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CES 2012: HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook is in a class of its own

January 11, 2012 | 10:09 am

 

Surrounded by every electronic device imaginable at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, HP's new Envy 14 Spectre is in a class by itself, mostly because the class it's in -- “the premium consumer Ultrabook” --  seems to have been invented just to have some place to put it. Let's take a look. 

The first descriptor used is "premium." That's a good one, and if you are paying $1,400 for something about the size and thickness of a place mat, whatever it is you are buying should be stamped with the word premium. Generally this would indicate a plethora of features, like Beats Audio for doctor-recommended sound quality (is Dr. Dre still licensed to practice in California?) and the HP Radiance Display that delivers 1600 x 900 lines of resolution. OK, the Spectre has all that. So far, so good.

Right after premium comes the word “consumer,” and that's a little odd because that usually indicates a dearth of features, where things are stripped out to make the product less confusing and cheaper or accessible to the masses, the opposite of premium. So that word makes the least sense, seeing as it has high-end video and audio (knob notwithstanding), a slew of inputs and outputs -- including trusty old USB (though in it’s latest 3.0 variant), HDMI and Mini DisplyPort, and a $1,399.99 price tag on a laptop is enough to knock it out of the consumer arena and right back into premium land. It’s kind of like a rich kid who dresses in old clothes so he can make friends with the poor kids, then invites them to his birthday party at the country club with the strict dress code. Just because you add the “consumer” to something doesn’t make it any more affordable, it just makes it take longer to say. 

Lastly, it’s an "Ultrabook" because it’s thin, and that’s what ultra means in computer-ese, and into its 20mm of thinness HP has crammed a good deal of stuff, like an Intel Core processor, HP Wireless Audio to stream your music throughout your home, a multitouch trackpad, an HD webcam and a battery that “boasts up to 9 hours” of life among other things. So maybe they are using “ultra” to mean “going beyond” because they amount of tech stuffed into this machine is beyond what one might expect in a package of its dimensions.

So, marketing lingo aside, the really interesting thing about the Envy 14 Spectre is the material used to build most of it: glass. Corning Gorilla Glass to be specific. Not surprisingly, the monitor is fronted with glass, but so is the rest of the lid. It’s almost as if they took a giant iPhone 4 and attached it with a hinge. So, right off the bat, half of the computer is built out of glass, then you have the palm rests and some of the chassis! All this makes for a more durable and lighter package, according to the company, though at about 4 pounds that last bit seems like we’re having our chocolate rations increased from 15 grams to 10 grams. But who cares what it weighs? It’s a laptop made out of glass! I’m not even sure what the advantage really would be for that, but I feel cooler just to have typed out that last sentence.  

Perhaps the most telling thing about this device is who HP thinks would want it, and judging by the product photos in the company’s news release, they are aiming for the coveted “I’m far too cool to even acknowledge my expensive new computer sitting there” demographic. 

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