HP Spectre x360 review

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

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Our Verdict

The 2016 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

We’re not going to lie, when the first HP Spectre x360 debuted, we were awestruck. At the time, it seemed preposterous that a hybrid notebook would look this good, and yet it was a roaring triumph. 

Two years later, the HP Spectre x360 hasn’t ceased to impress. That includes the 2017 model, wherein we see a 13% thinner and 11% lighter design complemented by a battery that lasts 25% longer on a single charge. It’s rare to see, but the introduction of Kaby Lake to the HP Spectre x360 feels more like a fine print detail given the other improvements.

With Black Friday right around the corner, we know you’re looking for a new laptop with all the latest features to get you through the next few years. And we’re here to tell you the HP Spectre x360 is well worth your consideration. 

Between the amped up display and the endless number of overtime hours you can spend working on it without it dying on you, the HP Spectre x360 is a worthy contender to some of the best laptops on the market, even if it didn’t quite make the rankings itself.

However, it’s not a faultless overhaul. The HP Spectre x360 may look like an all-around upgrade you can’t resist, but there have been a few cut corners to keep the price within reason. Unfortunately, not even those compromises could prevent the higher starting price enacted.

Spec Sheet

CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U (dual core, 4MB cache, 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 16 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS UWVA WLED-backlit multi-touch display
Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 Solid State Drive
Ports: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C (Thunderbolt Gen 3), 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1, headset jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac 2x2 WLAN and Bluetooth
Camera: 1080p HP TrueVision FHD IR Webcam
Weight: 2.85 pounds
Size: 12.03 x 8.58 x 0.54 inches (W x D x H)

Pricing and availability

Starting at $1,049 (£1,199, AU$2,299), the new Spectre x360 comes at a higher premium than previous generations, even if this US-only SKU does includes an Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. That said, it’s pretty inexpensive to upgrade this machine. Our own Core i7-7500U, 512GB and 16GB of RAM configuration costs $1,299 (£1,499, AU$2,899).

 To get the same configuration on the Kaby Lake refreshed Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo Yoga 910 expect to page significantly more with the two priced at $1,899 (£1,549, AU$2,999) and $1,349 (£1,749, AU$2,799), respectively. Of course, the 4K display panels on these two Ultrabooks also plays a part in the higher price tags.

HP also offers the Spectre x360 with a 4K screen and bundled pen for $1,499. In the UK and Australia, the Ultra HD-flavored hybrid is only available with 1TB of storage at a higher £1,899 premium, meanwhile this model is not yet available in Australia.

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.

Last but not least, HP brought back its copper trim paint job to the 4K Spectre x360. Aside from giving the 13-inch hybrid a darker look, the dark brown on copper color scheme differentiates it from every other black or silver notebook in the world.

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.

HP originally rolled out the Spectre x360 with a display resolution limited to only 1,920 x 1,080, or Full HD. However, in February HP added a few 4K variants that definitely add an extra splash of sharpness for watching locally stored and streamed Ultra HD movies and TV.

Personally, though, we would skip the 4K upgrade, especially since we were already impressed with the overall image quality of the original Spectre x360. 

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.