Apple's MacBook Air has given the whole laptop world a shot in the arm, with loads of other manufacturers keen to forge their own skinny-yet-powerful machines. HP's latest effort is the Spectre XT, a 13.3-inch aluminium ultrabook that -- at first glance -- is looking more appealing than the earlier Envy Spectre 14.
I've been hands-on with the Spectre XT, so read on for my first impressions. It's set to land in the UK at the end of June, with prices starting at £899.
The Spectre XT sports the now commonplace wedge shape, intended to signal that ultrabooks are a bit fancier than standard laptops. As well as keeping your patio door open, the sloping design leaves the XT measuring just 14.5mm thick, meaning it's very portable.
At 1.39kg, the XT is rather light as well, so have no qualms about chucking it in a satchel or rucksack and lugging it around with you all day.
There's a tonne of other wedge-shaped laptops floating around at the moment, built by the likes of Asus or Acer, but happily there are a few design touches on the XT that could help it stand out from the competition.
For example, the Hewlett Packard logo is tastefully etched into the back of the XT, while there's a boxy, angular look to the whole shebang that puts me in mind of Kryten's face. The body is made of aluminium and feels sturdy, and there's a pleasant chrome edging around the chassis and lid.
Personally, I think the metal lid looks attractive, and I don't bemoan the loss of the hefty glass covering that adorned the Spectre 14. It leaves the XT resembling the rest of the ultrabook crop, but as long as it looks good, I don't think that's such a bad thing.
Keyboard and trackpad
Cracking the XT open like a delicious clam reveals a chiclet-style keyboard that's very much like the buttons you'll find on the MacBook Air. Not original then, but the layout looks spacious. It's a shame HP's stuck with tiny up and down arrow keys though -- trying to wrap your fingers around those little buttons could prove frustrating. A backlit keyboard is a huge plus, so you can keep on typing during powercuts, even as the rest of your family faffs around with tealights.
The trackpad is spacious, though another HP foible persists, as the buttons are built into the touch-sensitive area, meaning you may find the cursor moving a tiny amount when you try to click.
Beats Audio is in play and the XT packs four speakers. I didn't get a chance to test the quality of those speakers, but being glued to such a skinny device, I'd be surprised if the noise they kicked out was particularly impressive -- laptop audio is generally tinny, even with big-name brands providing the kit.
Beats branding on previous laptops has also meant special audio software and Windows themes, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to find those pre-loaded on the XT as well.
Ports, battery and hardware
Happily, the XT doesn't look to scrimp on port selection, despite its skinny frame. On the right there's a 3.5mm headphone port, an SD card slot for getting at your camera photos and a USB port.
On the left, meanwhile, there's an HDMI port (handy for hooking the XT up to a high-def telly), a second USB port and an Ethernet socket, which is partly covered by a little plastic door that you'll need to pull open if you want to fill the XT with wonderful wired Internet.
Battery life is pegged at about 8 hours, but stay tuned for the full review, where we'll be submitting the XT to our own barrage of battery benchmarks, and seeing how it fares against the competition when unable to suck on its power cable.
Powering this laptop will be Intel's latest processors, which we'll be giving an extensive test in our full review. Hopefully we'll see Core i3, i5 and i7 variants, to let you get as much power as you can afford.
As for space, expect 128GB of solid state storage as standard -- if that's not enough room you can pay to bump up the capacity to 256GB. Solid state drives are better than their mechanical counterparts because they're faster and lack moving parts, so you're less likely to lose all your data if your laptop makes a one-way trip to pavement town.
The HP Spectre XT makes a good first impression with a slick design. How decent this little laptop ultimately proves to be will turn on whether it offers better performance and battery life than the competition, and that's something that our full review will determine. At £900, it's hardly pocket change, so we'll be expecting something rather special. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the first impressions of our sister site CNET.com in the video below.
Editors' note: Luke Westaway saw the HP Envy Spectre XT at an HP event in Shanghai. His flight and accommodation were paid for
by HP, but the company had no input into the content of this