The Spectre has three USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI socket, a Mini DisplayPort and a full-depth SD card slot as well as the expected 3.5mm in/out audio jack. HP has also made space for a three cell 56Wh battery, which I’ll come back to. If an ethernet port is a priority HP will sell you a USB adapter for £28. Personally, I think they should have bundled one gratis but such are the times we live in.The 360 moniker is the clue that the Spectre is one of those Lenovo Yoga-type machines that you can fold back to make a tablet or prop up into what’s generally called stand and tent modes. There’s not much new in that as a concept but the hinge design (described by HP as one that “folds back into itself”) is rather clever.Thanks to the shape of the hinge and the set of three spiral gears it uses, there’s no bulge in the action: fold the screen right back into tablet mode and the profile of the device at the hinge is exactly the same as it is when folded shut, laptop-style. The hinge also reduces screen spring, that annoying habit some convertible lids have of bouncing slightly when you touch them. The Spectre’s screen hinge feels more solid, much like that of a conventional laptop.All that aluminium and clever hinge malarkey adds to the weight, though, and makes the Spectre a little cumbersome to use as a tablet. But if you are resting it in your lap rather than holding it freehand, then that’s really not such an issue.
The 13.3-inch IPS display is a thoroughbred. Viewing angles are robust and it’s bright enough to use in daylight. The 72 per cent colour gamut (the Windows default) which gives rich but natural colour tones was also set during Microsoft's fine tuning. Numbers aside, it’s a nice panel to look at, all the more so for being frameless. I’ve not seen the Quad HD version but didn’t find myself pining for it. Like most laptop screens the Spectre’s is rather reflective but no more so than the competition.As is becoming more common, there’s no capacitive Windows button below the screen but rather a physical button, here placed next to the volume rocker on the right-hand edge of the base. I find this more practical and more aesthetically pleasing.Like the display, the keyboard comes from a quality bloodline. The metal buttons are pleasant to the touch and have a decent 1.5mm of travel. I found that made for a more soothing typing experience than the MacBook Air or the majority of Ultrabooks I’ve used. The keyboard is also backlit and very quiet, an often overlooked feature but one I value as her indoors works nights and me a-tap-tapping away in the study can disturb her.Given the Microsoft input, I half expected to find one of its precision touchpads but it's actually a regular Synaptics affair. Give the imminent arrival of Windows 10, I suppose the Windows-8 optimised features of precision pads are yesterday's news. The Spectre’s touchpad is large, actually, very large. At 140 x 65mm it’s one of the widest I’ve seen on a 13-inch laptop. It’s tactile and precise too. I couldn't ask for more.
An Intel 2.2GHz dual-core Core i5-5200U Broadwell chip, HD 5500 GPU and 8GB of RAM give the Spectre a decent, albeit not out-of-the-ordinary performance. The benchmark test scores tell the same story. Averages of 2,400 and 2,650 on the PCMark8 Home and Work test runs were entirely unexceptional, as was the result of the 3DMark Skydiver test.The write speeds of the 256GB ADATA SSD averaged around 280MB/s, which was rather humdrum for this sort of money. That’s down to it being a SATA rather than PCIe affair. The average read speeds of between 500 and 550MB/s were better but still nothing to write home about. HP says this is down to cost. It reckons most punters would rather have a slightly slower 256GB drive than a slightly faster 128GB one for the same money.Another area where HP and MS swapped spit is the 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio, which apparently works over longer ranges with throughput not dropping off as quickly in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. While I’ve no idea if that’s true or not, what I can say is that wireless reception in my office, which is a bit of a black spot, was impressively reliable, so it appears there’s something in these claims.Battery life is a Spectre strong point, again due to some system fettling by the HP/MS team. This includes a more efficient (and quiet) fan and shutting down unnecessary parts of the system like the sensor in the hinge that works out what mode the Spectre is in; that does things like disable the keyboard. Apparently the Microsoft bods reckoned you can idle this sensor most of the time.HP also opted to remove all the status lights, so if you like your laptop to have a row of LEDs that light up like a Christmas tree when it does something, the Spectre may not be the machine for you. I’m told the Quad HD screen features something called Panel Self Refresh technology which avoids changing pixels unnecessarily to further reduce power draw.
The outcome of all that power saving is that HP reckons a full charge will get you through 12.5 hours. Looping a 1080p video using VLC with the display at three quarters brightness put the Spectre to sleep in 8 hours 15 minutes. That’s not bad and suggests the twelve and a half figure is achievable in mixed use. Spank the battery hard by running PCMark8 continuously and the lights go out after 5 hours 30 minutes.Like most thin 'n' light laptops, this isn't a machine you buy with the intention of taking it apart and rummaging around in its innards. Even with the Torx screws out, the back panel didn’t want to come off. The stereo speakers fire downward out of said panel and do a reasonable, if not spectacular, job. There is plenty of volume available, though.Microsoft's involvement in the development of the Spectre hasn’t resulted in anything spectacular but this is still a very smart and competent package. The impressive battery life, high quality keyboard, generous allocation of ports combined with a stylish design and high quality materials have resulted in a machine worth every penny of its £900 asking price.
If it was my money I’d probably cough up the extra £200 for the faster chip, higher-def screen and larger capacity SSD in the Core i7 version but I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if I could only stretch to the i5 machine. Shame there was no free white Persian cat in the box, though. Feature I was recently stuck in a quandary, when, having just moved to Portugal, my trusty MacBook Pro departed this mortal coil. No time to mourn those sweet memories with a deadline fast approaching and replacement to be sought. I’d no intention of buying a new machine with a Portuguese keyboard so I went in search of something secondhand.One of the unsung successes of austerity tech is the multinational conglomerate Cash Converters – the International Rescue for distressed media professionals. Industry insiders estimate that at the current rate of economic decline its turnover should eclipse Apple and Google some time in the next decade.It was here that my fortunes would hopefully change. The local branch was closed for a festa for the patron saint of Lisboa, but accompanied by my trusty local guide, Alberto, we hit it first thing next morning.
Well, what can I say? As choices go, I wasn't exactly overwhelmed with gleaming laptops. The cheapest had a Celeron processor and a mere 750MB of RAM. Why all that wasted life, when for an extra €40 we can have a Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo Mobile with 2GB of RAM and a dual-core Pentium T2390 CPU?It boots (Bem Vindo Windows 7), it downloads, it installs...the Portuguese keyboard gets a little esoteric around the edges, but no time to lose. We take our Esprimo back to base and I begin to type up an article on WordPad, then the screen starts flickering, fades, dies and logs me out again and again, sometimes it takes thirty seconds, sometimes half an hour...bollocks!Well, after numerous pains in the gluteus maximus, my copy is delivered from an internet cafe at dawn in an orgy of espresso and carbohydrates, and I start to reassess my relationship with Windows 7. After a little investigation, the screen problem was alleviated by adjusting the power saving control panel, but there are a few little niggles, my Esprimo sports a tattoo, boasting of Windows Vista, the digital equivalent of wearing Kappa in 2015.
I have a generic Windows 7 install, a lot of the modifier keys are non-functional, I also have a trial copy of MacDrive to read an external HD, but it asks for a serial every time I boot. Running Windows 7 on this machine is not atrocious, but some simple things seem to take forever.I've been flirting with Linux on virtual machines for years, dissuaded more than once by the appearance of Ubuntu, I stumbled upon Kali Linux, the deluxe penetration testing and hacking distro compiled by the macho sounding Offensive Security.Now I'm no great hacker, I lack that essential interest in other people’s business, but I do love sniffing Wi-Fi – we all have our little peccadilloes, you understand. It has saved the day more than once when the resident ISP goes titsup.Kali used to be called Backtrack but has since been Debianised and rebadged. To be frank, I don't understand a fraction of it, but am insatiably curious and away from my comfort zone is where I want to be.Apple gives you the illusion of understanding as England gives you the illusion of fair play. Both of my emigrations – home and computing – seem rooted in a desire to be out of my depth, or so it seems.Reckless by nature, I take the plunge. A bootable USB key drive and I'm away, the first moment of joy was upon being presented with a Macintosh keyboard layout option...as a typist I'm inept, but after two decades, my muscles must have retained some memory. The second moment arrived soon after, when my HFS+ external disk mounted on the desktop. The third moment took a while to sink in; no screen problems.Now Kali Linux includes just about every tool you need to snoop back from aircrack to metasploit, password crackers, everything you are ever likely to need to do something you shouldn't, but it includes next to nothing else.
There are numerous online articles on how to augment the basic Kali Install with such accessories as Java and Flash.Kali is much lighter on resources than Windows 7 and will run on a mere 512MB of RAM, it pays for this with a 1990s interface which will have fashion victims retching at first glance.Debian’s default appearance – particularly the System font – always looks somewhat childlike to me. But navigation is nothing too out of this world or obscure for Windows or Mac users.There always seem to be a few bizarre annoyances with Linux, mainly due to the infinite pains of some software installations, but even with my limited experience, Kali appears to be one of the better compiled and designed flavours of Linux around.My first priority is music, and I’ve been using iTunes, often through gritted teeth, for a long time now. I can cope with the store I never use, the phone functionality, even the stupid Genius feature has an off button, but it's the search function that really gets on my tits. Why do I have to re-enter the criteria when switching from albums to songs? This forgetfulness suggests iTunes is showing signs of premature senility.
For music playback, the best alternative on Kali is Banshee, and while no world beater, it does a good job of importing my iTunes library and includes support for Apple outcasts such as FLAC.When it came to my book review work, the major problem I had foreseen was the lack of Adobe Digital Editions for Linux. However, I was able to install version 1.7 by running WINE, an open source compatibility layer that enables applications designed for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems.ADE 1.7 has coped fine with all of the formats I have thrown at it so far and it feeds my Kobo ereader all that it requires. However, .epub3 isn't supported, but I have yet to receive a book in that format.The usual bunch of suspect apps work a treat: VLC, Transmission, OpenOffice, Soulseek. My somewhat pricey €130 panic investment in a five-year-old laptop is starting to feel a bit more worth it.One unsolved dilemma: DJ software. My friend is having a party next Friday and I was hoping to do a little set. The best software is Mixxx, but m4a support is a bitch and most of my collection is Apple Lossless. I have to recompile from source, change my ‘scons’, which I am told is a software construction tool, but I'm sure that it's not as good as the code my grandma used to bake.
Linux involves a lot of trial and error and patience that I only occasionally possess, the weather is so nice and I have a week to exhaust all the possibilities. I haven't even tried cracking the local Wi-Fi networks, well apart from the dinosaur with WEP over the road, just to check everything functions.My incessant fiddling eventually caused my Wi-Fi adapter to disable its monitor mode functionality. So your wannabe hacker has hacked himself hackless. We were all n00bs once, right? A reinstall is on the cards, though I'm in no great hurry.Overall, my first non-virtual experience with Kali Linux has been a pleasure. Though if I have to make another record, I'll be breaking my iMac out of storage and shipping it over.Lean and nimble, Kali is fascinating below the surface, it can see and do stuff with Wi-Fi traffic, in particular, that other OSs can't or won't. It is an education and a challenge, and much as I miss totalling my iMac with developer previews, I can't say I'm pining too much.
On the whole, the Apple experience suits me, but it is a little like living in a gated community, far more exhilarating sometimes to mix it up on the streets, without an iWipe or a safety net. Car brakes and other critical systems can be hacked via car infotainment systems, security researchers at NCC Group have revealed.The ingenious hack, demonstrated in an off-road environment, works by sending attack data via digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio signals.This is similar to a hack that allowed security researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller to take control of a Jeep Cherokee after sending data to its entertainment and navigation systems via a mobile phone, as previously reported.Car owners are strongly advised to apply a patch developed by Chrysler to guard against attacks that facilitate remote control of a car's engine, brakes and more from distance, simply by knowing the car's public IP address.