The Envy 14 Spectre is the first 14-inch premium Ultrabook so there’s really no direct competition to compare it to. As such we chose a range of notebooks that compete with it on one aspect or another. Specifications-wise, the Spectre uses the same setup seen in many other Ultrabooks, including HP's own Folio 13.
We also chose the higher-specced ASUS Zenbook UX31, which is in a similar price range and also utilizes a 1600 x 900 pixels resolution display.
As a contrast for other larger-sized Ultrabooks, we've included the brand new Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, which is one of the few 'Ultrabooks' available right now with a 15-inch screen and also the only one offering discrete graphics (at the point of publishing), equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M GPU.
And finally, as a comparison to other ‘premium notebooks’ at around the same price range, we included Dell’s XPS 15z, a ‘premium multimedia notebook’ running a dual-core Core i7 processor and discrete (if low-end) NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M graphics.
|Specifications / Notebook||HP Envy 14 Spectre||HP Folio 13||ASUS Zenbook UX31||Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3||Dell XPS 15z|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2467M
|Intel Core i5-2467M
|Intel Core i7-2677M
|Intel Core i5-2467M
|Intel Core i7-2640M
|Chipset||Intel HM65||Intel HM65||Intel QS67||Intel HM77 Express||Intel HM67|
|Memory||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||8GB DDR3|
|HDD||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||256GB SSD||500GB HDD with SSD cache||750GB HDD|
|Video||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M||NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M|
Futuremark PCMark 7
PCMark 7 assesses a system’s overall specs in several smaller test suites to tax various subsystems. As expected, the Spectre posted almost identical scores to HP’s other Ultrabook, the Folio 13, while performing slightly worse than the Core i7 equipped ASUS Zenbook UX31 (both its processor and SSD used in the notebook are better than the competition).
Neither the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 nor Dell XPS 15z are equipped with an SSD drive, explaining their lower overall scores here. Since PCMark 7 is a system-wide benchmarking tool, it factors in a storage drive's performance into many of the tests since reading/writing data is all part of daily usage of the system, no matter the task at hand.
This benchmark shows the difference a discrete graphics module can make (even a low-end model like the Dell XPS 15z’s NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M). The Spectre was a relatively weak performer, with a score again similar to the Folio 13 since it uses the integrated graphics on the processor. It even fared worse than the Zenbook UX31 because of the faster processor on the Zenbook. The clear winner here was the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 with its new NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M GPU.
Far Cry 2
How do those 3DMark scores translate to actual user experience? As you can see, limited as it is by its integrated graphics, demanding games on the Spectre are all but unplayable. Even with only medium graphics quality settings and a 1024 x 768 pixels resolution, the Spectre barely managed to stutter its way to an underwhelming 25 average frames per second.
Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge update with HD 4000 graphics is rumored to be a much needed improvement and more capable for gaming, though we won't really count on it given the track record for integrated graphics performance for over a decade. For now at least, if you need a machine that will handle games, you'll need one with a proper discrete graphics processor. Speaking of which, do note that the Acer machine's GeForce GT 640M didn't seem to shine much when compared to the Dell's GeForce GT 525M and that's because the latter has a much more powerful CPU that further assists in raking in the FPS. If the CPUs were identical, you would notice an increased performance gain from the machine equipped with the GeForce GT 640M.