HP Spectre x360 (2016) review

HP’s flagship 2-in-1 laptop goes ultra-thin with style

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Our Verdict

The HP Spectre x360 is practically an all-new laptop, and better in every way. It has a slimmer, more premium design, it's faster and it's one of the longest-lasting machines we’ve ever tested.

For

  • Ultra-thin and light styling
  • Snappy keyboard
  • Long-lasting and quick-charging battery

Against

  • Lacks SD card reader
  • Especially thick bottom bezel

The original HP Spectre x360 was arguably the one of the most handsome 2-in-1 laptops ever created, and now the company has released a dramatically improved next-generation model.

The new 13-inch 2-in-1 laptop brings a ton of improvements, including a new chassis that’s 13% thinner and 11% lighter, a quarter more battery life and an Intel Kaby Lake processor.

Numbers aside, the new HP Spectre x360 is practically an all-new laptop, with a re-engineered display and a few features we can’t live without now.

But while it’s a hands-down improvement over the older model in almost every regard, a few sacrifices have been made in the process, including a higher starting price.

Design

We always felt like using the original Spectre x360 was more like handling a pizza paddle than a tablet, due to it being overly wide and heavy. Thankfully, HP has dramatically trimmed the new model’s chassis.

Measuring 13.8mm thin, it’s significantly thinner than the outgoing 0.63-inch thick model. The new design also trims the convertible’s annoyingly wide 12.79-inch body to a more sensible 12.03 inches. 

Both of these changes stem from the new micro edge display HP has implemented – more on that shortly.

That’s more than a half-inch reduction, and stacking it with the new hybrid’s 1.3kg weight makes the device much more comfortable to use in tablet mode. Another effect of the narrower body is that it gives the laptop a boxier shape, similar to the 3:2-aspect ratio Surface Book and Google Chromebook Pixel – however, this device still features a 16:9 screen.

Aside from the apparent shape change, HP has also re-engineered almost every aspect of the laptop. The geared hinges have been reshaped into a shorter – and wider – mechanism to coincide with the thinner design. Likewise, HP has reduced the keyboard travel from 1.5mm to 1.3mm, but we actually prefer this change thanks to a stiffer force curve on the keys.

Unfortunately, there have also been a few less favorable sacrifices made in the name of thinness. The SD card reader has kicked the can, as has the HDMI video-out, in exchange for two USB-C ports.

The good news is that those ports support Thunderbolt 3 for charging, dual 4K monitor support and 40Gbps data transfers. Plus, you still get one full-sized USB 3.1 port for legacy mice, thumb drives and other peripherals.

The glass-coated precision trackpad remains relatively unchanged, and that’s no bad thing. It’s still as responsive ever, but again we wished HP had gone with a narrower option that wasn’t so easy to trigger while typing.

Oh, and HP has applied its new sleek logo as well – if you really care about that sort of thing.

Popping off

Aside from the aesthetic changes, the updated Spectre x360 makes a huge splash with new micro edge display that reduces the bezels on the sides of the screen to a much squatter 0.54mm. Compared to the thick bars on the older model, HP has made a huge improvement, even if the Dell XPS 13 still comes out on top with 5.2mm bezels.

Unfortunately, the top and bottom bezels haven’t seen the same dramatic reduction, but at least HP is using the space above the screen to good use with a new TrueVision FHD webcam. Not only does the IR camera enable you to log in with your face through Windows Hello, it also provides you with a 12% wider field of view.

In addition to stretching from edge-to-edge (on the sides at least), the micro edge display is also features an optically bonded design, so the pixels look like they’re sitting right on top of the touch panel.

This also makes the screen a bit brighter, so you won’t have to constantly bump up the screen brightness to max – which we did often with the predecessor – and can save a bit of battery life to boot.

Although HP has limited display resolution to only 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD, we can live without 4K or QHD+ options on a 13-incher, especially when we're impressed with the overall image quality as is.

Colors pop off the screen, and they’re accurate thanks to it being able to reproduce 70% of the color gamut. Viewing angles are also generous, even at extreme angles, allowing us to read parts of the screen even when just trying to admire the extreme thinness of the new display panel.

HP has also redesigned the audio on its flagship hybrid with quad-speaker system. Just above the keyboard you’ll find a new speaker grille, under which are two top-firing tweeters that go with another pair of bottom-facing speakers located on the laptop’s underside.

The idea behind the quad-speaker setup is that you’ll have always sound projected towards you, whether you’re using the device as a tablet or laptop. Secondly, it’s the first of HP’s quad-speaker equipped machines to have all four firing off at the same time.

Thanks to a new audio boost feature, the speakers work together to produce a louder and fuller sound profile. Highs come out clearly and bass is more present, but even with all these improvements a good pair of headphones still deliver a superior listening experience.