HP Envy 14 Spectre

Dana Wollman, Engadget:

The 1600 x 900 Radiance panel on display here is the same one you’ll find in the new Envy 15, and should be a welcome feature for anyone who held off on buying the last-gen Envy 14 after HP reverted to a 1366 x 768 screen. Given the price, the higher pixel density seems warranted, but we’re also glad somebody is paying attention to the quality of the display too. Like lots of laptop makers have been doing lately, HP squeezed a 14-inch display (not a Shuriken) into a chassis whose dimensions more closely match a 13-inch laptop, which means the bezels are pretty narrow, and the footprint is relatively compact for a 14-inch notebook. Likewise, the deep blacks, white whites and wide visibility are all refreshing to behold — even though you’ll pay dearly for the privilege of staring at them.

The HP Envy 14 Spectre looks good, and distinct from Apple’s MacBooks. HP is spinning it as an ultrabook, but that might be a stretch. The Envy 14 Spectre, in terms of weight (3.79 pounds) and thickness (20 mm) is right in between the MacBook Pro and the Air.

The overall shape is symmetric, which I prefer over slanted. I would have preferred Apple took the MacBook Pro and made it slimmer, so I’m liking the overall stance of the Spectre.

The isolated chiclet keyboard is a simpler design over the MacBooks, but the rounded corners look superfluous, form devoid of function. Same goes for the two upper corners of the palm rest. An unintended visual effect of those rounded corners coupled with the different surface treatment is that it makes it look like a glued-on piece. Back to the keyboard: The Radiance backlighting lights up only the part of the keys that needs it without spilling over around the keys too much.

Overall the HP Envy 14 Spectre looks like a winner, especially if the 14-inch Radiance Display is as good as the one that was used in the Envy 13.

Update: via John Gruber. Aaron Ricadela, Bloomberg:

Personal-computer makers are counting on ultrabooks to challenge the MacBook Air, Apple’s best-selling laptop, which is less than an inch thick. Still, Hewlett-Packard isn’t trying to compete on price: The new Spectre is $100 more than a MacBook Air with a 13.3-inch screen. Hewlett-Packard is emphasizing the laptop’s premium features and design, a bid to reach the “savvy fashionista” market, said Page Murray, a vice president of marketing at the company.

No, HP isn’t competing on price. Because it can’t. And on reaching fashionistas, here’s Stella McCartney on design vs. fashion:

I used to get embarrassed about the fact I liked fashion. I still get a bit cringy. I’d sit at dinner parties and people would say to me, ‘So what do you do?’ and I’d be like, oh design! When I fill passport forms I put ‘design.’ I don’t say fashion.

I don’t think HP really wants to succeed in reaching out to fickle fashionistas. If HP succeeds, it means the design of the Spectre is merely fashionable. By fall there will be a new flavor. In the fast-changing world of technology, maybe this is the way to go? I don’t think so. The best technology products out there have a classic design that endures the test of time.

Update 2: Vivek Gowri, AnandTech:

The 14″ 900p Radiance display is notably one of them. It offers good viewing angles and a pretty solid contrast ratio in our eyes-on test, and was shoehorned into the 13″ notebook chassis with use of LG’s Shuriken technology.

Update 2012.08.25: Dustin Sklavos, AnandTech:

Contrast and color gamut are both fantastic, but the problem is that the screen is…kind of dim. It’s not quite bright enough to really compensate for the reflectivity and glare of the glossy surface, and it has a slightly reddish cast to it along with an abnormally visible lattice. Again I’m undoubtedly nitpicking and I’d still take it over any of the mediocre 768p TN panels that populate the bulk of the market, but I personally found it more difficult to use than I’d like.

  • Contrast Ratio: 719:1
  • Brightness (white): 230 nits
  • Brightness (black): 0.32 nits
  • Delta E: 2.2
  • Color Gamut (AdobeRGB 1998): 66.2

Contrast ratio was #3 for the HP Envy 14 Spectre behind #1 ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A and #2 Sony VAIO Z2. White brightness was second to last (last was the HP Folio 13), but black brightness was best. Delta E, which shows color accuracy, was middle of the pack. In terms of color gamut the Envy 14 Spectre came in #3 behind #1 Z2 and #2 UX31A. Overall the HP Envy 14 Spectre sports a very good LCD except that it’s too dim.