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HP Goes All USB Type-C With Spectre Notebook, May Portend External GPU Dock

HP unveiled a new premium mobile device called the Spectre, a 13.3-inch ultra-thin laptop that features an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 8 GB of memory and up to 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage. The HP Spectre sports a brand new logo that will adorn all of the company's premium offerings going forward.

Specifications

ProductHP Spectre
Processor Options-Intel Core i5-6200U (2.3 GHz, 2.8 GHz Turbo)-Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5 GHz, 3.1 GHz Turbo)
Memory8 GB LPDDR3 (Onboard)
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 520 (4185 MB Max)
StorageUp to 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Display13.3” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS
NetworkingDual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Ports-2x USB 3.1 Gen 2/Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C)-1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Type-C)
AudioBang & Olufsen
Battery4-Cell Li-Ion Polymer 38 WH
Dimensions (L x W x H)12.8 x 9.03 x 0.41 inches
Weight2.45 lbs.

The company claimed that the HP Spectre is the thinnest notebook in the world, and at a thickness of merely 0.41 inches (10.4 mm), the claim has some legitimacy (if you consider the Surface Pro and iPad Pro to be tablets, not notebooks). The chassis resembles a hand-held mirror in an affluent woman’s jewelry cabinet, with polished gold trim complementing the CNC-machined aluminum top and keyboard tray. The bottom of the device is carbon fiber for an even thinner profile and weight reduction.

The HP Spectre makes an almost-gaudy fashion statement that will appeal to some, but it may leave others often reaching for their lint-free polishing cloths to clean off easily-applied smudges, a likely unfortunate side effect of the flashy design.

The FHD 1920 x 1080 IPS display features Gorilla Glass 4 for increased durability. A few concessions had to be made to keep the HP Spectre thin, and the thickness of a touchscreen was one of them. This makes the touchpad the only input device you can use to navigate the HP Spectre without an additional peripheral, such as a USB (with Type-C to Type-A adapter) or Bluetooth mouse.

USB Type-C With Thunderbolt 3 Onboard, HP Making Its Own GPU Dock?

The three USB Type-C ports all offer blazing-fast data transfer speeds, power, device charging and video output. One of the USB Type-C ports is USB 3.1 Gen 1 with up to 10 GB/s transfer rates, and two of the Type-C ports are USB 3.1 Gen 2 interfaces that support Thunderbolt 3 for even faster data transfer rates (up to 40 Gb/s).

When we asked HP whether or not the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports would enable support for graphics docks (specifically the Razer Core), we seemed to hit an uncomfortable nerve. We were told that the Razer Core wouldn’t be compatible, but other solutions may be in the future. This seems a bizarre claim, as support for the Core primarily requires a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 (which the Spectre has). Could HP be pondering a dip in the external GPU dock market with its own enclosure? This seems unlikely, but with the company’s recent split and its seemingly-reinvigorated approach to the mobile PC market, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

One curious design choice that could support such a theory is the absence of any USB Type-A ports. Granted, there are two logical reasons for HP to use just USB Type-C ports on the Spectre: Perhaps the company sees that the industry is headed to USB-C and just wants its premium notebook to be future proof. Or, perhaps it's trying to keep pace with Apple. And HP is also selling USB-C to USB-A adapters (another Appley move) to accommodate those (read: everyone) who still has peripherals and externals storage devices that use USB-A.

However, this laptop-plus-GPU-dock thing looks to become a trend, and it would make sense for HP to prepare to dive into it with a premium notebook offering.

Under The Hood

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HP engineered several space-saving features specifically for the Spectre in order to keep the laptop thin while accommodating components with higher performance than what we usually see in a device this small. The hinge-less design (which is really just an illusion, it has hinges) uses hidden pistons that apply pressure to keep the screen open while minimizing the hinge’s impact on aesthetics and space. The battery has been completely redesigned to be even thinner by splitting it in two and distributing it across more of an area, and it uses hyperbaric cooling to ensure proper thermal dissipation for the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors we normally see on thicker devices with bulkier cooling solutions.

Designer Editions

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If the jewelry-like appearance of the HP Spectre seems minimalistic and you can afford to part with considerably more money, HP is offering an extremely limited run (as in not going to be on store shelves and you likely have to specially order it) of HP Spectre notebooks custom designed by London-based Tord Boontje and Los Angeles native Jess Hannah. If Kanye West needed a laptop, the 18k gold-plated and diamond encrusted edition hand-set by designer Jess Hannah would likely be his pick, while the whimsically expensive HP Spectre by Tord Boontje would suit the likes of Kanye’s nemesis, Taylor Swift. Not coincidentally, these celebrities are likely some of the only people that could afford this customized treatment, but it’s nice to dream of the finer things, I suppose.

Availability

The HP Spectre will be available for preorder at HP’s website on April 25 at a starting MSRP of $1,169. It will also arrive at Best Buy stores on May 29 with a somewhat steeper price tag of $1,249.99.

Derek Forrest is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Derek Forrest on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • memadmax
    "Premium", and it comes with Intel HD graphics...

    Roarlolololololololol!
    Reply
  • jchap1590
    @memadmax methinks you missed the purpose of this product entirely. me also thinks that you don't truly understand what an ULTRABOOK is... good luck out there, though and happy shopping :) lol
    Reply
  • epobirs
    There seems to be some confusion here. Every reference I can find, especially the official standard site ( http://www.usb.org/developers/ssusb ) says USB 3.1 Gen 1 is 5 Gbps and USB 3.1 Gen 2 is 10 Gbps.

    Thunderbolt 3 is another issue entirely as that requires an Alpine Ridge chip that seems a bit power and real estate heavy for a machine like this, especially if two full speed ports are being supplied. The LP (Low Power) version used in the MAcBook Air only gets two PCI 3.0 lane and so cannot operate at full Thunderbolt 3 speed.
    Reply
  • nix27
    @memadmax you are practically laughing at yourself.
    Reply
  • xero141
    1080p + premium + 2016 = LOL
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    onboard memory, so you can't upgrade? no thank you...
    Reply
  • wkwilley2
    Hey Look, a gold plated turd.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    There is no Type A because they have to go out of their way to accommodate that larger interface.
    Reply
  • ecc444
    What model are you reviewing here? I have a new HP Spectre X360, UHD, highest end model they made 4 weeks ago... the Type-C does not support 3.1 protocol, only 3.0. I cannot find the model on HP website that you are referencing here.
    Reply