Introducing the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart

As we saw last week with Mythlogic's Callisto 1512, ultrabooks in the 15.6" form factor are strange beasts. It's pretty clear the industry as a whole is moving towards thinner, lighter notebooks at every traditional size; Intel's ULV processors aren't as fast as the standard voltage parts, but they're close enough that it can be difficult to justify the added bulk of a thicker machine. Couple this industry transition to slightly slower but much more power frugal parts with the increased emphasis on touch interfaces that Windows 8 brought and you end up with the most upheaval in notebook design we've seen in a long time.

With that upheaval we also get unique designs like the one we have on hand today, the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart. Spectre is essentially HP's premiere notebook brand until you get into their enterprise-class hardware, and so the Spectre XT TouchSmart is destined to be the absolute cream of the crop. The aluminum finish, glass touchpad, and 1080p IPS display are evidence enough of that. Yet while HP may have buffed the value proposition in a lot of places, the Spectre XT TouchSmart is unfortunately not without potentially severe compromises.

HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
(2x1.9GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3GHz, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 2x4GB DDR3-1600
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1150MHz)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1920x1080 IPS Touch
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus Thin 500GB 5400-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD

Samsung PM830 32GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD (used as cache)
Optical Drive -
Networking Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino 6235 802.11a/b/g/n 2x2
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio IDT 92HD99BXX HD Audio
Quadrophonic speakers
Combo mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-Cell, 48Wh
Front Side -
Right Side SD card reader
Combo mic/headphone jack
USB 2.0
AC adapter
Kensington lock
Left Side Ethernet
2x USB 3.0
Back Side Vent
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 14.87" x 10.01" x 0.87"
378mm x 254mm x 23mm
Weight 4.96 lbs
Extras 1080p IPS touch display
HD Webcam
SSD cache
BeatsAudio quadrophonic speakers
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited parts and labor
Pricing $1,299

Chances are if you've been paying attention, two things popped out at you from the spec sheet: the Thunderbolt port, and the SSD caching. One of these additions is a fantastic value add; the other almost seems like a sad joke. Understanding that there are a lot of premium features on the Spectre XT TouchSmart, and that Thunderbolt isn't inexpensive to add, being stuck with an SSD cache backing up a dismally slow 5,400-RPM mechanical hard drive in a $1,299 notebook is inexcusable.

It's frustrating because the rest of the design is firing on all cylinders. The Intel Core i7 CPU is more than fast enough for the majority of tasks, HP includes the requisite 8GB of DDR3-1600 to guarantee a comfortable Windows experience, and 5GHz wireless networking is accounted for. Connectivity is healthy with USB 3.0 support alongside Thunderbolt, there are four speakers with BeatsAudio branding, and the display is even a quality 1080p IPS panel. So why hamstring the build with Intel Smart Response Technology instead of just installing a 128GB SSD minimum? Was the cost savings really worth it?

In and Around the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart
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  • whyso - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    This review is of rather poor quality. Anandtech you need to look at clock speed and throttling. You comment that the cpu benchmarks are unusually low so open cpu-z and look at the clockspeed during the test that is unusually low. Also would be really nice to have you run furmark + prime and report the speed of the cpu + gpu and temperature.
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    "I've checked clocks, run tests multiple times, but in the end still been left with a notebook that's just slower than it should be."
  • jeffkibuule - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    This leads to a serious question, if PC manufacturers could ever build a laptop as well designed as a retina MacBook Pro, would people shell out the extra cash to buy it? They keep saying no, but I wonder if that's really true. The product managers really need the power to say "No, this is shit, try again" instead of having to meet arbitrary deadlines.
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    I really don't know the answer to that, currently Apple does own the high end market. It's a chicken and egg thing, do high end PCs not sell well and that's why no one will make a well thought out one, or will no one buy a high end PC laptop because there are few good offerings?
  • andrewaggb - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    The fact that the retina mbp's sell well indicates there is a market for high end laptops. And most software still runs on windows so it's impossible that there is no market for high end windows pc's.

    The market is crowded with average-ness. Make a good product and market it so people are aware you've made something worth buying. Works for Apple and Samsung....
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    There's a market, sure, but the unsure thing is if anyone could dislodge Apple from it. Samsung did that in smartphones, but look what that took, they had the most costly marketing campaign for smartphones period, as far as I know. The PC market has had shrinking margins for years, plus the sales are in decline, while I don't think it will die soon or ever I suspect the heads of these companies would look at that and find it too big a risk to sink lots of R&D, new manufacturing cost, and marketing into. A booming market like smartphones, sure.
  • FreeAintFree - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    Anyone wanna bet HP farmed the design of this out entirely to the OEM. With final approval by accountants. OEM instructions: "Hit this price point and be sure to factor in the payments from these bloatware vendors". Pathetic and deserves to sit on the shelves and collect dust.
  • Gunbuster - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    Why don't you take any laptops apart anymore? There is no longer any "In" to the "In and around" page...
  • tipoo - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    He did say it wasn't serviceable, maybe they use some crazy screws or glue? I'd like elaboration on that too. With some internal mods some of the problems would be helped, namely the hard drive speed.
  • ananduser - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    I hate to bring Apple up Dustin, but you should review the 1200$ 13" MBP. First of all I believe that this is the only Apple unit that Anandtech never reviewed. Secondly I would wish to read your opinion(rather if it is at least as stern) on a 1200$ 13" laptop with a 5400rmp HDD and 1280x800 TN panel.

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