Although you probably can't say its name without taking a breath, the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15t-4000 hopes to take your breath away with a sleek chassis, swift Intel Core i7 processor and a 1080p touch-screen display. This machine also offers Beats Audio and is one of the few Windows laptops to feature a Thunderbolt port for fast data transfers. But will the price of this Windows 8 Ultrabook--$1,349--leave you gasping?
Click to EnlargeEach iteration of the Spectre wanders further from the obsidian black Gorilla Glass lid that held us in rapt attention with the original 14-inch model. However, the brushed aluminum lid gives this machine an industrial chic vibe, complete with an HP logo in the bottom right corner.
The brushed aluminum interior offers more eye candy, such as slightly recessed chambers for the keyboard and clickpad.The long speaker rests between a pair of metal hinges with a plastic finish, accented by a thin strip of chrome. A blazing red B adorns the right side of the grille, signifying Beats Audio technology. The power button also sits on the left with a white LED status light. We love how the rear of the deck curves downward, as well as the thin, diamond-cut line wrapping the outside of the deck.
Click to EnlargeSimilar to the Envy Spectre XT, the 15t-4000's undercarriage is coated in a silver soft-touch finish that's luxurious to the touch. We wouldn't mind if HP gave the entire chassis this treatment.
The 15t-4000 (14.9 x 10 x 0.87 inches) is slimmer than the ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 (15 x 10 x 0.99-1.2 inches) and the Dell Inspiron 15z (15 x 9.8 x 0.9-0.91 inches). However, the 5-pound 15t-4000 is lighter than the 5.2-pound 15z and slightly heavier than the 4.6-pound UX51Vz.
Click to EnlargeThe XT TouchSmart's 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p touch-screen display is simply gorgeous. In the "The Great Gatsby" trailer, Leonardo DiCaprio's clear blue eyes popped during the fireworks scene. We could also make out the full detail of Carey Mulligan's meticulously manicured eyelashes. Viewing angles were fairly wide, easily accommodating two people. However, our reflections in the highly glossy display proved distracting, especially during night scenes.
The Spectre XT TouchSmart's display delivers a brightness of 289 lux, easily outshining the 226 mainstream average. The ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 and the Dell Inspiron 15z measured 277 and 146 lux, respectively. When placed next to the ASUS, HP's display was noticeably more vivid.
Click to EnlargeThe XT's touch screen proved responsive when navigating Windows 8's Modern UI. We had no problem cueing up the Charms menu and swiping between open programs. Performing a downward swipe to close apps was a quick, fluid motion.
As the fiery red B on the speaker suggests, the 15t-4000 packs Beats Audio technology. Using the Beats Audio Control Panel, we toggled between three listening soundscapes (Music, Voice and 3D Movies).
Click to EnlargeWe found that 3D Movies provided the best experience. As we listened to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," we heard clean saxophone, synthesized keyboard tracks and crisp snares. The Voices setting made the track sound underwater while Music was grating and tinny. Neither setting provided much bass, but each easily filled our small test room.
Keyboard and Clickpad
Click to EnlargeThe HP Spectre XT TouchSmart's island-style keyboard is generously spaced with full-size keys that provide plenty of travel. We scored 60 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test. That's slightly higher than our usual 55 wpm/1 percent error rate.
We experienced some jumpiness when using the the 4.4 x 2.8-inch Synaptics clickpad. However, multitouch gestures such as two-finger scroll and rotate, three-finger flick and press and four- finger press were responsive. Summoning the Charms menu or the Recent Windows tab was just as smooth.
Click to EnlargeThe bottom edges of the clickpad delivered strong feedback and functioned just as well as a pair of discrete mouse buttons.
After watching 15 minutes of "Scandal" with the notebook on a desk, the 15t-4000's touchpad measured 83 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys and underside registered 94 and 87 degrees, respectively. This Ultrabook features HP CoolSense, the accelerometer-based technology that regulates notebook temperature for flat surfaces or when being used in a lap.
When we watched 15 minutes of "Bob's Burgers" with the notebook in our lap, the touchpad registered 84 degrees while the space between the G & H keys measured 95 degrees. That's right at the threshold of what we consider comfortable. The bottom of the notebook measured a warm 93 degrees.
Click to EnlargeThe HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15t-4000 comes preloaded with a number of apps, but keeps the HP-branded apps to a minimum. The sMedio 360 Suite for HP is split into two programs, TrueSync and TrueLink+. TrueSync ensures files and folders shared over a network are kept in sync, while TrueLink+ enables multimedia content to be streamed to another PC or a television on the same network.
Click to EnlargeOur favorite was the Meridian-powered HP Connected Music, which aggregated all of our music activity (downloads, playlists and streaming) into one intutitive program. We liked that we could link a Tunein, Rhapsody or Rara account to the software. However, we'd like for HP to add streaming support for Xbox Music.
The 15t-4000 also features Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10. The bundle alone is worth the price of admission for heavy multimedia creators.
Third-party apps include Skype, I Heart Radio, Amazon Kindle, Netflix, eBay and a free 24-month subscription to Norton Internet Security 2012.
Click to EnlargeThe 1-megapixel webcam inside the Spectre XT TouchSmart 15t-4000 captures stills and images in 720p . While the camera will suffice for video conferencing, the images were subpar. Colors were fairly accurate; however, there was a lot of visual noise in both rooms with fluorescent and natural lighting.
Click to EnlargeThe right side of the 15t-4000 features a USB 2.0, an SD card reader, a secure lock slot and jacks for power and a headset. A pair of USB 3.0, Ethernet and HDMI ports can be found along the notebook's left side. HP has also added a Thunderbolt port that can transfer data at a blistering 10GB per second compared to USB 3.0, which has a 5GB transfer rate. Thunderbolt technology is still fairly new, but acessories such as Western Digital's MyBook Thunderbolt Duo and LaCie's Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Series will make sure your high-speed data terminal will not sit idle.
Click to EnlargeThe HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook can hold its own against the competition, thanks to its 1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3517U CPU and 8GB of RAM. The notebook didn't break a sweat when we played a full-screen Netflix movie with eight open tabs in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer while running a full system scan.
On Geekbench, the 15t-4000 scored 6,982, surpassing the 6,539 mainstream average. The Dell Inspiron 15z and its 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor notched 6,147. However the 2.1-GHz i7-3612QM-powered ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 blew past the competition with 9,970.
The 15t-4000's 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and 32GB mSATA SSD duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes and 29 seconds, a transfer rate of 32 MBps. That's below the 40MBps average, but still enough to pass by the 15z (500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and 32GB mSATA SSD) with its score of 31MBps. The UX51Vz and its 256GB SSD continued to dominate, notching 238MBps.
The 15t-4000 loaded Windows 8 in 16 seconds, beating the 48-second average. It wasn't enough to top the UX51Vz's time of 0:12. The Inspiron 15z posted a respectable time of 0:21.
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the 15t-4000 matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 5 minutes and 15 seconds. That's 40 seconds faster than the 5:55 category average. The Inspiron 15z finished in 6:36 while the UX51Vz blazed ahead with 4:59.
You'll be able to watch HD video and play somewhat demanding games like "World of Warcraft" with the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15t-4000's Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip. However, more powerful games such as "Batman: Arkham City" are out of the question.
During 3DMark11, the 15t-4000 scored 644, well below the 1,125 average. The Dell Inspiron 15z, which also has an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, had a nearly identical score of 641. The ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71, with its Nvidia GeForce GT650M GPU and 2GB of VRAM, delivered 2,289.
Don't expect to play mainstream games at full HD resolution. The 15t-4000 only managed to scrape together a 24 fps frame rate on Good at 1080p, a far cry from the 69 fps average. The notebook performed better at 1366 x 768p, averaging 31 fps, on a par with the Inspiron 15z's average of 33 fps at those same settings. The UX51Vz crushed both notebooks with a blistering 103 fps at 1080p.
When we switched to maximum, the 15t-4000 averaged an unplayable 13 fps, less than half the 36 fps average. The 15z notched 17 fps with the UX51Vz maintaining its lead with 43 fps.
Click to EnlargeThe HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15t-4000 lasted 4 hours and 22 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi). That's 1 hour and 19 minutes behind the 5:41 mainstream average. The Dell Inspiron 15z lasted slightly longer at 4:40, but the ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 had the most staying power with a runtime of 5:56.
Configurations and Support
Our $1,349 review unit of the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15t-4000 features a 1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3517U CPU with 8GB RAM, 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and 32GB mSATA SSD with an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. The $1,274 base model comes with the same specs, but just 4GB of RAM. HP also offers 128GB and 256GB SSDs for $170 and $370, respectively. Unfortunately, you can't configure this notebook with discrete graphics.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15t-4000 comes with a 2-year warranty. HP throws in a few premium perks, including 90 days of complementary HP SmartFriend Setup Service and HP SmartFriend Complete. SmartFriend Setup delivers expert phone support while SmartFriend Complete covers most how-to questions that may arise. Compare that to the HP Pavilion line, which offers a limited warranty with one year parts and labor, one year of 24 / 7 tech support and one year of limited software tech support.
Click to EnlargeThe $1,349 HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15t-4000 is a good-looking machine with solid performance, a beautiful 1080p touch- screen display and fairly loud and clean Beats Audio. However, for this price, we would like to see either a full solid state drive or integrated graphics.
Although it has a lower-res screen, you can pick up the touch-enabled Dell Inspiron 15z with a similar processor and discrete Nvidia GPU for $250 less than the HP. If you have more money to burn, the $1,899 ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 crams Nvidia graphics and a 1080p display (minus touch) into a lighter design. The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook falls in the middle, offering a beautiful design and full HD touch. So long as you're willing to sacrifice some battery life and graphics oomph, you'll be happy to own this Ultrabook.