HP Spectre XT review

Can the HP Spectre XT beat a MacBook?

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Meaty sound

  • +

    Great build

  • +

    Good battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Tricky touchpad

  • -

    Screen could be better

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The HP Spectre appears to be the PC answer to the MacBook Air and it's significantly cheaper, but how do they really compare?

The race for the classiest ultrabook was fought by Asus, Acer and HP last year and, with HP coming out of it very well indeed. Why? The price tag for the 13-inch HP Spectre XT isn't ridiculous and the design and build is as close to a MacBook Pro as a PC manufacturer has ever ventured.

Everything from the screen bezel to the speaker grill says quality. If you want a lightweight laptop and it needs to be a PC, this is a machine you should take a serious look at as it's certainly one of the best laptops to buy at the moment.

HP Spectre XT: Size and build

There was perhaps a simple design mission facing the research and development team at HP and, maybe, just maybe, a directive that said 'make it look like a MacBook Air' and the rest is history. The backlit black keyboard, smooth touchpad and luxury build fit the bill perfectly.

There are minimal ports and inputs, brushed aluminium and only the overly glossy lid shows any sign that this is a PC product rather than an Apple one. Weight wise, it's (just) heavier than a MacBook Air and quite a bit heavier than the silver and plastic Acer Aspire S5 ultrabook.

HP Spectre XT: Features

A standard HDMI socket, two USB sockets, SD card slot and even an ethernet socket can be found around the body of the Spectre XT, though the latter is an ugly drop down solution as an ethernet cable for wired internet is now thicker than the slim frame of the Spectre XT.

Beats Audio means that there's a decent selection of four speakers to deliver wide, bass heavy audio when the Spectre XT sits on a flat surface. Storage is based around 128GB of SSD memory, which keeps battery life to 7 hours and is predictably fast combined with 4GB RAM and an i5 processor.

HP Spectre XT: Screen

The 13-inch 1366 x 768 pixel resolution is a step down from the previous 'hero' Spectre debut, but the Intel HD 400 chip isn't built for gaming anyway, so it's unlikely you'll be too disappointed unless you've sampled a Retina Display on a new MacBook Pro.

The bezel could be thinner and the surround less glossy but those are minor complaints against a machine which drags the PC into the stylish reaches of Apple products.

HP Spectre XT: Performance

The Spectre XT is fast, has a good battery life if not the best in class and manages to deliver great audio and an easy typing experience.

The only daily disappointment is the trackpad - it looks nice but isn't flawless in terms of response which will be a bugbear for anyone using it as opposed to a wireless mouse - highly recommended.

We like the slim design and useful sockets which don't over-egg the stylish design. In terms of storage, we doubt there are many people that genuinely need over 128GB if they use cloud storage or a NAS drive.

HP Spectre XT: Battery

HP quotes eight hours of battery life but we managed just over seven during intensive use with Spotify on and a constant wireless connection to Google Drive with no downtime.

HP Spectre XT: Verdict

If you want a PC that resembles a MacBook Air, the HP Spectre XT is just the ticket. It actually sounds better and while the trackpad failing is disappointing, this feels like a luxurious PC out of the box.

The biggest issue is that a 13-inch MacBook Air costs around £149 more with an identical spec but better build and that all important OS X Mountain Lion. If you're resolutely a PC person, however, this is an affordable and stylish ultrabook that sits at the top of the pack for style and value.

HP Spectre XT price: Out now

HP Spectre XT price: £899