LAS VEGAS -- Metal is so 2011. An Ultrabook that breaks the mold, HP's new Envy 14 Spectre sports a head-turning glass design at this year's CES. It's on the display as well as the lid and palm rest, making the Spectre (available February 8th for $1,399) one of the most unique laptops ever. While it costs $100 more than the 13-inch MacBook Air, HP packs this Ultrabook with lots of premium features, including a higher-resolution display, powerful Beats audio and even NFC capability. Read on for more details, and check out our full gallery and hands-on video.
If you're wondering whether the Envy 14 Spectre feels brittle, it doesn't. The elegant glass treatment is scratch-resistant, designed to avoid wear and tear from your wrists when typing and repeatedly taking this machine in and out of your bag. Our only concern is fingerprints, as the chassis picked up some smudges after a few minutes. The good news is that HP will include a sleeve that doubles as a shammy. The bottom of the notebook is made of magnesium with a soft-touch treatment.
At 3.9 pounds and .8 inches thick, the Envy 14 Spectre is nearly a pound heavier than the 13-inch MacBook Air, but HP managed to squeeze in a larger 14-inch display with 1600 x 900 pixels (vs 1440 x 900 for the Air) in a similarly sized footprint. Plus, the Sceptre's battery is rated for up to 9 hours.
Like the HP Envy 15, the new Envy 14 features a backlit keyboard. It doesn't have the same neat cascading effect as the 15, but it's definitely bright. The right side houses a dedicated volume dial along with a Beats audio button that launches an audio control panel. During our brief hands-on time, the two front-firing speakers got quite loud and delivered pretty clean sound for a laptop this size.
The left side of the Sceptre features both a mini DisplayPort and HDMI port, so you can connect two displays at once. You'll also find a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0, Ethernet (with a clever flip-down door), headphone jack and SD Card slot.
Under the hood, the Envy 14 Spectre sports a second-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. So what's the built-in NFC chip for? HP will later release an app that allows users to transfer web addresses from an NFC-capable phone to the notebook, similar to what HP tried with the TouchPad and webOS phones. We'd like to see more functionality than that, but it's a start.
Overall, the Envy 14 Spectre is stunning, and we love the display and Beats audio. However, it's chunkier and more expensive than competing Ultrabooks. We'll have to see how well this glass laptop justifies its price tag when we get it in for a full review. In the meantime, enjoy our video below along with lots of glamour shots.