HP Spectre x360 Review
When I tell people they should buy a 2-in-1, systems like the HP Spectre x360 are the reason why. It’s got all of the utility of a standard laptop, with the flexibility and intimate usability of a tablet. You also get rakish good looks, and it comes with one of Intel’s new 7th-Gen Core i CPUs (Kaby Lake), which gives the HP Spectre x360 top-notch performance and impressive battery life in a stunningly thin chassis. And with a starting price of just $1,050 ($1,300 as reviewed), the Spectre offers an exceedingly premium and adaptable system for a surprisingly agreeable price.
From top to bottom, the new HP Spectre x360 is the most striking 2-in-1 HP has ever made. And by shaving excess metal off from almost every side of the machine, HP also made the x360 one of the most portable 2-in-1s available.
What I love most about the HP Spectre x360 is how precise it feels. If the hard edges on its all-aluminum body were any sharper, they’d cut you, and the polished sides provide a great highlight accent to the Spectre x360’s large swaths of smooth brushed metal. Simply put, the Spectre x360 is one of the most attractive laptops on the market, 2-in-1 or otherwise.
However, if I had to nitpick, I’d say I wish the Spectre x360’s hinge were a bit stiffer. When the machine is sitting on a table in laptop mode or propped up in tent mode, it’s fine. But if you pick the 2-in-1 up and walk around, those little bounces sometimes cause the screen to slowly shift out of its original position.
Measuring 12.03 x 8.58 x 0.54-inches and weighing 2.8 pounds, the Spectre x360 is actually thinner than even the nonconvertible Dell XPS 13 (11.98 x 7.88 x 0.33-0.6 inches and 2.7 pounds), which is our current favorite overall laptop.
I can’t wait for when we can finally ditch the boxy, USB ports of old for the slim, multipurpose USB Type-C ports of the future. But until that happens, we’re going to need both varieties in order to avoid carrying annoying dongles around. Thankfully, the HP Spectre x360 obliges, with one USB 3.1 Type- A port and two USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3 and power delivery. That means if you have the right dock or monitor, you can use a single cord to carry video and data and recharge the system, instead relying on the bird’s nest of wires you’d need on older systems.
The one feature I kind of wish HP hadn’t removed from previous versions is some sort of SD or microSD card slot. For me, the Spectre x360 would be an almost perfect mobile photo-editing and presentation platform. However, in order to transfer photos from my camera to the laptop, I’d need to carry an external card reader or USB cable.
Featuring a new, glossy, 13.3-inch, full-HD display with superthin side bezels, the Spectre’s screen is a great complement to the 2-in-1’s gorgeous design. It’s bright and colorful, and when I watched the latest trailer for Rogue One, the Spectre x360 dazzled as crimson and verdant blaster bolts flew across the display.
On our tests, the HP Spectre x360’s screen put out 317 nits of brightness, which is more than both the Samsung Notebook 9 spin (283 nits) and Lenovo Yoga 900 (284 nits), and about the same as the more-recent Yoga 900S (320 nits).
The Spectre’s color range was also quite good, as the panel covered 101.7 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That beat out numbers from both the Yoga 900 and 900S, although the showing didn’t quite match the spin 9’s richer 135 percent.
Finally, with a Delta-E of 0.74, the HP Spectre x360 demonstrated superb color accuracy (lower numbers are better). Both the spin 9 and Yoga 900’s accuracy scores were worse, at 3.43 and 2.8. However, the Yoga 900S was actually a touch more precise, with a rating of 0.64.
In addition to a revamped design, the HP Spectre x360 also features a new Intel 7th-Gen Kaby Lake CPU. You can choose either a Core i5 processor or a Core i7 chip like the one in our 2.7-GHz Core i7-7500u, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD-equipped review unit.
With this kind of setup, the HP Spectre x360 absolutely flies. Multitasking was a breeze, even with 20 or more browser tabs open. The convertible notched a Geekbench 3 score of 7,933, which means that overall performance increased by 16 percent over last year’s model. That also means the Spectre x360 tops almost all of its competitors.
The Spectre’s PCIe SSD is also blazing fast. When asked to copy a DVD’s worth of mixed-media files, the SSD posted a transfer speed of 318 megabytes per second. That’s faster than pretty much all of the device’s competitors, including the spin 9 (173 MBps) and Yoga 900 (181 MBps). It’s also on a par with more expensive hybrids such as Microsoft’s Surface Book (318 MBps).
For people who crunch a lot of numbers, the Spectre x360’s time on our spreadsheet test is pretty impressive. When we used OpenOffice to sort 20,000 names and addresses, the Spectre x360 (3:33) finished 30 seconds faster than its closest rival, the Samsung spin 9 (4:05).
Even the Spectre x360’s graphics performance has seen a sizeable increase. Its score of 920 on 3DMark’s Firestrike benchmark is 14 percent higher than the showing by last year’s model. This gives the Spectre enough horsepower to reach a quite playable 40 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 and Medium settings in Dirt 3 Complete Edition. Still, with an Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics card instead of discrete GPU, the Spectre isn’t really meant for full-time gaming.
With a clever quad-speaker setup by Bang & Olufsen, the Spectre x360 is built to deliver an optimal listening experience in any mode. Two speakers are hidden beneath the grille between the keyboard and the hinge, while the other two are located on either side of the system’s bottom. This gives you fuller, more immersive audio, with pretty potent volume that easily fills up a room. And, unlike with a lot of other laptops, I didn’t hear any hissing or distortion at max volume.
When I listened to Breakbot’s “My Toy,” the HP Spectre x360 nailed Yasmin’s bubbly vocals, and while I could have used a little more punch to bring out the French DJ’s funky bass, the quad speakers definitely did their job.
Keyboard and touchpad
HP says it has put a lot of effort into finely tuning not just the amount of force needed to press a key, but also the level of pressure you get through the entire stroke. That effort paid off, because even with the keyboard’s 60-gram actuation weight and a 1.3mm keystroke that would feel short and abrupt on another system, typing on the Spectre feels near perfect. This kind of attention to detail leaves you with a fantastic, clicky key-press that mimics the same feel that people love in mechanical keyboards. Adding an extra row for the Delete, Home, Page Up, Page Down and End on the right is a nice touch too.
The Spectre’s 4.7 x 2.3-inch touchpad is also a thing a beauty. Its superwide shape gives you a ton of room to mouse around. Even without discrete left or right mouse buttons, the system never confused different types of clicks.
By cramming in a larger, 57.8-watt-hour battery, HP has greatly increased the Spectre x360’s endurance. The battery life has gone from 8 hours and 36 minutes on our web-surfing battery test all the way to 10 hours and 6 minutes. That’s more than a 15 percent increase; enough to put the Spectre above other premium 2-in-1s.
In fact, the Spectre x360’s time is even longer than that of the most recent MacBook, which lasted 9:36, and that notebook doesn’t have a touch screen. One of the few systems that did perform better was the 2016 Dell XPS 13, which while not a 2-in-1, lasted an impressive 13:49.
The HP Spectre x360’s side bezels have shrunk down to almost nothing. However, HP smartly left a bit of room above the display for two cameras. There is a 1920 x 1080 camera for videos and a slick IR cam for unlocking the system via Windows hello. Also included are a pair of mics for stereo voice recording.
This positioning prevents that awkward under-chin/neck view that you get on systems like the XPS 13 that have their webcams below the screen, and the dual mics and full-HD camera work together flawlessly to provide a premium video-chatting experience. Audio was crystal-clear, and while I could do with a little less grain, pictures and videos looked pretty sharp, too.
One of the small drawbacks of the Spectre’s superthin chassis is its heat management. After streaming HD video for 15 minutes, the air vent on the left side of the system reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit. While that’s higher than our standard 95-degree comfort threshold, the keyboard and touchpad stayed relatively cool to the touch, at 84.5 and 90.5 degrees, respectively. The bottom was a little hotter, at around 98 degrees, but not worryingly so.
Configurations and Availability
Sales of the HP Spectre x360 will be split across Best Buy and HP itself. The baseline $1,050 model includes includes a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD and will be available directly from HP. A couple more-premium models, such the $1,160 Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD version and our $1,300 review unit (i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD), will be available exclusively from Best Buy.
If you want to customize your specs even further with parts like a 1TB SSD, you’ll need to visit HP.com.
With its top-tier performance, exquisite design, 10-hour battery life and convertible versatility, the Spectre x360 isn’t just the best 2-in-1 currently available; it might the best laptop HP has ever made. Yes, the hinge could be stiffer, and I wish HP hadn’t ditched the SD card slot, but overall, the x360 is the convertible laptop to beat.