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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  • protomech - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    The non-retina MBPs aren't terribly interesting, nor are they terribly competitive.

    Anandtech did review the non-retina MBP 15", and struggled to find anything to write about it.
    "It’s pretty difficult to find things to write about the 2012 MacBook Pro hardware. You can essentially sum it up in one paragraph, or even one sentence if you try hard enough. The 2012 MBP looks exactly like the 2011 MBP, which looked exactly like the 2010 MBP, which looked exactly like the post-April 2009 MBP."
  • stephenv2 - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    I really am going to stop reading any reviews by this author. Just like the case reviews, his personal opinions and biases are so strong and often things I don't agree with, it's impossible to get much useful information out his reviews.
  • Commodus - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    What exactly do you think is an unfair bias here? Gotta elaborate a little more than that.

    Besides, the benchmarks don't lie. It IS slower than most of the pack. It DOES have terrible battery life. Those aspects matter quite a bit. Is he going to pretend those problems don't exist just to humour you?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Bias towards or against what? If you don't like my work, that's fine, I can't please everybody, but you have to give me some kind of feedback I can actually use. Otherwise your post serves no purpose other than to publicly decry someone.

    Remember there are actual people producing this work, so when you go off and just post something like this it really serves no purpose other than to offend.
  • seapeople - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    I'm pretty sure he was auto-replying, as in, replying to himself. It makes much more sense that way.
  • SirPerro - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Why $170/$370 upgrades are "exhorbitant", "staggering" and "offensive" in this review and not even a "miserly decision" in the MBP one, taking into account that the same upgrades in the apple store are exactly $200/$400 for the MBP whose lack of SSD seems to be much more palatable?

    Please be consistent with the reviews. People out there have brains.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    If I were the one handling Apple reviews, I think you'd find I'd gripe about those, too. ;)
  • SirPerro - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    Good to know. I agree with all the adjectives in either case.
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    I agree with the crazy upgrade prices. I've often ordered stuff without upgrades and just bought the upgraded parts myself cheaper. Which is pretty ridiculous considering now I have two drives and two sets of ram....
  • APPL - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    I own this laptop.

    It is excellent save the usb 3 hd disconnect issues. I use it as a desktop replacement and am about to upgrade the HD to a Crucial M500 960GB in a monthish.

    What is with all the haters?

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