It was last summer when we were introduced to the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook, resulting in us completely falling in love with its gorgeous 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display that was able to produce some nice colors and its view angles were exceptional. The Spectre XT TouchSmart also wowed us with its high-quality aluminum chassis, although we left the experience concerned about its weight and battery life.
Now that we have been able to spend some serious quality time with the ultrabook, it’s time to give you a rundown of what you could expect if you’re considering picking up an HP Spectre XT TouchSmart.
Owning a MacBook Pro for work, laptops are extremely important to me as there’d be no way I’d be able to pay the bills without being able to write, edit video and produce regular content for this fine website. The power of a laptop is important to me as I need it to edit video and play the occasional modern-day video game like SimCity or Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Portability is also extremely important to me in a laptop as I often attend events both in New York City and in remote locations. Lugging around a heavy laptop is not my idea of a good time, so the lighter it is, the happier my back will be.
Lastly, a laptop’s keyboard is also of importance considering a good portion of my day is spent writing stories. If a laptop’s keyboard doesn’t feel right, it could ruin my workflow, meaning you won’t get to read as many exciting and interesting stories from moi.
15.6-inch diagonal Full HD BrightView LED-backlit IPS display 1920×1080
Intel® Core i7-3517U Processor 1.90GHz + Intel HD Graphics 4000
8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
Windows 8 (64-bit)
500GB SATA HD (5400RPM)
10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN
Intel 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, Intel Smart Connect Technology support, WiDi
2 SuperSpeed USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, Thunderbolt, HDMI, headphone-out/microphone-in combo
2-in-1 digital media card reader
377.69mm x 254.25mm x 22.09mm (14.87 x 10.01 x 0.87 in)
4-cell (48WHr) Li-Ion
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart certainly is an eye-catcher when you first catch a glimpse of it as it’s completely covered in aluminum, with the back of the display and the keyboard area featuring a brushed aluminum look. The underside and the sides of the Spectre XT features a rubberized aluminum material that helps keep it from slipping on your lap or desktop when in use. There are also four short rubber “legs” at the bottom of the Spectre XT, which keeps it raised slightly to help keep the underside exhaust located at the edge of the screen from being blocked.
Opening the laptop, you’ll probably be in awe of the 15.6-inch IPS display, which we’ll get into shortly later on in our review. Until then, let’s talk about the other minor details you might not take notice of immediately. Above the keyboard is where you’ll find a mesh strip of aluminum where the power button is located, as well as the Beats Audio logo. You would think this would be where the speakers are located, which, in fact, are located at the opposite ends of the underside of the Spectre XT.
Keyboard: As I said in the context portion of this review, a laptop’s keyboard is extremely important to me. The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart’s keyboard is one I instantly took a liking to shortly after I started using it. It features smooth keys that offers more of a clicky feel to it with a slight spongy feel at the end of a keypress. The Spectre XT’s palm rests feature brushed aluminum, which allows you to move your wrists to move around freely without any limitations.
The trackpad shares the smoothness of the Spectre XT’s keys making it extremely comfortable to work on as your finger glides across it with very little effort. As we saw with the HP Envy X2, the Spectre XT TouchSmart’s trackpad has a line cutting across its lower ⅛ portion dedicated to right-clicking. If you aren’t adapted to that kind of trackpad layout, it could take a couple of uses before you feel comfortable with it. Left clicks, on the other hand, are easy as you can either tap the trackpad or perform a full click.
Ports: The Spectre XT TouchSmart marks the first time HP has used Thunderbolt in one of its laptops, hopefully ushering in a new era where other laptop makers decide to include a Thunderbolt port into their PCs. The left side of the laptop is where the Ethernet jack, HDMI, Thunderbolt and both SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports are located, while the right side house the AC adapter port, USB 2.0 port, audio out / microphone in and the 2-in-1 digital media card reader.
There’s no denying we were blown away by the Spectre XT TouchSmart’s display when we first lay our eyes upon it, and it still has left us extremely impressed. Having a 1080p display sitting in your lap is something I certainly have yet to get used to, and the Spectre XT’s display, combined with IPS technology, make this a laptop that your eyes will always be drooling over.
The display is also well lit as I was able to use it comfortably at its 40 – 50 percent brightness. At its full brightness, the Spectre XT produces a nice amount of light that can make viewing its display in the daylight easier. The viewing angles were also excellent as we noticed very little image degradation when viewed from multiple angles.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart is equipped with a 0.9-megapixel camera and a dual-microphone. As you can see from our image samples that were compared to our mid-2010 MacBook Pro’s webcam, the Spectre XT’s camera provides some nice color tones to its images when natural light is used. The image the Spectre XT produces is a little bit noisier than the MacBook Pro’s image, but all in all, it delivers a nice, natural image.
Our low-light test didn’t result in such a favorable outcome as the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart’s webcam was barely able to see me in these conditions. Sitting at the same distance with the same lighting in the room ended up with the Spectre XT’s image looking extremely degraded and shadowy. At least in its dark image, the noise level is still less than our mid-2010 MacBook Pro’s image.
Performance (very good)
There’s quite a bit of power underneath the Spectre XT TouchSmart’s hood as it’s equipped with an Intel Core i7 1.90GHz processor with an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU which results in being one of the most powerful ultrabooks currently available. When I first lay my hands on the laptop, I knew it was going to be a beast.
One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is the PCMark 7 which is a benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.
In our benchmark testing with PCMark 7, the Spectre XT TouchSmart did very well with a score of 3848. The power of its Intel Core i7 processor will most likely handle a good majority of what you throw at it making multitasking a breeze and the overall speed of the laptop feel quick and responsive.
The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3D Mark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine.. And we’re not talking Facebook or Flash-based games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.
At a 3D Mark 11 score of 665, its Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU performed slightly better than Samsung’s Series 5 UltraTouch probably due to the Spectre XT’s Intel Core i7 CPU, but it certainly didn’t perform amazingly. The Spectre XT TouchSmart will be able to perform low-stress graphical tasks, but in no way should it be considered a gaming laptop as long as it’s equipped with the Intel HD Graphics 4000.
The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations that would turn the hair of a normal person as white as a ghost.
The raw performance of the Spectre XT TouchSmart performed exceptionally well in our tests as it scored a 6265 on Geekbench. This means the actual power of the Intel Core i7 CPU is pretty powerful as it ranks somewhere between the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 and the Lenovo U310.
Value for the weight, price
We know when purchasing any PC, people tend to look at its internal specs and purchase a computer based on what they currently need. One factor many overlook is its weight as more powerful portable computers will most likely be heavier than PCs that aren’t as powerful. That’s why we also like to look at a PCs performance relative to its weight so we can see if all of that power is worth you breaking your back over or if a PC’s weight isn’t worth its sub-par performance.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart is one of the heaviest ultrabooks we’ve seen as it comes in at a shoulder-stressing 4.96lbs. What helps keep its weight somewhat more bearable is the amount of power you’ll experience when using the Spectre XT. If you consider yourself to be in some kind of physical shape, then this probably won’t even be an issue to you. But for us who travel with our laptops often, you might want to reconsider if you absolutely need to lug around nearly 5lbs of laptop in addition to whatever else you’re traveling with.
Considering how powerful the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart is, we weren’t surprised to see its battery would leave much to be desired as a number of our tests have us recommending you keep your charger close to your laptop if you travel with it. One of the first tests we ran on the Spectre XT was its long-term battery test, which we leave the laptop running with its display’s brightness set at 50% and Wi-Fi on, which resulted in it lasting for around 4 hours under these conditions.
Watching videos is probably something you’ll want to think about if you’re not going to be around a power outlet any time soon as we ran a 1080p video stored locally on the hard with the screen’s brightness at 50% resulted in a 33% drop in its battery’s charge, which translates to around 3 hours of playback time for local videos. Watching a 1080p video online made things expectedly worse as we noted a 37% drop in its battery’s charge, which means you can expect around 2.7 hours of playback time for streaming videos.
Battery Charge Speed
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart may not have the longest lasting battery in an ultrabook, but it certainly can suck up energy like the best as it took approximately 2hrs 20mins for it to charge from 0% – 100%. And it’s a good thing it doesn’t take too long to fully charge itself because we have a feeling you’re going to be charging this thing more often than you’re using it.
Conclusion (powerful ultrabook, poor battery life)
In terms of what an ultrabook can deliver, you can’t go wrong with the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart. Its display still impresses me even after using it for several hours and its Intel Core i7 CPU made multitasking a complete breeze. There are only two things you should consider if you’re on the fence about this laptop: its weight and its battery life.
4.96lbs doesn’t sound like a lot, but that additional weight on your back and shoulders could do some damage if you’re not built well enough to handle it. The upside to that additional weight is you’ll always have a powerful touchscreen PC with you when you finally get to your destination, or at least get to sit down for a few minutes.
The Spectre XT’s battery life also leaves much to be desired since 4 hours of runtime is relatively short and will result in you wanting to be connected to a power outlet as much as possible.
As long as those two points don’t bother you, and you welcome the additional processing power, then we think the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart would make a fine addition to your life.