HP’s first Windows 8 AIO is a stylish one.
Keyboard, Mouse and Sound
The supplied keyboard is certainly small, knocking off the numeric keypad and Page Up/Page Down navigation keys to keep the keyboard compact. While I can live without a NumPad, I cannot stress just how much I rely on the Home, End, and Page Up / Page Down keys. I looked for an Fn shortcut on the keyboard in the hopes that maybe HP had hidden it somewhere, but alas there was none. While I did have a few nagging issues with the keyboard of the Lenovo A720, at least it was full-sized and had all of the regular buttons you’d find on a keyboard. The tiny up / down arrow keys here also took me a little bit of time to get used to, and I often found myself having to look down at the keyboard to find the correct arrow key. Despite its small size, the keys on the Spectre One’s keyboard were certainly responsive, and produced a satisfying click with each key press. HP have also turned the top row of function keys into buttons for media control by default, so if you actually needed to activate the F5 button to refresh a web page, you need to hold down the function key at the bottom left of the keyboard.
Bundled with the keyboard are two other devices, the first of which is a rather straightforward mouse. The mouse felt comfortable in my hand, though I would have liked a bit more height to it to support my fingers. Between the left and right mouse buttons sits a third clickable button which also serves as a scroll wheel. It’s touch sensitive, so if you slide your finger up and down you’ll hear something spinning inside that activates the scrolling. It’s so easy to accidentally flick your finger down this button and go scrolling into oblivion, so I don’t understand why HP couldn’t just bundle a regular scroll mouse with the Spectre One. The mouse’s top cover is firmly held in place by two magnets, but easily pops off if you need to change the two AA batteries.
The final navigational device bundled with the Spectre One is a large trackpad, as seen below:
Yes, the similarities to the iMac trackpad are there, as so kindly pointed out by our resident Apple-guru Abbas. But what’s a trackpad doing with a Windows PC? Well, HP have decided that the trackpad would replace a touch screen on the Spectre One, thus eliminating the need for users to constantly shift from navigating with a mouse and keyboard to tapping the screen (as seen in other AIO PCs). The truth is that the trackpad does for most part do the job well. Swiping from the left or right edge of the trackpad will bring up the last accessed app or the Charms menu,, and all multitouch gestures work out of the box. You obviously won’t be able to use the trackpad for anything that requires accuracy such as editing photos, but for navigating around documents or websites, and even the OS itself, the spacious trackpad was up to the challenge and responded well to my taps and swipes.
The keyboard, mouse, and trackpad are all wireless and battery powered, and while other AIO PCs required you to sacrifice a USB port to plug in the wireless receiver, HP have gone one step ahead and included a dedicated USB port under the base of the unit where you can slot in the dongle out of sight – sometimes it’s the small things that matter.
As with most HP devices, the Spectre One comes bundled with Beats audio, and has a large speaker in the front that spans the width of the PC’s base. It’s certainly loud, so HP weren’t far off when they imagined the Spectre One to be an entertainment unit. Music and videos sounded crisp with whatever I was listening to, so I’m glad HP didn’t scrimp on the audio here. The only trade-off is that there’s no optical drive which is a real let-down, as you’ll need to connect an external optical drive to watch DVDs or burn CDs.
Heat and Noise levels
The issue with AIO PCs will always be with how to keep the thing cool when the components are often crammed into very tight spaces. Adding on multiple fans is always an option, but that just adds to the noise levels unnecessarily. The Spectre One didn’t make any loud noises at all, even when I left Diablo III running for a good forty minutes on maximum settings. Even then, the base and back of the unit were just slightly warm, so I’m left wondering where the unit was pushing all of that hot air, seeing as there’s no visible air vents anywhere on the machine.
HP have been making AIO PCs for a while, and the Spectre One marks a sleek addition to the company’s repertoire. However on the performance side of things, it can be a bit of a mixed bag. While the Spectre One excels at being a hub for enjoying HD content, it might not do so well with very taxing games or applications that require a bit more power under the hood. The fact that it’s also running a touch-heavy OS without a touchscreen may be a bold move on HP’s part, as the trackpad will probably take a bit of time to get used to. But despite these setbacks, the Spectre One still performs well as an AIO PC, and is perfect for anyone looking for a stylish replacement for their desktop PC.