HP’s latest Spectre x360 is top of the class – but one thing holds it back from greatness
- Well-priced with many configurations to choose from
- Unmatched performance in its class
- Pixel-perfect 4K display
- Short battery life
HP, still riding the wave of its successful resurgence, is unstoppable. With the help of its brand new consumer identity and laptops such as the achingly slender Spectre 13, the company’s high-end consumer devices now rank among the more desirable laptops you can buy, and it’s keeping up that hard work with the brand new HP Spectre x360, a 2-in-1 laptop that hits all the right notes.
From its trendy-looking HP logo on the lid to the Bang & Olufsen speakers above the keyboard and its sumptuous touch-enabled 4K display, this is a laptop that’s dressed to impress and, now that its innards have been updated, it stands among the very best when it comes to core components as well.
HP Spectre x360 review: What you need to know
As 2-in-1 ultraportable laptops go, HP’s Spectre x360 sits at the tippy top of greatness. There’s little standing in its way; it’s well-equipped with Intel’s newest eighth-generation Kaby Lake R processors, with a choice of up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. There’s also the option of a dedicated GPU for gaming on the go.
By very definition this is a jack-of-all-trades laptop, setting the gold standard – almost literally – for 2-in-1 design, without any performance compromises. Not forgetting that its touch-enabled 4K display is well-equipped for watching UHD-resolution movies on the go as well.
HP Spectre x360 review: Price and competition
HP’s Spectre x360 comes in both 13.3in and 15.6in variants, and neither are particularly cheap. With a total of eight models in the product line, the low-end configuration – with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage – costs £1,200.
The model I’m reviewing is the 13-ae003na, a 13.3in 2-in-1 laptop with a 4K display, Intel’s Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for £1,700. There’s no dedicated AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics chip in this particular model.
As for 2-in-1 competition with a similar combination of configurations, there’s Dell’s newly-launched XPS 13 2-in-1 (£1,800) and Microsoft’s 13-inch Surface Book 2 – which has full fat dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics – costs £1,830.
HP Spectre x360 review: Performance and battery life
The HP Spectre x360’s internals are impressive. This particular configuration runs a quad-core Kaby Lake R Intel Core i7-8550U clocked at 1.8GHz, has 16GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD for super-fast data transfers and boot-up times.
Unsurprisingly, the Spectre x360 whizzes through everyday tasks. In the Expert Reviews benchmarks – which tests image and video editing speeds and how well the laptop copes with multitasking – it scored 56, which is a marginal improvement over last year’s model but is a massive 80% faster than Dell’s Core Y-equipped XPS 13 2-in-1.
Storage-wise, the 256GB and 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD configurations come with 8GB of RAM, but if you upgrade to a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD you’ll have 16GB to play around with. These Samsung PCIe SSDs are blisteringly fast, reaching 2,316MB/sec sequential read and 1,095MB/sec sequential write speeds according to the AS SSD benchmark.
Despite the lack of a dedicated graphics chip, this Spectre x360 is a well-equipped machine for light gaming on the go. At 1,920 x 1,080 – the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 chip isn’t capable of producing playable framerates at native 4K resolution – the Spectre reached an average of 28 fps when playing Dirt Showdown on the “Ultra Low” detail preset. Knock the resolution down to 720p and the framerate jumps to 72 fps under the same conditions.
Alas, the x360’s battery life holds this laptop back from achieving top marks. Painting a familiar picture with the super-slim Spectre 13, HP’s latest hybrid survived for only 4hrs and 51mins in our battery life benchmark. As a point of comparison, the XPS 13 2-in-1 lasted three hours longer in the same test.
HP Spectre x360 review: Design
The HP Spectre x360 is the very definition of a top-tier ultraportable. It’s a 2-in-1 convertible laptop, which means the screen folds over rather than detaches like the Surface Book, and it’s very lovely to look at. Copper accents glint out from the x360’s “Dark Ash Silver” body, which is built entirely from aluminium. Weighing 1.29Kg, it’s not the lightest of hybrids – thanks to the weighty touch-enabled 4K display – but only measures 306 x 218 x 13.6mm.
On the right side of the laptop you’ll find two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, both of which can be used to transfer data and connect to an external monitor. On the left side sits a solitary HDMI port with a multi-format SD card reader, regular USB Type-A 3.1 port, a headphone/mic combo jack and the illuminated power button.
As for audio, that’s delivered by the upward-firing Bang & Olufsen-branded speaker situated above the keyboard, which can be fine-tuned to your liking through the Bang & Olufsen Audio Control desktop app. Sound quality is decent and when used as a tablet, the speakers resonate effectively under the screen.
HP Spectre x360 review: Display
The Spectre x360’s screen is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) IPS unit with multitouch input and stylus support, with HP providing a low-profile bezel on either side of the display, although the bottom bezel is rather chunky.
The panel itself has improved greatly over last year’s model. Colour rendition is good, with 97% sRGB gamut coverage and the screen is much more colour accurate, with an average Delta E of 2.14 (lower is better). It’s also super bright, and you won’t have any trouble squinting at the screen outdoors, with maximum brightness reaching 327cd/m2.
HP Spectre x360 review: Keyboard, touchpad and stylus
The x360’s glass-topped touchpad is larger than most, providing a generous amount of space for your finger flourishes. It’s responsive and capable of performing Windows’ long list of multi-touch gestures without any hiccups. The HP’s backlit keyboard is equally a pleasure to use, too. Each key press feels weighty, with plenty of clicky, positive feedback.
It’s always nice of HP to bundle a stylus in the box at no added cost, especially when Microsoft wants an extra fifty quid for one when you buy the Surface Pro or Surface Book 2. This one works flawlessly and the laptop’s palm rejection works effectively, too: disabling capacitive touch input as soon as the tip of the stylus gets around 1cm close to the screen. It has 102 pressure levels, a quoted battery life of 18 months (with 2-3 hours of use a day), but is not angle sensitive.
HP Spectre x360 review: Verdict
HP’s Spectre x360 cements the hybrid benchmark once more. Its design, despite being almost two-years-old at this point, is still as breathtaking and performance is unbeatable, too. Throw in a bundled stylus and a pixel-perfect 4K display, and this 2-in-1 is essentially unstoppable.
The Spectre’s short battery life does undermine its ultraportable credentials, however, and in that respect Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 is the laptop you’ll want if you’re after something that’s longer-lasting. But, despite these battery niggles, the Spectre x360 is still a well-priced do-it-all laptop that’s currently unmatched in every other area.