HP Spectre One review

Overview    Specifications 
While all-in-one computers are a great way to get desktop performance in a slim case with a large screen, it's fair to say that PC models haven't always been particularly attractive. HP is changing that perception with its beautifully designed Envy Spectre One.

Everything about it exudes style, from the neat aluminium case to the incredibly svelte 23.6in screen, which is just 11.5mm thick. This means that it's definitely a computer that you'd proudly want to display.
HP Envy Spectre One
Keeping the screen so slim has meant that HP has had to fit the PC's components into the small stand at the bottom. Even with everything built into the this, the Envy Spectre One is a surprisingly lightweight piece of equipment. In fact, it's so light that all it takes is a small tap and the entire PC slides over a desk with worrying ease. Adjusting the screen tilt also requires a steady hand placed firmly on the stand, otherwise you’ll end up pushing it backwards and forwards as well.
Vents on the bottom of the base and top of the stand help keep the hardware inside cool, and the case didn't get too warm even when the PC was under high load. We can attribute some of the cool running down to HP's choice of low-end processor. Although part of the Core i5 range, the i5-3470T is a dual-core processor with Hyper-Threading, rather than a proper quad-core processor as with the rest of the range. It has a clock speed of 2.9Ghz, with the ability to Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, which sounds impressive. However, combined with 4GB of RAM (fairly stingy considering the price), the Envy Spectre One scored 57 overall. This puts it more in-line with a fast laptop, rather than a desktop PC.
HP Envy Spectre One
At this speed, the PC is fast enough to deal with most tasks well, but we were expecting more for the price. You can upgrade the RAM to a maximum of 16GB, which won't improve performance, but will give you more headroom for running applications and for dealing with larger files, such as lots of high-resolution photos.
Graphics performance was similarly lacklustre, even though there's a dedicated 1GB Nvidia GeForce 610M graphics processor instead of the Intel processor's integrated graphics. The Envy Spectre one failed both of our Crysis 2 and Dirt Showdown tests on Ultra settings at a 1,920x1,080 resolution.
Switching to the laptop version of our Dirt Showdown test (High Quality settings at 720p), it managed a mere 18.fps. The only way we could get close to a playable 30fps was by changing the game's settings to Very Low and disabling anti-aliasing. You will be able to play some less demanding games, then, if you're willing to drop detail settings.
We were impressed with the Spectre One's Full HD (1,920x1,080 screen). Its glossy finish helped produced some stunning colours in our image tests. Blues, reds and greens positively popped in our colour photos, and we saw no evidence of any backlight bleed. Our high dynamic range images also showed excellent levels of brightness and contrast as well, with each area of the photo showing high levels of detail. Of course, the one downside of having such a vivid and glossy panel is having to battle with reflections, but we didn’t find this to be a particular issue unless we were viewing a particularly dark scene in a film or video game.
HP Envy Spectre One
While the screen is undoubtedly excellent, there's a surprising omission: it's not a touchscreen. This is particularly odd given that this is a Windows 8 PC and Microsoft's latest OS is designed for touch.
Instead, HP compensates by shipping the Envy Spectre One with a wireless touchpad that supports multi-touch gestures, alongside the wireless keyboard and mouse. Sadly, the touchpad isn’t quite good enough to completely overlook the lack of a touchscreen. It provides plenty of travel distance, but multi-touch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, weren't accurate enough. We found the touchpad useful for bringing up the Windows 8 Charms bar and switching between applications, by swiping e from right to left and vice-versa.
The full-sized Chiclet-style keyboard was comfortable to type on, although some keys were slightly less springy than others, particularly the punctuation keys on the right hand side. The mouse also felt a little small for our hands, and its default responsiveness was just a little too fast for our liking, although this is easily changed in the Control Panel.
HP Envy Spectre One
As the screen is so slim, the stereo speakers are built into the front of the stand. As with most HP kit they carry the Beats Audio brand, but this is no guarantee of quality and sound was no better than on other all-in-one systems we've reviewed. There's little bass and everything sounded tinny, making the speakers suitable for the occasional video and Windows sound. For proper audio a decent set of external speakers or headphones is a necessity.
Thanks to the Envy Spectre One's slim profile, there's not much room for ports or storage. So, there's no optical drive or TV tuner, but you get four USB ports (two of which are USB3), Gigabit Ethernet (there's 802.11n wireless, too), SDXC memory card reader and an HDMI input, so you can hook up an external device, such as a games console, to the screen. Inside there's a 1TB hard disk, which should be plenty for all of your files.
HP Envy Spectre One
One of the Spectre One’s more curious features is an NFC chip, built into the base. It comes with two electronically rewritable sticker tags, which you can programme with the downloadable HP TouchZone Writer and Credential Reader apps. Once they’re installed, writing information to your tags is incredibly simple. If you write your email address and password to it, for instance, it will let you automatically log in to the PC when you place the tag on the NFC antenna. You can also write URLs to the tags to automatically bring up web pages, but you can only write one URL to each tag.
It’s also compatible with NFC-enabled smartphones, but we couldn't make our Nexus 7 do anything useful. Touching the tablet to the Envy Spectre One while it was displaying an image brought up the option to beam the picture, but the Nexus 7 displayed a message telling us that the receiving device didn't support large file transfers. We didn't get an error message when trying to beam a contact, but then the Envy Spectre One didn't display any acknowledgement of receiving the contact, either.
There's no denying that the Envy Spectre One is an attractive bit of kit, on a par with the new Apple iMac (full review shortly). Sadly, it doesn't quite cut it. The lack of power is disappointing, particularly at this price, while with think HP has missed a trick by not including a touchscreen. It' a sleek and incredibly attractive all-in-one, but it simply costs too much for what you get.
Overview    Specifications