updated 11:20 am EST, Wed February 8, 2012
HP Envy 14 Spectre tackles Apple
HP on Wednesday began selling its most direct competitor to the MacBook Air, the Envy 14 Spectre. The pseudo-ultrabook starts at a relatively steep $1,400 with a 14-inch, 1366x768 display, a 1.6GHz low-voltage Core i5, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. Options can take it to a 1.8GHz Core i7 and a 256GB SSD.
Its signature feature will be NFC support, which Intel hopes will be widespread in ultrabooks. Similar to Android Beam, a special desktop app will let Android users share web links just by bringing the phone close to the palm rest and tapping a confirmation.
The system was reportedly in development for about two years and is heavier than Intel's official guidelines for ultrabooks, at 3.7 pounds. It stays under 0.8 inches thick, however, and is designed with design cues borrowed equally from the Air and the iPhone 4. Apart from basic resemblances, it uses glass layers over the palm rest and lid back to add to the perceived premium feel.
HP has been severely bruised in the current PC market, both after spooking buyers through ousted CEO Leo Apotheker's hint he might sell the PC business as well as through the tablet effect. As the frequent definition of the "race to the bottom" in PC pricing, it has seen some customers pick an iPad over a low-end notebook or netbook. Systems like the Spectre, as well as earlier Envy models, are attempts to claim some of the premium space and have more systems less affected by tablets.