a thin laptop. All the surfaces are prone to smudges and fingerprints, especially the ones with the gold finish. Fortunately, they give you a leather sleeve to carry the 2.4-pound-laptop.
Light and moderate tasks like web browsing, opening emails, word processing, or streaming videos won’t stress the core i7 -6500U CPU. In fact, the cooling fan won’t even activate.
When it comes light video and photo editing tasks, the performance is also splendid. However, if you are planning to do heavy video editing or play demanding games, expect it to throttle down after extended use.
Light games will hit 50-55 Frames per Second (FPS) at 1080P while heavier ones like Overwatch will hit 40-45 FPS at low graphics settings. This is not the best, and worse still, if you intend to play heavy games for longer than 30 minutes roughly, the FPS will drop even lower. You will also notice some throttling during the gameplay. This clearly spells out that the Spectre is not meant for high-end gaming enthusiasts.
Spectre’s PCle-based SSD storage is fast. You can scroll the photo libraries, load game files, and access all your documents at lightning speeds. With 8GB of RAM, the laptop will definitely meet your multitasking needs.
Display & Graphics
Spectre’s 1080P display is protected by a Gorilla Glass panel. The touchscreen shows an all-glossy finish. With 310 nits of brightness, the display is sufficient to let you experience the vibrant colors, at all viewing angles. The color accuracy is also respectable. I can say that HP did a really nice job with Spectre’s screen.
Thin laptops are always a disappointment when it comes to the battery life. For the Spectre, regular usage will let you enjoy 5 hours of uptime, although HP says its 9. This is not surely great for an ultra-book, but considering the thin nature of the laptop, it was a trade-off kind-of.
As I had mentioned, thin laptops are susceptible to cooling issues. However, HP Spectre defies the odds by using a hyperbaric cooling system, as HP calls it. It’s a fancy term for sure, but it actually applies a very simple mechanism. There’s a trim around the fan to restrict all the air that goes in the laptop such that it has to pass through the bottom vent at all times.
In theory, the air pressure inside the laptop is higher than the one on the outside. This forces the hot air out through the vent located at the back. Does it work? I would say yes. The temperatures are much comfortable, and the fan doesn’t get super loud.
Keyboard & Trackpad
On opening the Spectre, you will find a nice keyboard. It has 1.3 mm of finger travel, superior back-lighting, and a good response when typing.
The glass trackpad is satisfactory. It’s a lot smaller than I would like but it still has a usable size. The tracking is totally fine but there’s a small issue when it comes to left-clicking – the cursor tends to slip which is really annoying. Since it’s a software issue, I believe that HP can fix it by the use of a patch, so it’s nothing worrisome.
The speakers look futuristic and stylish. Sadly, they don’t sound as good as they look.There’s very little bass, and the max volume is a bit low. If you are looking for an ultra-book that has superior speakers, this is not the best for you.
Ports and Webcam
At the back, the Spectre has 3 USB ports. Two are capable of Thunderbolt 3. There’s also an audio jack to use with your headset. At the top, there’s a 720P web-cam which is remarkably good in video chatting and taking pictures. Check for details here.
Software & Warranty
On purchase, you will get a standard 1 year manufacturer warranty and a Windows 10 Operating system.
Our Final Thoughts
Reviewed on 2017/04/24 by Victor Wachanga.