HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15t Review

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Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 7
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 5
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 6
    • Features
    • 8
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 6
    • Total Score:
    • 6.86
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Beautiful touch-enabled display
    • Good build quality
    • Great keyboard and touchpad
    • Good port selection
  • Cons

    • Glossy / Reflective display surface
    • Slow hard drive

Quick Take

The HP Spectre XT 15t is a well-packaged 15-inch notebook with a great mix of features. Look for models on sale with SSD storage.

This thin and light 15.6-inch Ultrabook features a beautiful touch display with IPS technology, great backlit keyboard and a stylish design. Read on to see why we recommend this computer.

Overview

The Spectre XT 15t is a high-end 15.6-inch Ultrabook measuring just 0.87″ thin and weighing only 4.96 pounds. It features a beautiful touch-enabled 1080p display with unlimited viewing angles, solid performance from its Intel Core i7 processor and a fantastic backlit keyboard. Aside from the inclusion of a hard drive instead of an SSD, we like nearly everything about this oversized Ultrabook.

Build and Design
The Spectre XT 15t is slim at just 0.87″ tall and a shade under five pounds; this is impressive for a 15.6-inch notebook. The outside surfaces including the display lid are covered in silver brushed aluminum enabling a high-end look and feel. It also lends a measure of strength; the chassis is inflexible and the lid resistant to twisting. I like the rubberized base of the notebook.

Design-wise the Spectre XT 15t has stylish touches such as the silver border around the speakers and elegantly beveled edges around the chassis and display. I like how the keyboard and touchpad are depressed into the palm rest. The palm rest including the keyboard surround is one unbroken piece of aluminum, certainly not inexpensive to produce.

Upgrade capabilities are nil; you’ll have to take apart the chassis which isn’t as simple as removing a few screws. The hard drive could potentially be replaced with an SSD; there’s only one open RAM slot. Be careful attempting wireless card upgrades; HP has a history of blacklisting all but a few cards to work with the notebook. Realistically there’s not much to upgrade in the Spectre XT 15t aside from the storage drive.

Input and Output Ports
Ultrabooks typically underwhelm in port selection, providing just enough connectivity options for casual users. The Spectre XT 15t benefits from a larger chassis capable of housing more ports; HP thankfully takes advantage and included a healthy amount. It has three USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet and even has a Thunderbolt port (one of the few notebook PCs to do so). I appreciate the fact this Ultrabook includes a storage drive indicator light; too many Ultrabooks leave out this useful indicator.

All picture descriptions are left to right.


Left: Ethernet, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.0, hard drive and power indicator lights

Right: Media card reader, headphone/microphone combo port, USB 2.0 port, AC power jack, Kensington lock slot

Keyboard and Touchpad
The Spectre XT 15t has a full size Chiclet-style keyboard with extra spacing between keys. It features white LED backlighting which is helpful in the dark; toggle the backlighting on and off using the [F5] key. This keyboard simply provides a fantastic typing experience; tactile feedback is excellent in no small part due to an ample amount of key travel, where so many Ultrabook keyboards fall short (pun intended). The base of the keyboard is rock solid; zero flex is always a favorable attribute. Another likeable attribute is the keyboard’s quietness; type away in meetings or class without announcing the fact to everyone.

The Synaptics clickpad lacks physical buttons; just press down anywhere on the clickable surface or tap to click. The anti-glare finish aids accuracy by preventing fingers from sticking or stuttering. Clicks are audible but not loud enough to make a fuss over (my preference is that they should be as quiet as possible). The clickpad is generously sized for a 15.6-inch display and provides a solid touch experience.

Screen and Speakers
The Spectre XT 15t comes standard with the display on our test unit: a 15.6-inch touch-enabled IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel with a full HD resolution. The only con is the glossy display surface, which acts as a mirror; it’s distracting in well-lit environments due to all the reflections, especially sunlight areas. IPS technology means unlimited viewing angles – the picture looks the same no matter where you’re viewing from. This panel has excellent contrast with pure whites and deep blacks; colors are vibrant and saturated. Brightness is superb; I found myself using it at half brightness most of the time. The full HD resolution is an asset for productivity (think using two full-size windows side-by-side) and multimedia; more detail is visible since there are more pixels to show it.


The touch capability works well in Windows 8. The traditional notebook form factor isn’t conducive to touch though, as the display is prone to wobbling; fortunately the Spectre XT 15t’s display hinge is stiff enough that it’s kept to a minimum. Over a week of usage I was able to adapt my touch pressure so there was almost no wobble; very minimal contact is required to interact using touch. Windows 8 is designed for touch-enabled displays and I personally wouldn’t buy a notebook without the functionality.

The four Beats-branded speakers (two above the keyboard and two side-facing under the chassis) provide plenty of volume for a few people watching a movie or presentation. There’s enough clarity and a hint of bass, putting them a step above the sound solutions in most notebooks we test.


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