HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: July 17, 2012
Product Name: ENVY 14 Spectre
Part Number: HP ENVY 14-3000
Warranty: 1 Year (CAN) 2 Years (USA)
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Screen Quality

Under normal circumstances we’d be complaining away about the Spectre’s ultra glossy screen that makes it nigh-on impossible to use in high light conditions. But in this case our typical sob story will have to take a back seat because HP’s 14” Radiance LED display is nothing short of spectacular.

It may be one of the more reflective screens out there but the images displayed by this high resolution 1600x900 panel are noteworthy, even at this price point. Contrast is spot-on, colour reproduction will impress even the most jaded of professionals, movies exhibit no detectible blurring or motion artifacts and content had just the right amount of saturation. With the low quality displays packed into most notebooks, there’s typically there’s something to complain about but in this case, we just couldn’t find any glaring faults.

Sitting directly above this stunning display is a TrueVision HD webcam with dual omni directional microphones, both of which work magnificently. There is also a pair of proximity sensors which glow a muted red and caused us to think Big Brother was watching through the webcam but all these do is pick up movement in order to engage the keyboard’s backlight.

Horizontal viewing angles were impressive as well with contrast and colours staying perfectly balanced even when looking at the screen from an oblique angle. On the other hand, picture quality did decrease a bit when shifting positions on a vertical plane but the difference was only noticeable when viewed from nearly 45 degrees off center.

Audio Quality

The HP Spectre makes no qualms about showcasing its Beats Audio support and with good reason: this is one of the best sounding Ultrabooks currently available. The notes from its angled speakers are clear and unlike many similar setups, the bass is actually quite distinguishable. It even gives the B&O system in ASUS’ HP-SPECTRE a real run for its money once the included software’s settings are tweaked a bit. When it comes to headphones, we were surprised to discover that Beats Audio was perfectly capable of driving our Grado headphones without the need for a dedicated amplifier.

HP has also included an oh-so-cool analog volume knob which has been perfectly integrated into the Spectre’s chassis so it won’t be accidentally moved, a small Mute button and the ability to turn off the Beats Audio via a dedicated toggle. In our opinion, the whole audio design on this Ultrabook is well implemented from every perspective.

The included Beats Audio manger may be a simple software wrapper for all of the auditory functions on this notebook but it really does make a difference. With it enabled, the Spectre outputs clear, well defined sound from the speakers and headphone jack. The manager also gives you comprehensive access to a full range equalizer and complete control over the microphone (the included noise cancellation technology is second to none in our opinion), all while taking up a minimum system resource footprint. If you don’t like the soundstage it produces and would rather default to the standard Windows driver, just press the aforementioned button and Beats will turn itself off.

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