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HP Spectre x360 13 (2016) review

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

Benchmarks

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

3DMark: Cloud Gate: 6,254; Sky Diver: 3,993; Fire Strike: 875
Cinebench CPU: 349 points; Graphics: 46.19 fps
GeekBench: 3,699 (single-core); 7,955 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,016 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 48 minutes
Battery Life (techradar movie test): 8 hours and 45 minutes

Performance  

Don’t mistake the Spectre x360's ultra-slim form factor for lightweight performance. This is a speedy machine for everything from starting programs, to loading up a dozen websites simultaneously to headier tasks like video editing.

What’s even more impressive is what a cool customer this laptop is under load. Even with pressure from a ton of demanding applications, the fan inside hardly spins at an audible level. And then there’s the long battery life you’ll be able to pull out of this machine.

From top to bottom, Kaby Lake is proving to be a worthy successor to Skylake. Compared to some of the most recent 6th generation systems like the Acer Aspire S 13, there’s a noticeable improvement in every benchmark. Some of the biggest boosts are seen in multi-core processing and low to mid-level graphics.

This should translate into faster performance for intensive everyday tasks, watching high-resolution video or editing your own large media files.  

4K benchmarks

Here’s how the HP Spectre x360 (4K) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 3,902; Fire Strike: 961; Time Spy: 372
Cinebench CPU: 334 points; Graphics: 42 fps
GeekBench: 3,668 (single-core); 7,764 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,526 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 32 minutes
Battery Life (techradar movie test): 5 hours and 50 minutes

4K Performance

Pushing quadruple the amount of resolution definitely has a negative impact on the Spectre x360’s performance. Although it might seem like the Ultra HD version of HP’s 2-in-1 might look like it has the same graphical prowess as its Full HD brethren, 3DMark runs most of its tests at 1080p, so both machines are on a level playing field with the same processors.

Processing power is more or less the same between the two, as the Geekbench and Cinebench numbers are close. Given this information, PCMark reveals a more revealing tale of how the 4K screen is more taxing on the graphics end of Intel’s system-on-a-chip (SoC).

In for the long haul

Battery life is the biggest standout performance of this laptop and it’s largely thanks to a massive 57.8-watt hour (WHr) battery. It even looks physically impressive as HP gave us a look at the Spectre x360’s interior and the battery takes up more than half the internal cavity.

According to HP's claims, the updated hybrid should last for up to 15 hours – 25% longer than older models with only a 52WHr battery.

In our own testing, we haven’t quite seen these numbers, but the results are impressive nonetheless. With our standardized movie-based battery benchmark test, the Spectre x360 was able to play Guardians of the Galaxy over and over again for 8 hours and 45 minutes straight. Meanwhile, PCMark8 proved to be a greater challenge that fell the 13-inch hybrid after 4 hours and 48 minutes. 

Overall, it performs remarkably better than most Skylake laptops. Seven to 10 hours of battery life will easily see you through even the toughest days at work. The best thing of all is you can recharge the laptop from zero to 90% in just 90 minutes thanks to USB-C quick charging.

With the 4K version of the Spectre x360, you’ll see a noticeable (and inevitable) drop in battery life. What was once nearly 9 hours of local movie playback on the Full HD version, drops to just shy of six hours once a Ultra HD screen is thrown into the mix. Likewise, the high-res version of this hybrid barely ran for 3 hours and 30 minutes through the grueling PCMark 8 battery test.

If you’re looking for a machine with longevity, definitely go for the standard display resolution option on the Spectre x360. 

Final verdict

Unlike most new Kaby Lake laptops, the updated HP Spectre x360 is far more than simple processor refresh. HP has gone back to the drawing board to redesign and reengineer every piece of its flagship 2-in-1 laptop to make it slimmer, lighter and much longer lasting.

The new design and even the dimensions of the device clearly take after the HP’s premium Spectre Ultrabook. It has inherited many of the qualities we loved about the ultra-thin notebook including a more premium feel and the tactile keyboard. That said, we’re not fans of USB-C becoming the primary port on this laptop and the loss of the SD card reader doesn't go unnoticed.

Overall, we’re big fans of the new styling. Whereas the old model always was a little too wide and heavy, the new HP Spectre x360 looks much more modern while being easier to use as tablet, too. It’s also one of the longest-lasting laptops that HP or any manufacturer has released with plenty of pick-up-and-go thanks to the Kaby Lake Intel Core i7 processor – so long as you skip out on the 4K screen upgrade.

However, as a result of all these changes, the HP Spectre x360 comes at a higher starting price. If you’re looking for an affordable way of getting into Ultrabooks and hybrid laptops, this isn’t it. However, if you’re in the market for something with higher-end specs like more storage and a faster processor, then this option comes at a great value.