HP’s Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea is certainly an attractive and well-built laptop. However, it does stretch even Intel's vague definition of the term ‘Ultrabook’ to the limit. And beyond.
As you might expect, the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea has a similar design to the other models in the Spectre range, with a smart, brushed metal finish and sleek edge-to-edge glass covering the screen panel.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea is larger than its Spectral stablemates, though, with a 15.6in screen and a listed weight of 2.25kg.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea also measures a sliver over 22mm thick, a size that – according to our recent discussions with Intel itself – would seem to disqualify it from being called an Ultrabook at all.
But, to be fair, most proper 15.6in laptops weigh closer to 2.5kg, so the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea is a little lighter and more portable than most of its 15in rivals.
The screen provides full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, with a clear, sharp image that will be excellent for viewing photos and video. It’s very bright too, with a wide viewing angle that will work well for business presentations.
The keyboard and trackpad are both large and comfortable to use. The only minor disappointment is the Beats Audio-branded quad-speaker system, which is fairly loud but produces a tinny, metallic sound with weak bass.
Performance is good, although the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea is expensive for a model with a fairly modest component specification. There’s currently just one configuration available, priced at £1200 with a dual-core Intel Core i5 running at 1.7GHz (2.6GHz Turbo Boost), 4GB of memory and 500GB hard disk.
We were a little concerned about the use of a slow hard drive, but it is backed up by 32GB of solid-state ‘acceleration cache’ that certainly seems to improve performance. The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea starts up in a snappy 10 seconds and produced a very respectable score of 4042 points when running the PCMark 7 benchmark suite. It’ll be more than enough to cope with day-to-day web browsing and running applications such as Microsoft Office.
As always, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor lacks the power for gaming. Running Batman: Arkham City at 1920 x 1080 resolution brought the TouchSmart to its knees with single-digit frame rates. Even dropping to 1280 x 720 with the lowest graphics quality only just managed to scrape 27fps.
Battery life is respectable rather than impressive. We got about four hours when using Wi-Fi to stream video from BBC iPlayer, you might stretch that for another hour for light browsing. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t match the five-hour results we’re now used to seeing from Intel Ultrabooks. In fact, Intel’s ‘definition’ has been known to mandate upwards of five hours to qualify a laptop as Ultrabook.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4000ea does have other features that stand out, though. Its touch-sensitive screen feels smooth and responsive when using the Metro interface of Windows 8 – although we still feel that touch-screens are a bit of a gimmick on laptop PCs.
Potentially more useful is the inclusion of the high-speed Thunderbolt connector that was developed by Intel for Apple. It offers a maximum speed of 10GBps – more than twice that of USB 3.0 – with other performance-oriented qualities to recommend it too.
There’s a large set of bundled software, including Norton Internet Security, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements.