So you've been enticed by the colourful tiles of Windows 8 and want to dive into it on a touchscreen laptop? But you also want a colourful screen, enough performance for everyday tasks and you want to carry it around in a slim bag?
Blimey, how about the moon on a stick? But wait! HP's Spectre XT Touchsmart might be just the ticket. It provides all of the above and doesn't look too bad doing it. It will, however, set you back the cool price of £1,000.
If it floats your boat and you don't mind missing a month's rent, it's available now from John Lewis.
Should I buy the HP Spectre XT Touchsmart?
With its 15-inch display, slim, metal body and decent performance, the Spectre XT is perfect for general computing on the go. The display's Full HD resolution and good grasp of colours makes it handy for movie lovers too.
Its touchscreen means using all those crucial Windows 8 gestures and prodding at its large icons is made enjoyably easy, but it does of course add a premium. At £1,000, the Spectre XT isn't cheap. Strip out the touchscreen and you can find slim machines with similar performance for less money.
HP's Pavilion 15-b146sa Sleekbook doesn't have the Full HD resolution or the touchscreen, but packs similar internal components, Windows 8 software and costs less than half the price of the Spectre XT. At the other end of the scale, Acer's Aspire S7 is incredibly slim and packs a powerful punch, but will set you back upwards of £1,500.
At £1,000 it might be rather steep, but it's a good all-round machine and it makes a stab at trying to justify the money with its classy body. If you can find it on offer somewhere for a little less, it's worth considering, but at this price I can't wholeheartedly recommend it.
Design and build quality
The Spectre XT is unmistakably an HP machine. Its outside is clad in the exact same brushed metal you'll find on its older Pavilion DV7 laptop. It's not an unattractive finish, but I think it's a little overused and is beginning to feel dated. I certainly prefer the glass top of HP's Envy Spectre 14.
It is at least much smaller than the Pavilion. It measures 22mm thick and weighs 2.15kg, which is pretty heavy for something claiming to be an ultrabook. It'll fit comfortably inside a backpack, but you probably won't want to drag it around town all day.
The metal lid helps give the machine a more luxurious look and, together with the firm, rubberised base, will help protect the delicate internals from knocks and bumps. There's little flex in the lid and none in the wrist rest and keyboard tray, which makes it seem generally well put together.
There's a slightly off-putting plastic bezel around the very edge of the screen, which is rather cheap, but generally I didn't have any worries about it falling apart. That's a relief, given you're dropping a grand.
Port options include two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, a full-sized SD card slot, a Thunderbolt-enabled Mini DisplayPort and an Ethernet port. Storage is taken care of by a 500GB hard disk drive with a 32GB SSD for the operating system.
The keyboard is lifted straight from HP's other laptops -- functional, but boring. The trackpad is large, reasonably responsive but a little spongy for my liking. If you want to do precise work in Photoshop, for example, I recommend using a USB mouse.
The Spectre XT's 15.6-inch display boasts a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. There's no optical drive on board, so you won't be able to enjoy your Blu-ray collection, but it's perfectly equipped for handling high-definition streamed content from YouTube and the like.
It's reasonably bright, although it doesn't have the same retina-searing power of laptops from Samsung or even some of Dell's machines. That means it's more susceptible to reflections than I'd like -- something that's exacerbated by the high-gloss coating of the screen. If you plan on working under harsh office lights or in bright sunlight, you might want to test it properly before you throw down your moolah. It's bold though, and colours are displayed very well -- in most circumstances, it's an ideal mobile media machine.
Having the screen touch-enabled makes a real difference with Windows 8's touch-optimised interface, which is rather unintuitive if you're just using a mouse or trackpad. It's a responsive screen, which makes navigation that bit easier, but you will of course have to wipe off your smeary fingerprints when you want to enjoy a film.
Processor and performance
The Spectre XT is running on an Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocked at 1.7GHz with 4GB of RAM. That's a fairly decent lineup of specs for a Windows 8 ultrabook, so I was looking forward to seeing what it can do.
On the Geekbench test, it achieved a score of 6,762. That beats the 1,390 achieved by the convertible HP Envy X2 by a huge margin, and casually beats the 4,971 of the similarly priced Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13. It's far from supercharged of course -- the Core i7 chip in the Acer S7 achieved over 8,000 -- but it's perfectly adequate for most computing tasks.
I found general use to be pretty swift too. Swapping between open apps using Windows 8's swiping gestures was immediate and didn't cause any lag. Streaming and playing back high-definition video was handled without quibble, as was multi-tabbed web browsing.
It was even able to tackle some photo editing. I loaded some high-resolution snaps into Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 -- included as standard with the laptop -- and found making image-wide edits to be immediate. It won't tackle video editing with anything like the same aplomb, but for cropping the creepy guy out of your holiday snaps, it'll cope fine.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart might be pricy, but it has some good kit to justify the price. The Full HD screen is well-suited to movie lovers and its touch abilities mean you can get the best from Windows 8. It's not the most powerful machine in the world, but unless you're a serious power user or media pro, you're unlikely to find it lacking. I can't think of too many people, however, who'd be willing to spend £1,000 on a laptop without any particular reason.
If you're willing to splash out for a classy, touchscreen Windows 8 machine for life on the go, the Spectre XT is one to consider. Just bear in mind that you can get the same power for much less if you're happy to sacrifice the touchscreen.