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HP Spectre XT TouchSmart is a sweet-looking, underpowered laptop in an Ultrabook’s clothing

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | April 8, 2013
The brushed-aluminum look screams Ultrabook, and the bigger display is a nice bonus. But the weight, performance, and battery life make it better suited for living-room laptop duty.

I was a big fan of Ultrabooksor at least the concept of Ultrabookswhen they first debuted in 2012. After all, who doesnt like the idea of sliver-thin laptops that run Windows?

Unfortunately, it seems like the definition of an Ultrabook has since expanded to include any relatively sleek-looking ultraportable laptopother specs be darned. HPs latest Spectre XT TouchSmart shows how the definition can stretch in awkward ways. Its got the look of an ultrabookand its a great look. The touchscreen display is awesome. But the weight puts it closer to a mainstream notebook computer, and it suffers from the shorter battery life (but not the higher performance) of a desktop replacement. It's a luxe-looking laptop for your living room, which may be all some people want, but it's not really an Ultrabook.

Ultrabook look with laptop heft

The Spectre XT TouchSmart still (barely) meets Ultrabook standards. Its under 0.9-inch thick, its got an Intel Core i7 processor and an SSD boot drive, and so on. But it weighs in at almost five pounds--4.96, to be precise, which is a half-pound heavier than a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Its trying hard to be an Ultrabook, but its too heavy to qualify.

It sure looks good, though. HP may have dropped the Envy moniker from its Spectre line, but this is still an eye-catching computer. The Spectre XT TouchSmart (we reviewed the 15-4010nr model, which starts at $1400) has a brushed-aluminum cover with lightly tapered edges and a soft-touch, rubbery bottom. Inside, the keyboard deck sports the covers same brushed-aluminum pattern. The backlit, island-style keyboard sits behind a large glass trackpad.

Large, beautiful touchscreen display

The Spectres biggest win is its display, which is a 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen with a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The screen looks awesome, with bright, crisp colors, excellent contrast, and decent off-axis viewing angles. The display isnt quite as bright as Id like, and the glossiness can cause some issues in bright sunlight, but these are minor issues. This is also one of the best touchscreens Ive used: its responsive, gestures are smooth, and touch is very accurate.

The rest of the Spectres input optionsthat is, the keyboard and the glass trackpadare also very good. The keyboards island-style keys are a tad on the small side, but they offer decent feedback and are easy to type on quickly and accurately. The trackpad is smooth and accurate, if a little overly sensitive at times. Luckily, the trackpad has a small box in the upper left corner that you can use to toggle it on and off.

Surprising shortfalls in performance and playback

 

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