Looking for an ultrabook that plays nice with your Mac household mates? The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15-4010nr ($1,349.99 list) has a feature rare on Windows PCs: a Thunderbolt port. When your Machead flatmates crow about their systems’ multimedia prowess, you can show off the HP’s Core i7 processor, multimedia performance numbers, and 1080p touch screen. Battery life shorter than rivals holds it back from our top ultrabook award, but there are few other drawbacks to the system. It’s worth a look, if you’re in the market for a Windows 8 touch-screen ultrabook.
Design and Features
The 15-4010nr is a silver-colored, aluminum-magnesium, traditional clamshell laptop with a black backlit keyboard and a black bezel around the screen. Measuring about 0.87 by 15 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 4.90 pounds, the 15-4010nr comes in a smidge smaller and lighter than the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Mid 2012) ($1,799). The top lid has a brushed aluminum look, and the only design touches that aren’t black or silver colored are the red Beats Audio logos on the speaker bar and above the screen.
This design aesthetic carries over to the system’s I/O ports, which is a bit unfortunate. It’s easy to mistake the USB 2.0 port on the right side of the chassis, unless you’ve been warned to look for the “USB SS” logos on the same colored USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the chassis. It wouldn’t be an issue if the USB 3.0 ports were colored blue, as per convention. However the all-black aesthetic may confuse users into inadvertently plugging a USB 3.0 drive in the USB 2.0 port, which would result in slower transfers. Thankfully, the 15-4010nr’s Thunderbolt port can’t be mistaken for anything else, and for the time being Thunderbolt is the fastest interface available on consumer laptops (up to twice as fast as USB 3.0).
Thunderbolt ports are common on all recently released Mac laptops and desktops. If you already have Thunderbolt drives in your home or small business, then you’ve gotten used to using this speedy interface to copy files and connect other peripherals. Copying gigabytes of data takes seconds, rather than the minutes it used to take on USB 2.0. There are plenty of other peripherals that connect to Thunderbolt directly or through adapter boxes, like monitors, video inputs, and massive hard drive arrays. The 15-4010nr also has a full sized HDMI port, Ethernet port, and headset port on the sides of the chassis.
The 15-4010nr’s 15.6-inch IPS display is bright and clear, and can recognize 10-points of touch. The screen has a 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, perfect for viewing 1080p HD videos (though you’ll have to download them or stream them, as there’s no optical drive) and for keeping multiple windows open simultaneously. You can also use simultaneous apps more effectively with the screen’s larger resolution. Windows 8 lets you view two full-screen apps side-by-side, one in a sidebar-like frame. This is handy for keeping track of your inbox or tweets that you’re following, for example. The 1080p screen also helps multimedia users, since you can zoom in on photo or video details while keeping the pixels smooth. Having a 1080p screen is more useful to multimedia mavens than the 1,600 by 900 screen on the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2) ($1,100 list) or the 1,366 by 768 screen on the Dell Inspiron 15z-5523 ($1,093.99 list).
Speaking of multimedia, the 15-4010nr comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, which will help hobbyists right off the bat. This is a better deal than systems like the Editor’s Choice Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T ($1,199 list), which comes with very few pre-loaded apps. The 15-4010nr has a good-sized 500GB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive with 32GB cache SSD. The cache SSD helps the 15-4010nr come back from sleep in seconds, plus it helps overall performance, though true SSD-equipped systems are still a bit faster (see below).
The system’s 500GB is loaded with many more apps than that of its rivals, including many apps that are available for free online. We found games like Mahjong Solitaire, Solitaire, Connected Photo by Snapfish, Smedio 360 (media sync software), Skype, iheartradio, Kindle, Netflix, Fresh Paint, Taptiles, Connected Music by Meridian, and eBay all on the 15-4010nr. We also noted a full two-year subscription to Norton Internet Security, which is a huge improvement over the usual 30-day trial we usually find on consumer laptops. You can save a small amount of hard drive space by uninstalling all the free programs, but there’s plenty of free space, even when you first take the system out of the box. This is a big plus that hard drive-equipped systems have over SSD-only rivals. The 15-4010nr is Wi-Di compatible. The Spectre XT 15-41010nr comes with a one-year warranty.
The 15-4010nr comes with an Intel Core i7-3517u processor (the faster-clocked brother of the i5-3317u found in many ultrabooks), 8GB of DDR3 memory, and Intel HD Graphics 4000. These components plus the hard drive+SSD combo gives the system a bit of oomph when you need it. The 15-4010nr is one of the better performers at the PCMark 7 test (4,720 points), coming as one of the fastest systems we’ve seen with a hard drive. To get faster, you’d need to be using a SSD-equipped system like the Vizio CT14-A2 (4,819) or the Acer Aspire S7-391-9886 (5,090). The 15-4010nr was also fast at the multimedia tests like Handbrake (1:33) and Photoshop CS6 (4:51). Both scores put the 15-4010nr near the top of the ultrabook category.
The 15-4010nr comes in at the top of the heap on the 3DMark 11 test, and is at the top for our two gaming tests, Aliens vs. Predator and Heaven, but like on the comparable ultrabooks with integrated graphics, the 15-4010nr really can’t produce playable frame rates at the games. Translated, this means that the system can play older games, but you’ll have to forgo playing the toughest games with advanced features.
Another stumble is the 15-4010nr’s battery life. The system only managed 4 hours 3 minutes at our battery rundown test. This is two hours less than the EC-winning Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T (6:34). The 15-4010nr will get you most of the way across the country on a flight, but not all the way.
The HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr is a good choice if you need multimedia creation power with a relatively large screen. The packed-in video software boosts the system’s overall score, since the hobbyist won’t have to worry about photo or video editing software. The two-year subscription to Internet Security is also a huge plus. Unfortunately, the extra hours of battery life and performance boost from its SSD give the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T the extra points to let it hold on to its crown as out high-end ultrabook Editors’ Choice.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr
Compare the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr with several other laptops side by side.
More laptop reviews:
|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-3517U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Type||General Purpose, Ultrabook|
|Processor Speed||1.9 GHz|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||500 + 32 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc