HP Envy Spectre XT 13 Ultrabook Review – A Campus Standout

The ENVY Spectre XT 13t from HP is the company’s latest entry into the premium Ultrabook space.  The ENVY Spectre XT is a 13.3-inch screen laptop while the earlier in the year released ENVY Spectre 14t is a larger 14-inch Ultrabook.  So what’s the difference between these two Ultrabooks and why the need for two similar sizes?  Well, for one the price on the Spectre XT starts at a more student friendly price of $999 while the larger Spectre 14 is $1,399 starting out, so that’s a pretty big price differential.  The larger size Envy 14t-3100 also has a higher resolution 1600 x 900 screen and unique Gorilla Glass finish for extra durability and style.  While those are both nice extras on the 14-inch HP Ultrabook, the Envy Spectre XT has a lighter weight of 3lbs and thinner profile of 0.69-inches.  The Envy 14t is 0.79-inches thick and weighs 4lbs, so if you need to be mobile then the smaller size and weight of the XT 13 can really help.

HP Envy Spectre XT

The ENVY Spectre XT 13t we have comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 ULV processor from the latest Ivy Bridge family.  Specifically it’s the Intel Core i7-3667U 2.0GHz with dual cores and the Intel HD 4000 on board for graphics.  Storage is provided by a speedy 256GB SSD, which really makes all the difference in the world for system responsiveness.  The system under review has 4GB of RAM, special note on that, you can’t upgrade after purchase as the system is sealed and the only option is for 4GB of RAM so that’s what you get and that’s what you stay with!

Spectre XT 13t logo

With the configuration we have on the Spectre XT 13t the Windows Experience Index score came in at 5.8.  As you can tell from the screenshot below, the 5.8 score was due to the integrated graphics, every other score was above 6.  Basically what this means is that the system will be very fast for any type of normal task, but if you’re doing 3D gaming the graphics on board will not support high frame rates or high detail settings.  That shouldn’t be a concern for 99% of people, those who want a gaming laptop know that Ultrabooks are not the best option for them.  Ultrabooks are more intended for those that want a highly portable laptop that starts up fast, looks stylish and has good battery life.  The Spectre XT 13t fits all of those requirements.

Spectre XT 13t-2000 Windows Experience Index

With regards to design, the ENVY Spectre XT certainly borrows its design cues a bit from the MacBook Pro.  It has an aluminum silver finish on the lid and inside while the screen has a black finish around the screen.  The screen display itself is glossy and quite reflective.  Overall the look is very clean and appealing though.  The extremely thin design of 0.69” in and of itself makes this laptop look nice, you’d definitely stand out on campus among a crowd of commoditized looking laptops.

The screen on the Envy Spectre XT is 13.3” wide and has a max resolution of 1366 x 768, we’d all like to see a higher resolution option of course but this HD resolution is pretty standard on notebooks of this size.  The viewing angles are so-so, this is not an IPS screen like you can get in the HP ENVY 15 or MacBook Pro so when the screen is tilted at wide angles the colors distort.   The simple solution to that is just to view the screen straight on, which is what most people do anyway.

Envy Spectre XT Screen Envy Spectre XT 13 screen tilted back
IMG_0831 side view of Envy

The keyboard on the Spectre XT is full sized and uses a chiclet style design.  There is a backlight that illuminates both the keys and the touchpad area and provides for a very cool look:

Envy Spectre XT 13 backlit keyboard

The backlight is easy to toggle on or off using the F5 key in the top row.  The touchpad you see illuminated there is a clickpad style solution, meaning there is no dedicated buttons but rather the buttons are integrated into the surface area to give more space for swiping.  The drivers for the touchpad are provided by Synaptics so you get all the typical gestures and swipe capabilities.

The big story with the Spectre XT is certainly the light weight and thinness, when placed on the scales this Ultrabook weighs in at just a shade over 3lbs, 3.084lbs to be exact:

Spectre XT 13 weight

The Spectre XT 13t is only 0.69” thick, which is really razor thin and about the same as the Apple MacBook Air.  It fits snugly into any backpack and is barely noticeable as extra weight when your textbooks might weigh twice as much as that.  Despite the thinness, the overall build is quite sturdy due to the aluminum used in the body.  One thing you sacrifice with having such a thin design and small form factor is there’s no optical drive and fewer ports.  On the left side you get an Ethernet port, HDMI port and USB 3.0 port:

Spectre XT left side

On the right side you get a dual headphone/microphone jack, SD card reader and another USB 3.0 port.

HP Envy Spectre XT right side

There are no ports on the back or front of the Spectre XT:

Envy Spectre XT back side

Conclusion

So is the HP ENVY Spectre XT 13 a good fit for a student laptop solution?  If you use the HP Academic discount the price starts at $979.99 and you can get a Free XBox 360, which is kind of a nice deal and really sweetens the offer.   To be honest, I kind of prefer the Envy 4t-1000 we just reviewed as a student laptop because it’s got a better starting price of $683.99 and is very well built and attractive and you can also get the free XBox 360 with it.  It’s not as thin and light as the Spectre XT 13 though.  If you really crave something that’s under 3lbs, extremely thin and has a true SSD for fast bootup then go with the Envy Spectre XT 13 so long as you can afford the extra cost.  If you’re on a budget and want something that’s Ultrabook like and well suited for a student then check out our Envy 4t-1000 review and see if it’s a better option for you.

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Filed Under: Feature Articles, HP Student Laptop

About AJ

I'm a big believer in the importance of technology usage in education, but not just having blind faith in technology gadgets and using them in a school setting for the sake of it. I review and write about technology devices such as laptops and tablets that have a clear purpose and provide a learning advantage for students.

One Response to HP Envy Spectre XT 13 Ultrabook Review – A Campus Standout

  1. Aditya July 23, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Did the battery life live up to the published duration of 8 hours? And what about the heat and fan noise? Does HP’s Cool Sense Technology kick in if it gets too hot? Thanks

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