My hunt for a new laptop continues. I want an ultrabook, something thin and light, but I certainly don't want to pay upward of $1,000 for it.
Last week I almost popped for the Vizio CT14-A4, which at $599 seemed too good to be true, but couldn't get past all the negative reviews of the keyboard. (It's still available at that price, FYI.)
Today I'm eyeballing another surprisingly good deal from the Microsoft Store: the HP Spectre XT 13 ultrabook for $699 shipped (plus sales tax where applicable). It normally sells for $999.99.
Although the Spectre XT 13 debuted back in September running Windows 7, it's now loaded with Windows 8. Not interested? There's another option: MacMall has the refurbished Spectre XT 13 with Windows 7 for $624.99 shipped. So you save $75, but also end up with a shorter warranty (90 days). Decisions, decisions.
Either way, you're getting a thin, speedy, solid laptop that's been met with much critical acclaim. CNET rated it four stars, and the 33 Microsoft Store user reviews average out to 4.7 stars.
The Spectre XT 13 features an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display. Some reviewers knocked the screen for its "low" resolution (1,366x768 pixels), but I'd argue that at that size, you really don't need it to be any higher.
Other specs include Beats Audio (meh -- I don't get the fuss), two USB ports (one 3.0, one 2.0), Bluetooth, and a Webcam. HP also provides full versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 (at least according to CNET's review; those items aren't mentioned on the Microsoft Store page).
Although the aforementioned Vizio offered a slightly larger (and higher-resolution) screen and similar core hardware for $100 less, the HP would appear to offer a better user experience, especially with regard to the keyboard (which is backlit) and touch pad.
The good news is we're starting to see ultrabooks get affordable. The bad news is I still can't decide which of these I'd prefer. Your thoughts?
The slim and lightweight HP Envy Spectre XT
Bonus deal: Need to extend the Wi-Fi range in your home or office? Today only, and while supplies last, Daily Steals has the Diamond Multimedia WR300N Wi-Fi range extender for $39 shipped. It sells elsewhere for as much as $60, and earned pretty high user ratings over at Amazon (where it's $50). It can double as an access point and triple as a network bridge.
Bonus deal No. 2: Tablet Tuesday! In case you missed the news, Barnes & Noble is currently offering a free Nook Simple Touch e-reader when you buy a Nook HD+. I remain a big fan of the latter, especially once you've rooted it to run Android Jelly Bean. The Nook HD+ starts at $269 -- already a killer deal for an 8.9-inch tablet, in my humble opinion.
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