It’s raining ultrabooks at CES. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for any individual manufacturer to stand out from the crowd. There was one that caught our eye, however – the HP Envy 14 Spectre.

We’ll go in to the specifications in a moment because they’re not what separate the Spectre from the crowd. It’s the design that commands attention. Instead of using an aluminum lid like most competitors HP decided to use lightweight black glass. This instantly distinguishes the laptop from anything else on the market. While most ultrabooks look like MacBook Air clones, the Spectre is unique at first glance.

UPDATE: We have a video walkthrough of the new HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook for you!

You’d think scratches would be a concern, but the scratch-resistant glass used on the lid appears reasonably tough. In fact, it will likely prove more durable than plastic (which tends to scratch) or aluminum (which tends to dent). The only unavoidable issue will be smudging. The floor model had more than a few fingerprints on it. 

Once opened, the Envy 14 reveals a more conventional silver metallic (the palmrest is glass-covered, but remains a metallic silver color) interior similar to the rest of the Envy line. A Beats Audio analog volume knob (along with Beats Audio speakers) ties it in with the new Envy 15 and 17. 

Although just 20mm (.78) thin, the Envy 14 Spectre seems to offer keyboard feel on par with its larger and thicker cousins without sacrificing the backlight. There’s also a ton of palmrest space and a large touchpad. Multi-touch gestures are among the smoothest available on a Windows laptop. Perhaps the only downside is weight. At 3.79 pounds, it is noticeably heavier than most competitors. While this contributes to the laptop’s luxurious feel it could reduce the convenience of on-the-go use.

HP plans to ship the Envy 14 with Core i5 and i7 low-voltage processors, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB solid state hard drives. A 1600×900 display will be standard. Also included is an NFC chip that will allow for short-range wireless sharing. It’s not a stretch to speculate it could also eventually work with the wireless payment features Intel showed during this morning’s ultrabook conference.

Battery life is projected to be 9 hours, and while this will no doubt end up being generous, it’s far better than the 6 hour estimates given by most competitors. Battery size may be the reason for the extra weight.

The Envy 14 Spectre will be on sale in February or March at an introductory price of $1399. That’s a lot of money, but initial impressions suggest that laptop is worth the price of admission. Quality is quite possibly better than the MacBook Air. If the display and performance proves to be as good as promised this pricey laptop could be a hit.  

HP Envy 14 Spectre Offers Glass Design, We Go Hands-on - Mobile  1

PC Perspective’s CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

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