WiFi ran as fast as my router would support with 802.11 wireless capability. It also supports WiDi, and it happily fed its full HD display to my UHD Blu-ray player for display on an attached semi-smart TV. Well, as happily as ever happens in my office, which means after a few false connections.

There are four Li-Ion cells scattered around the computer’s interior, necessary for best space utilisation, with a capacity of up to 38 watt-hours. HP bravely specifies up to nine hours of battery life, with a suitable disclaimer making it clear that the actual running time could be anything.

HP Spectre 13 closed

The higher level model packs a Core i7-6500U, 512GB SSD model for $3099. According to an online benchmarking site, this i7 CPU gives about a 7.5% performance boost over the i5 employed by the review unit. As far as I could tell, you can’t option up the i5 model with a bigger SSD, so if you need the space you’re going to be buying the modest i7 performance boost as well.

HP also sells a nice leather sleeve of just the right size, and a wireless mouse with a matching colour scheme.

In Use

Size and power definitely aren’t related. The HP Spectre 13 performs, well, about as well as any other 2-core, 4 thread Core i5 of its speed and generation. In other words, as well as many other modern, powerful, notebook computers. It was fast, and this was demonstrated most obviously in rebooting, getting back to the lock screen in less than 14 seconds. My Surface Pro 4 with the Core M3 processor takes 36 seconds for the same process.

Once you get to the lock screen, there’s no assistance from Windows Hello. The Spectre isn’t compatible. You’ll have to enter a password or set up a PIN.

Yet despite the power it’s a featherweight. It’s the sort of thing that you can pick up from the desk, while the screen is open, with just a light grip on a corner and not fear it falling from your grasp.

Now I was expecting that being so lightly built the keyboard might be inadequate, with insufficient travel and too much flexing of its base. But that turned out to be quite wrong. It was for the most part a pleasure to type on. The body of the notebook remained unmoved as I pounded like a literate Neanderthal, while the keys registered cleanly, and reasonably pleasingly to my fingers. The keys themselves have an island style, and I suspect helps accuracy, or at least makes it easier to feel if you’ve missed.

That said, I had a little trouble adapting to the secondary key arrangement – you know, those keys accessed by holding down the “Fn” key which appears on otherwise truncated keyboards. The layout was quite sensible, but a little different to the one I’m used to, and those functions were described on the relevant keys in very small lettering that was nicely colour matched to the overall look of the computer. That is, the text was in a gold/bronze which turns out to be surprisingly difficult to make out on the dark surface of the keys, especially in a darkish environment. The keyboard isn’t backlit.

HP Spectre 13 the back

That said, if you buy one of these, within a few days your motor cortex functions will have remapped themselves and you won’t have to do any peering at the keys. One nice touch is that there is a tiny LED on the mute key, illuminated when it is in operation. Ever started a Youtube video and been puzzled why there’s no sound? I do that all the time. This light will likely solve the issue for you.

I loved the screen. Some displays offer more pixels in this size – the Mac Retina ones for example. But in practice that additional resolution is not going to be visible over the 1080p on offer here. UVWA – ultra wide viewing angle – display is the claim. I could not disagree. Any angle you look from the colour remains bright and bold, even if the angle is so extreme you cannot read anything and only barely make out pictures due to the extreme trapezoid distortion angled viewing always produces. I mentioned above a little light breakthrough on a mostly black screen. That was in a fairly dark room. In normal lighting conditions, there was no such thing. The black levels of the display were actually quite impressive.

Outdoors, well it’s like most notebook displays. If the sun’s out, find shade and try to orientate the notebook so that that nothing bright is being reflected back at you. Do that and the display was clear and bright enough to allow you to be productive. The circular hinges holding the screen achieve that nice balance of being firm enough to hold the display securely at any permissible angle – up to 120 degrees I’d guess – while being soft enough to allow you open up the screen from closed with one hand.

HP Spectre 13 screen hinge