HP Spectre x360 15 review

Watch out, Apple, the MacBook Pro has a new challenger

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Considering it has a full-on touchscreen and convertibility to boot, the HP Spectre x360 15 is, frankly, a better deal than the $2,399 (£2,349, AU$3,599) 15-inch MacBook Pro, which lacks those facets altogether. 

For almost a grand less, you’re still getting an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and discrete graphics with 2GB of VRAM. However, you’re also getting access to a full array of ports, both new and old. While the MacBook Pro is limited to but four USB-C ports, the HP Spectre x360 15 bolsters two of those and then a helping of HDMI, a “normal” USB port and even an SD card slot for good measure.

Compare the HP Spectre x360 15 to the more reasonably-priced Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, and you’re also quadrupling the resolution on top of getting access to a greater pool of SSD storage than even the highest possible configuration Samsung offers. Granted, you can buy the Notebook 7 Spin for a lot less than HP’s ambitious competitor, but the Spectre x360 15 offers advantages that make it well worth the premium.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the HP Spectre x360 15 performed in our suite of benchmark tests

3DMark Time Spy: 548; Sky Diver: 6,648; Fire Strike: 1,925
Cinebench CPU: 346 points; Graphics: 63 fps
GeekBench 3: 3,771 (single-core); 8,017 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,550 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 47 minutes
Battery Life (techradar movie test): 5 hours and 31 minutes

Performance

The HP Spectre x360 15 may pack an Intel Core i7 processor and 2GB of discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics, but it’s by no means a laptop meant for gaming. Clearly, the added power is geared more towards creative types looking to take advantage of GPU-intensive tasks, such as photo editing and video rendering. For that purpose, this laptop soars.

As expected, even though the HP Spectre x360 15 fared well in the mid-range Sky Diver and Fire Strike tests, it struggled with the newly-added Time Spy stressor. Even so, it managed to double that of the recently reviewed Acer Spin 7, and then some. 

As for Sky Diver, we saw a 6,648-point score as opposed to the 3,452-point score experienced by the HP Spectre x360 15 of yesteryear. In the Fire Strike test, the laptop garnered a 1,925 compared to its predecessor’s 848.

These are substantial gains over what we saw before, and while we didn’t put the 13-inch HP Spectre x360 through the Time Spy challenge, you can compare its Sky Diver results of 3,993 and its Fire Strike outcome of 875 to that of the HP’s.

Not only did the laptop manage to beat out last year’s Skylake rendition as expected, but it also seriously contested the latest Kaby Lake-equipped HP Spectre x360 as well.

Although that’s only taking into consideration GPU performance, the CPU featured in the HP Spectre x360 15 managed about the same performance as the 13-inch model, which makes total sense considering they use the same processor. 

One thing we did notice was that the laptop doesn’t get incredibly loud under pressure. Rather, it’s stealthy enough to stay quiet even with a bunch of programs running at the same time, an ideal facet for use in public settings.

Battery life

Keep in mind that the Core i7-7500U featured in the HP Spectre x360 15 is a mobile chip designed for Ultrabooks. It’s clearly not going to blow you away in terms of performance. Instead, battery life is where you would expect the HP Spectre x360 15 to shine. 

Unfortunately, the reality does not bode well with our assumptions. Compared to the 13.3-inch HP Spectre x360, the PCMark 8 battery test undergone by the HP Spectre x360 15 resulted in a battery life more than an hour shorter. 

Our own TechRadar movie test, which consists of putting Guardians of the Galaxy at 1080p on repeat until the battery drains completely, came up a full three hours shorter than the 13-inch variant. It’s not the end of the world per sé, but battery life is definitely the laptop’s one weak spot we can think of.

Coming from a 79.2Whr battery, this was a surprising twist of fate for the HP Spectre x360 15. We’re also not sure how to feel about the charger itself. On one hand, it supports HP Fast Charge, which promises a 50% charge in 30 minutes, but on the other hand, it’s bulky and inconvenient to lug around along with an already whopping 15-inch laptop.

Nonetheless, much of the battery life shortcomings could be due to the addition of a dedicated graphics chip pushing nearly four times as many pixels as Full HD laptops, like the 13-inch Spectre x360, neither of which were present in the smaller Spectre x360 model.

We liked

The HP Spectre x360 15 is a shining example of how a 15-inch laptop should be. It glistens with potential, with gold embellishments everywhere and a comfy backlit keyboard to boot. 

Unlike a lot of laptops with the trademark Bang & Olufsen label attached, the speakers on the HP Spectre x360 are loud and clear whether you’re listening to low-fi hip-hop or watching Guardians of the Galaxy on loop for 5 hours and 31 minutes.

There’s also the Ultra HD display, which is about as glorious as it sounds. Bright, vivid and full of color, the screen on the HP Spectre x360 15 is a sight to behold. It also takes advantage of Windows Ink, which is a nice additive, especially since a stylus pen is included.

We disliked

There isn’t much to dislike about the HP Spectre x360 15 aside, of course, from the disappointing battery life. Three to five and a half hours or so isn’t impressive for a laptop with a 79.2Whr battery and an Ultrabook processor, but that’s the price you have to pay for that green GeForce stamp of approval and a super-sharp screen.

Also, because the trackpad is extra wide, it sometimes gets in the way while typing because it’s parked so closely to where your hands will likely be. This is a more nitpicky criticism, as there isn’t a whole lot of smack to talk about the HP Spectre x360 15.

Final verdict

For $1,499 (£1,449, AU$2,199), you could get a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and just two USB-C ports with a headphone jack. 

For the same price, you could get an HP Spectre x360 15, fully furnished with a touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge, an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU and a 15-inch UHD screen. That’s all before you even get to the set of legacy ports onboard in addition to the future-proof Thunderbolt 3 interface.

For the price, the HP Spectre x360 15 boasts premium specs as well as a lavish design and extensive functionality that’s tough to beat. While  it could use some work when it comes to battery longevity and trackpad placement, this laptop is a fine choice for media creators and consumers alike.