It's not a great time to be in PC sales. Gartner is expecting them to fall this year, in part because IT budgets aren't what they used to be, and in part because people are holding off on buying computers until they see something that wows them. There's a real disconnect between what the PC industry would prefer and what consumers are actually doing: taking longer to replace PCs than manufacturers would like.
Manufacturers are responding in a few ways. We saw Dell's aggressive new focus on design at CES 2016. It's also courting the gaming crowd -- check out Laptop Magazine's comprehensive round-up of Dell laptop reviews as applicable to a gaming audience. Lenovo is pushing for competitive advantage with two different approaches. The first stresses its ability to provide different forms to consumers, from two-in-one portable computers to modular machines that are basically Lego bricks with different functions. The other approach is to move their product category from personal computing to communal computing, stressing the portability and multi-user aspects of its two-in-one products.
HP's approach to the conundrum is to combine form with fashion. The Spectre 13.3, debuting today, is 1.4 centimeters thick -- or 10.4 millimeters, if that sounds skinnier to you -- and now the slimmest notebook computer on the market. In keeping with the "you can never be too rich or too thin" ethos, it's available in 18-karat gold and Swarovski crystal configurations for $25,000, as well as an "ash silver" finish that's slightly more attainable with a $1170 starting price point.
In a hands-on tour of the new machine, Engadget noted that the experience of using the machine emphasizes the Spectre's featherweight profile:
Continuing our tour, a piston-style hinge (as shown in the gif below) inspired by upscale cabinetry allows the 13.3-inch Gorilla Glass screen to almost float above the keyboard. (The skinny bezels also add to the effect.)
As on other super skinny laptops, the keys are fairly shallow, but they're springier than I would have expected.
The tech specs show that the Spectre is more than its good looks. It's got 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, two Thunderbolt ports and and a third USB-C connection, along with a battery design that promises about nine hours of runtime.
You can shop for the Spectre via the HP site; it'll be available at Best Buy in May 2016.