HP Spectre 13

This premium Ultrabook looks the goods, but performance suffers due to the slim dimensions.


7.3
CNET Rating

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If you're looking for an Ultrabook with killer good looks to match your expensive designer clothes, the Spectre 13 should match your wardrobe nicely. The sexy aluminium case combines with an edgeless display to deliver a laptop that wouldn't look out of place on the catwalk at a fashion show. This is great news for fashion lovers, but once we dig beneath the skin, is the Spectre 13 just another hollow beauty or is there real substance behind its immaculate façade?

Design and features

HP has used a clever tapering design to make the Spectre 13 look even thinner than it already is. At the palm-wrist edge of the base it's just a few millimetres thick, but even at the deepest edge it's still only 15mm deep. Brushed aluminium is used throughout, giving this pretty product a deceptively rugged backbone.

A 13.3 inch touchscreen swivels out on a sturdy set of brackets, helping to stop the screen swaying too much when touched. Considering the size of the screen, the phenomenal 2560 x 1440 resolution looks gorgeous, delivering a razor sharp image. The use of a glossy finish on the display is questionable though, turning the entire screen into a perfect mirror under challenging lighting conditions. While this might fit in with the whole fashion angle, it's not helpful when you need to use the Spectre 13 outdoors. Thankfully the overall image quality is excellent, though it did struggle with black levels, an issue common to many laptops. Twin speakers by Beats, the same brand behind the woeful Beats by Dre headphones, deliver rather average audio.

Despite the very slim dimensions, the Spectre 13 is a rather solid little Ultrabook, weighing 1.62kg. This surprisingly heavy weight is likely a result of the all-metal construction, which suggests it'll easily handle the bumps and scrapes of a life on the road.

Connections, performance and battery

Intel's popular i7-4500U processor is responsible for the heavy lifting within the Spectre 13, with its dual HyperThreaded cores ramping up to 3GHz under duress. HP has combined this with a healthy 8GB of DDR3-1600MHz memory, but sadly there's no dedicated GPU in sight. It's a disappointing omission for such an expensive Ultrabook, but we're guessing there was simply no room in the slim base to include one.

Long term storage is taken care of by a speedy 256GB SSD. These specs combined to deliver excellent productivity performance, scoring 2215 on our PCMark 8 Home benchmark test, placing it towards the upper end of the spectrum. Sadly, gaming performance was less admirable, due to its reliance upon Intel's HD Graphics 4400 integrated GPU, scoring just 4030 in 3DMark's Cloud Gate test.

Twin USB 3.0 ports will limit how many peripherals can be used with the Spectre 13, but the inclusion of a Mini DisplayPort alongside an HDMI out is a nice touch for those with big screens. The newest 802.11ac Wi-Fi should be a given at this premium price range, so the use of bog-standard 802.11b/g/n seems a little cheap. Battery life clocked in a 276 minutes in the demanding PowerMark battery test, a rather standard result for an Ultrabook of this small size.

PCMark 8 Home Accelerated Test

  • 2215
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 1727
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 2394
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • 1889
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 1602
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 2231
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 2625
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • CRASHED
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 1690
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 1844
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


3DMARK 2013 Edition - Cloud Gate

  • 4030
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 3847
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 4667
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • 5101
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 2165
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 4590
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 4643
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • 5597
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 2080
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 2432
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


PowerMark - Battery Life (minutes)

  • 276
  • HP Spectre 13
  • 229
  • Sony VAIO Multi-flip Fit 13
  • 243
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
  • 270
  • ASUS Vivobook S551LB
  • 289
  • Dell XPS 11
  • 198
  • Gigabyte U24Ti5
  • 253
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T440s
  • 257
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E540
  • 231
  • Sony VAIO Pro 11
  • 261
  • Toshiba Satellite U50D

(Longer bar equals better performance)


Conclusion

We can't deny the excellent construction quality of the Spectre 13, which is as sturdy as it is attractive. Unfortunately there's a huge price premium attached, which is partly justified by the gorgeous touch screen. However, overall system performance wasn't quite as fast as the price would suggest, especially when it comes to games.

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grumpi posted a comment   
Australia

I can understand a thin non-gaming ultrabook like this HP not having a dedicated graphics card.

However, a premium Ultrabook like the HP Spectre 13 should at least have the Core i7 4650U CPU with its Iris 5000 graphics.

The i7 4500U just doesn't cut when there are better CPU's available for only $33 extra.




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User Reviews / Comments  HP Spectre 13

  • grumpi

    grumpi

    "I can understand a thin non-gaming ultrabook like this HP not having a dedicated graphics card.

    However, a premium Ultrabook like the HP Spectre 13 should at least have the Core i7 46..."

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