HP Spectre Laptop Review: A Thin, Sleek, Nimble Beauty

HP Spectre 13 Design, Build Quality And Software Experience

The first things that strikes you about the new HP Spectre are its classy good looks, and the polished gold accented aluminum rear edge of the device that is home to its three USB-C ports, a headphone jack and the Spectre's unique recessed piston hinges. This all aluminum chunk of metal gives the system substantial rigidity but also looks great with the Spectre logo etched into the rear edge, as well as icon markings for its ports. It's distinctive, stand-out and highlights the premium brand and model well. 
HP Spectre Cover Closed Rear
HP Spectre Hinge

hp spectre piston hinge

And that hinge assembly has a really nice way of positioning the HP Spectre's display ever so slightly up off the rear edge of the laptop, giving it the appearance of suspending it in air except for the hinges themselves. It's a really nice touch and again is unique in the market. In addition, since the hinge is telescoping in its design, collapsing in on itself, it also allows the Spectre to remain very thin. In fact HP claims the Spectre is the "world's thinnest" notebook, comparing it to the likes of the 2016 MacBook Air at 13.1mm, while the Spectre squeaks in at just 10.4mm. 

HP Spectre Keyboard Left Angle

HP Spectre Logo Speaker

HP Spectre Keyboard lit

However, the Spectre's thin and light ways don't hinder its typing experience much. Again, here HP makes comparisons to Apple, noting the Spectre's key travel is 1.3mm, over twice as deep as the 2016 MacBook Air at .6mm (these are HP's numbers, though we have no reason to doubt them). The actual feel and experiential side of this stands up to testing as well. Typing is comfortable with surprisingly good spring-back and tactility. The gold accents of the key caps themselves also looks nice and help define the keys as well. The backlighting of the typing deck also looks great with those gold edge accents becoming slightly translucent and the letters also barely illuminating. Finally, the Spectre's etched glass trackpad is roomy and responsive with good palm rejection and multi gesture support. We've seen better integration for pinch and zoom response in a web browser, but that's a minor driver and software configuration gripe, and it's otherwise an excellent input and control experience all around with the Spectre. 

HP Spectre Lid Open

The Spectre's 13-inch Full HD UWVA (Ultra-Wide Viewing Angle) IPS display is respectably bright (north of 350 nits) with good contrast and saturation, though it's a glossy panel so a bit of reflection comes with the territory. It also has very good viewing angle coverage but somewhat puzzling is the fact that HP doesn't offer a touchscreen version of the Spectre currently. The lid and display panel area of the Spectre is almost absurdly thin but again, due to its high quality piston hinge assembly, it doesn't feel flimsy. A display this thin, however, could explain why touch, at least currently, is not an option. 

HP Spectre Desktop

HP does a nice job of keeping the bloatware at bay, installing only a few useful utilities for updates and maintenance, as well as a trial of McAfee LiveSafe and software controls for the Spectre's Bang And Olufsen audio system. These stereo speakers, by the way, sound pretty solid for an ultra-thin notebook. They actually drive a fair amount of spatial expansion and though lows are noticeably (as expected) absent, the Spectre's highs and midrange are satisfying enough, relatively speaking for notebook audio. 

HP Spectre Side Edge Battery Compare
HP Spectre in hand thin angle

The 2016 HP Spectre is so thin and light that it's a real head-turner that impresses from every angle, but it also feels fantastic in the hand. Given its 10.4mm petite ways, it's impressive how rigid and solid it feels. There's almost no flex in the keyboard and palm rest area, though in the open position, the display does have some give, again, not as much as you might expect though. One small notable is that the Spectre's gold finished rear edge can take scratches fairly easily and while the rest of the machine completely hides fingerprints, that back strip is a fingerprint magnet. So you'll want to take care of that surface area of the Spectre and be mindful of what it brushes up against. 

On the whole, the HP Spectre is one beautiful 13-inch laptop. With precision tolerances and build quality all around, the Spectre looks fantastic and will most definitely class up your act in the schoolroom, board room or coffee shop. 

Related content