Keyboard & Touchpad / Audio Quality
Keyboard & Touchpad
Let’s summarize our opinion about the Spectre’s Radiance keyboard in one word: awesome. This is hands down the best keyboard we’ve used on an Ultrabook and while opinions about such things are highly subjective, in many ways HP’s design outstrips the one included on the vaunted MacBook Pro.
Once pressed, every one of the keys features a satisfying, muted “click” which subtly registers in your subconscious and vastly improves typing accuracy. Even the throw distance is spot on with just the right amount of feedback to satisfy touch typists and the spacing between keys is spot on. Unfortunately, our unit came with the dreaded Canadian bilingual layout that features a mini-me sized left shift key but otherwise we really couldn’t have asked for more.
Each key has an individual LED integrated into its backer, resulting in an even illumination of every typing surface on the Spectre. The quality here is literally second to none. While HP didn’t include an ambient light sensor for auto-dimming, the backlight function can be controlled through the motion detection routine within the proximity sensor so it will turn itself on once it senses motion nearby. Naturally, this function can be modified with the included software.
There are a number of other interesting features packed into this keyboard. The function keys act as what would typically be considered secondary commands such as increase / decrease screen brightness without pressing and holding the Function key first. To get the “normal” commands (for example "F2") you need to press the Fn key first, followed by the function key of your choice. Essentially, the secondary key bindings have become primary commands on this keyboard. This may present a steep learning curve for anyone that normally uses keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD or other professional programs but it should become second nature for media commands and general commands. There are also a number of other shortcuts built into the Spectre like immediate Twitter access through the ALT+T input.
While the keyboard is a resounding success, HP’s self-branded “ImagePad” is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Items like pinch-to-zoom and two fingered scrolling work perfectly and its glossy surface somehow manages to provide some resistance but that’s where the fun stops since the rocker-style touchpad just doesn’t work all that well.
Normally, touchpads with integrated buttons are flaky at best but in this case the entire surface can tilt from left to right leading to inputs when you least expect them. With the ability to be depressed anywhere for double clicking, drag selecting and icon moving will become an infuriating experience as the entire area goes slightly off kilter at the slightest of touches. To add insult to injury, at times the Imagepad acts erratically by picking up phantom clicks that aren't even there. Luckily, double tapping the upper left corner will turn off the touchpad and we found ourselves using this option far too often throughout the course of writing this review.
The Spectre may feature a removable battery cover but don’t expect to be upgrading your own memory and SSD anytime soon. Like most other Ultrabooks, this one doesn’t offer the possibility of accessing its internal components.
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