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HP Spectre XT Pro Ultrabook Ideal for the Road

HP's Spectre XT Pro ultrabook is a versatile, compact computer that's light enough to take on the road but can also serve as a day-to-day desk machine. It offers a long battery life, a fast startup, and high-quality sound and video.

HP’s Spectre XT Pro Ultrabook is ideal for road warriors who need a bit more than a tablet or smartphone on their travels. At just over 3 pounds, the ultrabook has the features and feel of a day-to-day work machine without the weight or bulk of a traditional laptop (such as my Lenovo T420, which looks like a weightlifter compared to the distance-runner sleekness of the ultrabook).

The computer is also well suited for day-to-day desk work, though it might take a bit of getting used to. A laptop is my primary work machine, and has been for years. Because I don’t travel much, I’m happy to use a slightly larger machine because I’d rather have a roomy keyboard. The Spectre’s keyboard felt a bit cramped when I started using it, and keys didn’t have the springy response of the T420. However, after a few minutes of concentrated work, the difference was tolerable.

The computer was also a family favorite. The house has no shortage of computing devices, but the minute the ultrabook arrived, it was an object of desire for my wife and sons. Part of the appeal was its novelty, certainly, but its compact form factor and shiny exterior was a legitimate draw.

My youngest son liked to curl up in an armchair with the ultrabook as if it were a cat or a warm blanket. He preferred the ultrabook for playing Star Trek Online, even when our desktop, with its 21-inch screen and booming wireless speakers, was available. I hesitate to use the word “intimate” to describe a computer, but there is a quality of coziness to the Spectre’s size.

HP Spectre XT Pro Ultrabook
HP Spectre XT Pro Ultrabook

Another appeal was its battery life, which is rated for approximately 8 hours. No one in the house (other than me) shuts down computers when not in use. To my dismay, the ultrabook doesn’t punish them for this behavior. It quietly slips into standby when left alone; several hours later it refreshes in seconds when someone wants to jump on the Internet or fire up Pandora. It’s a testament to the computer’s battery, but it’s not helping me in my old-fashioned crusade to power down machines that aren’t in use.

The computer can support video calls and comes with an TrueVision HD Webcam, which I used on several Skype sessions and found it to provide a high-quality image. On the audio side, it has HP Beats Audio built in and four speakers. The sound quality was just fine for watching streaming video and listening to music.

The Spectre comes with a 1.70 GHz, dual-core Intel i5-3317U. It sports 4 GBytes of DDRE SDRAM and has a 128-Gbyte solid-state drive. It came preloaded with Windows 7 Pro 64. It includes two USB ports and one each of HDMI and Ethernet ports. The screen is a 13.3-inch diagonal BrightView backlit LED. It has a resolution of 1,366 by 768.

HP’s Spectre XT Pro Ultrabook starts at $1,099. If you're on the market for a less expensive option, HP recently announced a Chromebook that lists for $329.

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