HP has announced plans to release a handful of new thin-and-light notebook PCs, though only some meet the criteria of the Ultrabook moniker. Only one lacks a relevant marketing label, the Envy Spectre XT, though it's the best Ultrabook-like entry, and it's still reasonably priced. The company is also introducing its own thin-and-light label, "Sleekbook," a somewhat half-hearted (and nearly half-priced) riff on the Ultrabook model, though one is notable for its use of an AMD processor.
The most impressive model of the lineup, the Envy Spectre XT, doesn't even bear the Ultrabook label, but comes the closest to being a MacBook Air competitor. The 13.3-inch Envy Spectre XT with a 1366x768 display will measure 14.5 millimeters (0.57") thick and weigh 3.07 pounds. The notebook comes standard with a backlit keyboard, 128GB solid state drive, 4GB of memory, and up to 8 hours of battery life, starting at $999.99.
HP's Envy Sleekbook entries are also not official Ultrabooks, but occupy the opposite end of the spectrum from the Envy Spectre XT. The Sleekbooks are available in 14- and 15.6-inch sizes (though both have only 1366x768 resolution displays) and have standard hard drives instead of SSDs, as well as 4GB of memory. Both have "starting weights" of 4 pounds, and measure 19.8 millimeters (0.78") thick. The smaller version gets eight hours of battery life and starts at $699.99, while the larger gets nine hours and starts at $599.99.
The Envy Ultrabooks sit right in the middle, meeting the physical size rules and using flash caches with HDDs to meet the boot time requirements. The Ultrabooks share the Sleekbooks' screen sizes, resolution, memory, thickness, weight, and battery specs, but both come standard with 500GB HDDs supported by 32GB of flash cache. The 14-inch version will start at $749.99, while the 15.6-inch will start at $799.99.
Only the Envy Spectre XT will be available with only third-genereation (Ivy Bridge) Intel processors. The Ultrabook and 14-inch Sleekbook models will come standard with second-gen processors, with Ivy Bridge as an available option. The 15.6-inch Sleekbook, on the other hand, will sport AMD's second-gen APU, codenamed Trinity, which AMD has planned to use to undercut Intel's Ultrabook segment. All models will have at least one USB 3.0 port as well as an HDMI port. The Ultrabooks and Sleekbooks also feature trackpads with a “spun finish," which translates to a surface with tiny concentric ridges radiating from the center. We tested this out on some pre-production models, and it produced an odd vibrating effect on our fingertips—a little disconcerting, even if it looked cool.
We're disappointed to see more skirting of the Ultrabook design spirit, as well as extra fragmentation of the Ultrabook label with HP's proprietary Sleekbook. That said, we can't complain about the Envy Spectre XT—it's the closest thing to a true heir to the Ultrabook crown in our view. Both HP Envy Ultrabooks are available starting May 9, alongside the 14-inch Envy Sleekbook. The Envy Spectre XT is set to appear on June 8, and the 15.6-inch Envy Sleekbook will arrive June 20.