Hardware Overview and CPU Performance

There are several HP Spectre options available, with upgrades available for very reasonable prices. The base model, which is the model I have to review, starts at $1,169.99 for an Intel Core i5-6200U CPU and a 256 GB PCIe SSD. For an extra $80 you can upgrade to a Core i7-6500U processor, and an extra $250 will nab you a 512 GB SSD. This makes the highest-end model (Core i7 and 512 GB SSD) cost $1,499.

The rest of the hardware in the Spectre is standard, which includes 8 GB of LPDDR3 memory. It’s disappointing you can’t upgrade this to 16 GB which would be a great way to complement the faster Core i7 CPU. Connectivity is listed as an Intel Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 combination chip, which in my testing delivered fantastic performance.

The base model’s Core i5-6200U processor is a 15W ‘Skylake’ part featuring two cores and four threads clocked at 2.3 GHz with a Turbo speed of 2.8 GHz. There’s also an integrated HD 520 GPU with 24 execution units clocked at 1000 MHz, and 3 MB of L3 cache. The upgrade to a Core i7-6500U increases CPU clock speeds to 2.5 GHz (3.1 GHz Turbo) and introduces 4 MB of L3 cache.

Despite the slim form factor, you are not compromising much on hardware, so the Spectre delivers similar performance to many other top-end laptops, particularly with the Core i7 option. This machine should be very capable of essential web tasks, along with some more intensive productivity workloads such as heavy spreadsheet editing, photo editing, and even some simulation workloads like MATLAB.

In our suite of benchmarks, the Core i5-6200U has a clear advantage over Intel’s Core m3-6Y30 by 24% on average in CPU workloads. This jumps out to a significant 30 to 40 percent improvement in media encoding, which is good news for video editors who might be tossing up between the ultraportable Spectre or Apple's MacBook.

Judging by previous results, the Core i7-6500U model will be around 13% faster across the board, which is similar to the difference in clock speeds between the two CPUs. This upgrade costs $80, a seven percent increase on the base model price.