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The HP Spectre is an ultrabook design achievement at 10.4 mm thin

TechCrunch TechCrunch 5/04/2016 Stefan Etienne

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s a gadgets specialist, per usual I was gazing upon something unreleased last week. The object of interest was the HPSpectre, a 13.3 inch ultrabook with a thickness of 10.4 mm and weight of 2.45 pounds — what HP is calling the thinnest laptop in the world.

Its thickness (or lack thereof) is rivaled only by Apple’s Macbook, but that’s still thicker, being 13.2 mm at its thickest point.

Mike Nash, VP of Customer Experience and Portfolio Strategy at HP, was attentive to that fact that despite its thinness, the Spectre is a laptop capable of actually doingthings and not just emails.

This is thanks the available processing power from Intel’s Core i5 or Core i7, being that they are serious dual-core processor options; full fledged models and not Core M. Interestingly, this is only possible in such a small space, thanks to an HP engineered hyperbaric cooling system.

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In layman’s terms, the fans, radiator, vents and cooling pipes are placed strategically, so that they can work together in creating a pressurized space inside the laptop, so that the processor is kept cool — indeed.

Another bit of engineering creativity was delegated towards the battery, which is in separate “sheets”, and lays flat on the internals inside. HP says that despite skimping on cells, it should last 9 hours on a charge.

CNC aluminum top lid and keyboard deck are supplemented by a carbon fiber bottom, in Ash Silver or copper accented finishes, all of which complemented nicely by HP’s new premium logo, which will makes its way to all future premium systems, stated Nash.

Seeing that it was stupendously thin, lightweight and sturdily engineered, I was quick to ask what compromises were made. The biggest? The 13.3 inch IPS screen, which is capped at 1080p resolution.

Port selection is as follows: three USB-C ports, all of which can charge and transfer data, as well as charge the Spectre — two of which double as Thunderbolt ports. While this may be love at first sight for some, the screen resolution and port selection might be deal breakers.

What are the biggest compromises made for thinness here? Mainly screen first, battery second.

To make up for this shortcoming, HP layers the panel with protective Gorilla Glass only 0.4 mm thick, translating to a brighter, closer image that looks as if it was a QHD panel — I fell for it when asked what resolution the Spectre sported at first glance, and it’s probable that others would see it that way at first, as well.

However, knowing the fact is a bit disappointing: even though the 1080p display is crisp, sharp and bright in the artificial (and later) natural light settings the Spectre was in, it’s still “just full HD”.

As for audio, stereo speakers are provided by Bang & Olufsen, as is the trend at HP for over the past year, which are tuned for clarity but as neutrality across the spectrum.

Pricing? The HP Spectre will be a Best Buy exclusive in the States, starting at $1169, with 8GB LDDR3 RAM standard, Core i5 or i7 processors, 256 or 512GB PCIe SSDs and silver or copper accented color options.

More important however is that the keyboard is full-size, mechanical and backlit with 1.3mm travel, making each actuation relatively enjoyable to use in the moments that I tried it; long-term testing (living and working with it) would confirm or deny that initial impression.

During the briefing, HP’s “one more thing” was one part interesting, another part unattainable: the two limited edition (no word on how “limited”) designer Spectre ultrabooks.

Both of which, are on exhibit in Paris and will be auctioned off; the proceeds are going towards the Nelson Mandela Foundation — neither of which were on-site for me to bask in their glory.

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The first, designed by Tord Boontje, sports 600 Swarovski hand-set crystals on the lid alone, with gold detailing everywhere from the speaker grills, to the sides of the keys. The second model designed by Jess Hannah, of Instagram fame, takes the exclusivity up a notch introducing not only a gold layer, but a diamond encrusted power button, which lights up when the system is on.

This is nice and all — but who’d want the ‘designer’ Spectres?

The designer editions are not quite as gaudy as they sound, but still are in publicity stunt territory. HP states that it’s all a homage to the Spectre’s design, while also allowing the corporation to “give back” through the Mandela foundation, which I can’t outright disagree with.

Of course, I’ll attempt to review the regular Spectre when it ships in May, to figure out if it’s truly capable of being your one and only ultrabook.

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