Windows 8 is packed productivity-boosting touch gestures, but most notebooks aren't optimized for touch controls. Business users are more likely to opt for traditional mouse-and-keyboard options, even on laptop computers with responsive touch screens; it's simply not comfortable to reach across the keyboard to touch the screen during regular use. To some extent, the HP Spectre 13t-3000 remedies those touch-screen woes. The sleek, ultraportable, 13-inch PC features an innovative touchpad flanked by HP's Control Zone strips, which are designed to make Windows 8 more usable and intuitive.
The sleek, attractive and speedy Ultrabook can be your next business companion in a range of configurations, starting at $999. Here are three features that make the HP Spectre 13 a great laptop for business.
Microsoft baked a few key gestures into Windows 8 to make the operating system more palatable for tablets and other touch screen devices. The gestures allow users to quickly switch between apps and access key system controls by swiping a finger in from the left or right edges of the screen. On notebooks, those same gestures are also usually accessible by swiping in from the edges of the touchpad, but the small size of the typical touchpad means most users will accidentally trigger the gestures more often than they'd like. And because there's no visual indicator of where and how to swipe, users new to Windows 8 may not find them intuitive.
HP's answers are the Control Zone strips situated along the left and right edges of the touchpad on the Spectre 13. Just swipe across the left strip to cycle among open Windows 8 apps. While switching, you can use the strip to drag and snap apps to the left or right side of the screen to easily view two apps on screen at once for seamless, side-by-side multitasking. The feature is critical for business users who want to use Windows 8 apps to do real work on the go, and the left Control Zone strip makes it much easier to use.
Meanwhile, swiping across the right-hand Control Zone strip activates the Windows 8 Charms menu. The menu gives you quick access to frequently-used menus such as settings and search, as well as an alternate way to access the Start screen from the desktop. Once the Charms menu is activated, swipe up and down along the Control Zone strip to select an option. On other notebooks, users must activate the Charms menu with a gesture, then select an option with the mouse cursor. HP's Control Zone strips will benefit mobile business users who need to stay on task and don't have time to fumble with clumsy controls.
Separating the gesture areas from the touchpad also means you'll have more room to use the touchpad to navigate in apps or on the desktop. HP smartly disabled the cursor on the Control Zone strips, so users shouldn't experience any palm-rejection issues while typing. The backlit keyboard, meanwhile, is sturdy, with good key travel and little flex.
The HP Spectre is a true ultraportable that stacks up nicely against slim notebooks such as Apple's MacBook Air in terms of mobility. That's a boon for users who need a notebook for a daily commute or business trips. The notebook weighs just 3.3 lbs. and measures 0.59-inches thick. It's not as slim as Apple's wafer-thin, 13-inch MacBook Air at the front, but the notebooks are about equally thick at the rear. The Spectre 13 is also a hair heftier than the Air and lightweight Windows 8 challengers like Acer's Aspire S7, which weigh about 3 lbs. each. Still, the Spectre 13 is a powerful notebook with a seriously slim profile.
The machine also sports a beautiful, 13.3-inch display that's sharper than the Retina display on the MacBook Air, boasting a resolution of 1920 x 1080 compared to the 1440 x 920 display on Apple's notebook. Business users hoping to use the Spectre 13 as a daily workstation may find the display a bit cramped if it's not connected to an external monitor, however.
The Spectre 13 boasts performance that's squarely above average when stacked up against other speedy ultraportables. The machine packs a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor and 4GB of RAM, so business users can expect smooth and responsive multitasking. The powerful hardware will provide a good boost to users who prefer to keep dozens of tabs open in their Web browsers while executing other demanding tasks such as performing complex spreadsheet calculations.
HP also packed a 128GB solid-state drive into the entry-level configuration. If you're used to notebooks with spinning hard disks, expect to get Windows 8 booted up and running much more quickly; the Spectre 13 boots in just a little over 10 seconds. The boot-up speed is about on par with the best performers in the ultraportable category. Users hoping to store large files on the notebook's hard drive may be a bit disappointed to have a measly 128GB of internal memory, however. For an extra $230, you can upgrade to a bigger 256GB SSD.
Business users, in particular, will benefit from the Spectre 13's long battery life. In tests, the notebook ran for more than nine hours of continuous use, far better than the category average of roughly 6.5 hours. That means you can keep working all day, no matter where you are.
The HP Spectre 13t-3000 packs most of the features a business user could want in a Windows 8 Ultrabook. It has a slim, sleek profile that makes it portable enough for mobile users, without compromising on performance. And it offers a sharp display, long battery life and a high-quality keyboard for a smooth and comfortable typing experience. Finally, the unique Control Zone touch strips could help users realize the full potential of Windows 8 as a platform for productivity.