I’ve tried at least 2 or 3 laptops before settling on a laptop that works for me. As I have had this laptop for more than a year now, I thought it would be a good idea to review it. Before I delve into the details, I want to list a few of the requirements I personally had for what I consider to be a good laptop. In no particular order:
- A keyboard that felt good to type on.
- Dedicated home and end keys. I realize many don’t care about that last point, but it was a big deal for me because I do a lot of writing work and I didn’t want to constantly use the FN with arrow keys to move around a document.
- Decent sound quality. Of course, I wasn’t expecting high-fi audio from a laptop, but I didn’t want muffled sound or odd audio effects either.
- Under 15 inches.
- Good battery life—doesn’t everyone?
So, after all this, what laptop did I finally settle on? I know the suspense is killing you so I’ll just tell you now. It’s the HP Spectre 13T 2017 mottle. Of course, they now have better processors and even better battery life, if I had only waited for the 2019 mottle.
I will explain my selection and why I believe this makes a great laptop below.
As you may have picked up from the description, the Spectre has a 13-inch touch screen. I wanted a touch screen so that I could try some of the new touch-friendly apps out there. Also, NVDA has the newly revised touch-friendly add-on that I was keen to try, especially the web navigation mode.
The laptop weighs in at 2.8 pounds, and it’s about a half an inch thick when closed.
The Spectre I have ranges from 128GB SSD all the way up to 1TB SSD depending on how much hard drive storage you want.
The processor I have is an I7 2.7GHZ.
All of the HP Spectre’s now seem to come pre-configured with 16GB ram.
I don’t want to go too much more into the specifications, as this review isn’t meant to be a dissection of a laptop. I really want to focus more on my personal experiences so far with the hope that it helps you find a laptop that works for you.
Just so you know, I was coming from a highly customized Asus laptop configured by XoticPC, that was about 7 years old. It was also 17 inches and about 6 pounds heavy! So, as you can imagine holding the new Spectre in my hand for the first time felt incredible!
Using the built-in keyboard on the Spectre is great! The keys feel like they are truly being pushed, and for me, give a satisfying click sound when pressed. Down the right side of the keyboard are the dedicated home, page up/down, and end keys. This makes editing, gameplay, and various NVDA hotkeys easier since I don’t have to hold down the FN key in conjunction with arrow keys to use the home/end functions. I just want to emphasize that the keyboard does not have a number pad, just in case that’s a deal breaker for you.
Starting from the top left of the laptop you have a USB3 port. Moving down you have a standard headphone jack. Next you have the grill for the heat exhaust. Just under that you have the power button.
On the right side of the laptop you have 2 USBC ports. The first one is also where you plug the power adapter. Below the 2 USBC ports is a pair of volume up/down buttons that I really love! There isn’t anything else on the right side.
The laptops sound is very good in my opinion. It’s one of the first things I noticed when I powered it up for the first time. For such a small laptop, I think it gets loud. I generally keep the volume at about 30%, with or without headphones. People have told me I have good hearing though, so you may need to turn it up more. The laptop has 4 speakers instead of the standard 2 stereo speaker configuration that most laptops have. I love being able to turn the volume up or down via the slider on the right side! The laptop uses Bang ＆ Olufsen and a Real tech audio driver. Note that you can switch out the audio drivers as the Bang ＆ Olufsen control panel isn’t too useable via screen readers and doesn’t add anything to the audio , in my opinion anyway.
I must admit I had to get used to typing on a smaller keyboard. But like I said, typing on this feels great! I find that I make very few typos due to the outstanding laptop keyboard.
I have gotten over 8 hours of battery life with this laptop. During that time, the laptop was on and did not sleep. I was browsing the web, checking email, installing/uninstalling software and doing windows updates. HP claims 14-16 hours, and I knew I would not get anywhere near that. Still, it is nice to be able to run my laptop all day without needing to charge it.
When I startup the laptop it will bring me to the lock screen in about 5 seconds. This is when turning it on from it being entirely shut down. Another nice thing is the support for Windows Hello. This allows the computer to recognize my face and sign me in instantly. The KNFB reader windows 10 app works very well for reading text in graphics and/or PDF documents. Once I log in, programs and apps spring up quickly as should be expected with 16GB ram, an I7 processor, and an SSD.
As with most laptops these days, the top row of keys, known as the function keys, have alternate functions via the FN key. I was able to locate an HP Bios configuration utility that creates a text file of the configuration settings in the bios. You can then change the text file, then write that text file back to the bios/UEFI to update it without relying on sighted assistance! In this way, I could turn off the alternate function keys myself! Note that this procedure is quite technical in nature, and if you do not know what you’re doing it’s possible to render your laptop unusable, so beware.
A few things to note:
The Spectre does sometimes get hot especially on the left side. This could be problematic if it’s on your lap. It can get a bit uncomfortable if the processor is really working hard. I particularly notice this when the laptop is plugged into power. The latest mottles have better power management, so hopefully this minor issue is better now.
Also, there is not an easy way to permanently disable the touch pad. Using the mouse applet in the control panel allows you to disable it, but when you sign into windows again it is enabled again. The other thing you can do is to set the touch pad sensitivity to very low. Also thanks to a handy NVDA add-on called, “input lock”, the touchpad can be disabled through NVDA.
Also note that if you press Control+Alt+R, you will open recovery options, and Control+Alt+S will bring up the specification options. With either of these commands, you may also get documents. These two functions are part of the HP Support tools, and if you remove that software, you will then have a harder time updating drivers that came with your laptop. If you leave the software, you can stop the HP messenger service from running, and this will stop those keys from working in that way.
No laptop is perfect, but despite the issues I’ve noted above, I would recommend this laptop for anyone needing something that is resilient, sounds good, and has great battery life. This is a great workhorse in my view. I find that if I keep sticky notes open I can quickly log in and take down that info very fast. It slips into my backpack and you can’t even feel the weight. It is a quality five-star laptop!
CaseyOctober 17, 2021
I don’t have a specific list but I have a mailing list that routinely sends out deals of laptops usually around $500 or lower. anyone is welcome to subscribe to that email list. Just make sure that the deals checkbox is checked.
Laptops GraphOctober 17, 2021
I hope you are well. hey Casey can you please share the laptop list for college students like me under $500 budget?
The Geek on SkatesDecember 8, 2018
Man, this sounds like a great little computer! it has some features I wish I had on mine (lol). Thanks also for the info on the “input lock” add-on; I’m totally gonna download that.