In and Around the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart

If nothing else, the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart is a looker. While it's hard not to feel a little bit of fatigue at all the designs essentially aping the MacBook Pro aesthetic, at least HP is doing it right with the Spectre XT TouchSmart. This is a good-looking, well built ultrabook.

The majority of the Spectre XT's shell is comprised of sturdy brushed aluminum, with the HP logo tastefully etched into the lower corner of the lid. The interior surfaces are brushed aluminum as well, excluding the display and bezel, and the bottom of the shell enjoys a soft touch coating that I think is actually a better choice than simply wrapping the whole thing in garden variety brushed aluminum.

On the interior of the notebook, there's a glossy edge-to-edge finish for the touchscreen display. Under the hinge is the first pair of speakers, with the second set hiding on the edges of the underside of the notebook. The keyboard is HP's traditional chiclet style layout and white LED backlit; they've eschewed the 10-key, but I've been told 10-key is going to be coming back in the next product cycle for notebooks in this size class. Typing action is pretty good, but it's about time for HP to retire or revise this design.

Meanwhile, I've become a pretty big believer in glass touchpad surfaces. Toshiba's Kirabook sports one, and the ones HP has been using on their higher end consumer notebooks and in their EliteBooks are frankly stellar. While I still don't care for clickpads, we're at least finally getting to the point where they make sense. Windows 8's edge gestures make a solid case for them, and HP's implementation here is a sound one.

Unfortunately, the Spectre XT TouchSmart comes a bit loaded with bloatware like a relic from a bygone era. Including PowerDVD is pointless on a notebook that has no optical drive, and WildTangent has been infecting HP hardware for too long. The touch experience is fine, but the system as a whole isn't that snappy, and you can feel the difference between a mechanical hard disk with SSD caching and a true SSD storage solution. As is becoming an unpleasant tradition with the ultrabook movement and the need for thinner, lighter form factors, the Spectre XT is not user serviceable; you're stuck with the configuration you buy.

Introducing the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart System Performance
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  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Ah, so you can upgrade the hard drive? That would fix one of the gripes at least. If I got it I would swap in my Momentus XT 750 hybrid from my last laptop anyways, not keep the 5400 standard hdd. Reply
  • barbarbar - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    I own this laptop in a European version. It has the i5, instead of i7. I disagree with this review on a couple of points:
    - The unit is very servicable. The underside can be taken off with regular philipshead screws. This gives access to the full system. The harddrive is easily replaced with an ssd, and the caching ssd is a regular mSata ssd. I have replaced both in 5 minutes, one samsung 840 pro 256 and one crucial m4 256. Both were recognized without problems and work great.
    - The memory can also be upgraded by the user very easily, see previous point. The european version came with 4gb, I added 8gb without problems.
    - HP has made it very easy to do a clean install of Windows. If you make a backup tot a usb stick, with the provided HP software, you can then do a clean install. The HP installer will give you the option for a clean Windows install when booting form this usb stick.
    - The glass touchpad functions very well, although you will need to dive into the settings of the touchpad to get it this way.

    What I do agree with this review:
    - The processor speed it throttled for low noise. Mine will even go as far as to get stuck on a low processor speed when the turbo mode is used fo an extended period, this seems to be a bug. Only a restart will fis this.
    - The machine is very quiet, although there are some problems with defective fans. Mine had to go back for a fan replacement, and several forums list users also having this problem.
    - The price is a little hard to justify for the stock version. Compared to other laptop with a 15" full-hd ips touch screen, 3 usb ports and 2.2kg, it is very hard to find a competitor.
    - The built quality is decent. The aluminum looks good, but the softer plastic on the bottom scratches easily. My usb ports have little pieces chipped, as this is one piece of plastic. The bezel around the screen could use some improvement.

    Overall I think your review is a little too harsh if you keep the main competitors in mind. In a perfect world, I would rank this laptop as an 8 (B). Compared to what is actually available on the market, I think it deserves a 8.5 (B+).
    Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    My Dell Studio 15 also does that thing where it gets stuck on low multiplier after a while. I used throttlestop to prevent it, but it is annoying. Reply
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    thanks for posting. an honest response from somebody who actually owns it means a lot. Reply
  • cknobman - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Well designed high quality chassis and hardware coupled with:

    1. Slow HDD and small SSD cache
    2. Abysmal battery life - its a shame you can call something and "Ultrabook" that barely gets 2 hours of battery life. I get more than this from a 4 year old first gen core laptop with its original battery.
    3. Bloatware city

    HP you just cant help but f'up good things. Cant see who would want this thing.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Indeed, my 3.5 year old Core 2 Duo laptop on its original 6 cell battery still gets 2.5 hours of moderate use with the screen at half, what the heck HP. Reply
  • Trinitron - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    1080p? Not interested. I'm not buying anything less than 1920x1200. I don't see why 1080 is still being pushed. It's not 2008 anymore.

    1080p needs to die and soon. My Asus Transformer Infinity is 1920x1200 and it's almost a year old now. Why would i buy anything brand new in 2013 which was less?
    Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    16:9 vs 16:10. They aren't directly comparable. And 1920 resolution is still really good for a 15 inch. Reply
  • NCM - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    tipoo claims "16:9 vs 16:10. They aren't directly comparable."

    No, pomegranates and shoes aren't directly comparable. Or fish and bicycles. Displays of 16:9 and 16:10 are certainly comparable, and the 16:9's shorter screen always comes out on the losing end of the comparison.
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    I agree with you and Trinitron... I'll be keeping my 1920x1200 res monitor as long as I can. I hate that the notebooks (even ThinkPads) went to 1920x1080. at 15" display at 1080 is as TALL as a 14" 1200 display.

    I do understand WHY they do this. Its cheaper to make and its a standard for HDTV and computers. It *IS* super handy to plug your 1080 notebook to a HDTV and not have the notebook flip through video modes and what-not. That is a big plus.

    So... I hope to get a 27" 2500x1440 display in 2 years that costs under $400.
    Reply

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