A PC you won’t see coming: HP’s Spectre 13 (2014) reviewed

The screen is another area that wins points for us, with HP moving past the tried and tired old logic of using HD screen (1366×768), mid-Full HD (1600×900), and even pushing beyond the Full HD (1920×1080) screens some laptops offer.

No, rather than stick with what the competition offers in their Ultrabooks, HP has included an excellent 2560×1440 screen, also known as QHD or Quad HD. In fact, it’s the same sized screen Toshiba used in its Kirabook, offering that lovely 1440p resolution across a 13.3 inch screen size.

That’s the sort of thing we’ve wanted Apple to acknowledge was needed in its MacBook Air computers for ages, and here in the ultra-thin Spectre 13, HP has at least given it the nod, with insanely clear fonts and a copy of Windows 8.1 that just looks brilliant.

Most of the viewing angles appear perfect on the Spectre 13, though you might notice some slight wash out from time to time depending on how you view the screen. Outside of this, however, the display is lovely, bright, and very very clear. We wish more Ultrabooks had screens like this.

Moving over to performance and innards, and for the most part, we’re impressed. It’s not the sort of performance you’ll get out of a powerhouse system — there may well be an Intel Core i7 under the hood, but this has been based on an Ultrabook, so don’t expect it to be ideal for extreme image and video editing.

Despite that, it can hold its own, and with the i7 4500 working alongside 8GB RAM, this isn’t a bad machine at all. In fact, one might call it a good machine, and suitable for most of what the everyday Ultrabook user might want to throw its way.

We did throw a game or two at it, as well as some image editing, and while it can slow down, it’s nothing too far off what we’ve seen with other Ultrabooks in its class, and so were suitable impressed.

HP’s inclusion of a 256GB drive is a welcome one, and while 12GB has been reserved for the recovery of Windows, you’ll still find just under 190GB for you to actually use, which isn’t half bad.

And hey, just for a nice change, there is less bloatware than normally found on HP computers… so yay there.

Ports are reasonably generous too, though two USB 3.0 ports do feel like the bare minimum a 13 inch computer should have, and that’s all you’ll get here for expansion. There is a mini-DisplayPort and HDMI port for sending your video somewhere else, and even a full-height SD card slot, making it ideal for editing photos or bumping up the storage without leaving the card protruding from the casing.

Battery life is about average for this machine, though, and won’t win extra points for us. It’s not like the Asus T100 — hell, there’s a Core i7 underneath here, and not the low-power Atom on that model — so don’t expect life into the double digits.

In fact, expect a battery life a little under what the MacBook Air manages, with around 4-6 hours, with four on the side of using the processor for a bit of graphics and six to seven for web surfing, emails, writing, and more.

It’s not an especially amazing battery life, that said, though with the screen on this bad boy sitting at over the Full HD mark, honestly, we’re not at all surprised.

Beyond the battery, there are few sour points when it comes to dealing with the Spectre 13, but we feel we should list what we’ve come across, regardless.

One of these is the processor fan, which can get noisy when you need to actually, you know, do something with the impressive technology Intel has built into the chip itself. That might mean games or editing photos, and the Spectre does come with a copy of Adobe Lightroom preinstalled, so that last one is at least possible.

When you decide to get going and make the processor work, the fan will spin into action, and make noise. It’s the only time it happens on this computer, and like the ghost that occupies its name, the Spectre is, for the most part, totally silent.

Except when you use the computer’s high-end specs. Then it’s a ghost doing the vacuuming while you’re not away from the next room. Friendly ghosts, and all.

The backlighting also seems to only have one level: on and off.

That’s better than no backlighting, but it’s not a particularly bright set of backlighting, so if you’re in a darkened aircraft cabin and the backlighting on offer isn’t bright enough, you may as well use that bright screen to help illuminate your way, at least until you land.


HP’s 2014 Spectre is an impressive return to the fore, with an Ultrabook that isn’t just another clone.

While most thin and light machines generally follow the same pattern and design, the Spectre is different, taking the Intel specification and not just improving it, but also throwing its own touches on top, and making it something not just great, but overall quite excellent.

HP is back. Recommended.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Beautiful screen... hell, it's an amazeballs touchscreen (though the viewing angles can be a little weird); Massive trackpad; Great keyboard; Attractive and sturdy;
Computer can get a little noisy when the fan decides to spin up; No 802.11ac WiFi;