Chris Nuttall HP Spectre, Simple – CES best

CES is over for another year and the awards have been handed out for best in show, with the CNET tech site choosing the HP Envy 14 Spectre in the PC category and Simple TV in “Home Theater”.

I liked both at close quarters when I was briefed on them, but also had some reservations.

The Spectre is HP’s second entry in the new Ultrabook category of thin, light, almost instant-on laptop computing – it introduced the 13.3in Folio in November, which represented good value at $900 with its solid-state drive, 9.5 hours battery life and backlit keyboard.

At $500 more, the Spectre has a premium price due to some top-end features and styling.

Most notably, it features Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla glass, not only on its 14in screen, but on the lid, palmrest and imagepad as well. I liked it on the lid, but was not so sure about the need on the palmrest and was a little disappointed that the Envy had a regular base, rather than a unibody like the MacBook Air or Lenovo U300S.

The Spectre is also on the heavy side for an Ultrabook at 3.8lbs – the Folio is 3.3lbs and the Spectre is 50 per cent heavier than Toshiba’s Portege Z830, which is only 2.5lbs.

I liked features carried over from Envy models launched in November – the backlit keyboard, where HP has individually lit each keycap with LEDs that light up as proximity sensors pick up a user’s approach, and the analogue dial that controls the volume of the Beats Audio.

There is also an HD webcam and a full set of ports for gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. A full version of Adobe Photoshop is also included.

The Spectre is also the first laptop I’ve encountered to have an embedded NFC chip for exchanging information with a similarly equipped smartphone, although HP executives were not able to demonstrate this in action.

The Envy 14 Spectre is expected to be available in the US on February 8.

Simple TV was described to me as what happens when a Tivo and a Slingbox get together – it is a small box that acts as a DVR and can stream content recorded or live from over-the-air or cable channels to other web-connected devices. Simple TV is giving priority to feeding the iPad, with an app, and the Roku box, with a Simple TV channel, for its launch. The box will cost $150 and a further $5 a month adds features such as a full programme guide. However, there is no storage on board, so the DVR functionality needs an external hard drive or network-attached storage. It looked impressive in the demonstration at Pepcom’s Digital Experience (see video below), but this is a first version and it would be interesting to give it a full workout when it launches in the spring.

My Best in Show would be Samsung’s 55in OLED TV – an array of these created a dazzling entrance to Samsung’s booth. However, CNET chose LG’s 55in OLED over the Samsung, because it has a definite ship date of the third quarter. Expect both to be priced well out of the reach of most consumers whenever they do appear.