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HP Spectre x360 (2015) review

A sublimely thin 2-in-1 laptop that's almost perfect

HP Spectre x360 review

Like the little engine that could, the HP Spectre x360 never failed to overcome any challenge I threw it's way. The convertible laptop deftly took on any task, whether it was simple web browsing to playing a virtual hand of Hearthstone with the quality settings at their highest. As if that weren't impressive enough, you can squeeze a surprising amount of battery life of this petite 13-inch convertible laptop.

Here's how the HP Spectre x360 fared in our benchmark tests.

Benchmarks

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,722; Sky Diver: 2,297; Fire Strike: 621
  • Cinebench CPU: 257 points; Graphics: 30 fps
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,424 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 38 minutes

From these benchmarks, we can see how an Intel Core i5 Broadwell processor puts the HP Spectre x360 a step ahead of its competitors. It's all really not too surprising, considering the Transformer Book T300 Chi's Intel Core M processor was tuned for power savings rather than bare knuckled performance.

HP Spectre x360 review

This is especially evident when you look at the HP's 2,424 points PCMark 8 score, which hovers a bit over the T300 Chi's 2,273 point performance. The Surface Pro 3, meanwhile, lags behind by a wider margin with a PCMark 8 score of 2,190 points, thanks to its two-year-old Haswell chip.

The HP hybrid also shows more gusto when it comes to gaming thanks to headier Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics chip. With the higher-end GPU onboard, the Spectre x360 was able to complete the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark test with 621 points. By comparison, the Asus T300 Chi scored 516 points, and the Surface Pro 3 only accrued 347 points.

HP Spectre x360 review

HP's 2-in-1 laptop doesn't hold a massive lead, but you'll have a better time running Hearthstone at max settings, thanks to the beefier GPU. Just don't expect to it to play much more than low impact indie games, like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge.

Convenient features

You don't know how convenient a 2-in-1's transforming ability is it until you actually need it. On a bus trip to Philadelphia, I whipped out the Spectre x360 for a bit for work. However, I quickly realized the extremely tight cabin space prevented me from opening up the laptop fully.

Luckily I was able to bend the laptop back to have it stand on top of its keyboard, while I pecked at the screen oriented at an angle to write a portion of this review. On the same trip I, converted the laptop into tablet to play a match of Hearthstone and then to read some web articles while holding the device in a vertical orientation.

HP Spectre x360 review

Cases like these prove what a flexible machine the Spectre x360 is. That said, holding up a 3.26-pound tablet can get very tiring. And as a tablet, the device pretty much cuts into your hand with its sharp edges. Hopefully, with the next iteration of this machine, HP will add more rounded edges and figure a way to lighten the load for a better tablet experience.

Gorgeous screen

Hands down, the HP Spectre x360 has one of the best screens of any laptop I've reviewed. The convertible hybrid's display offers some of the best viewing angles I've ever seen – that's backed up by wide color gamut and a very bright panel. Though this HP 2-in-1 comes with a glossy, glass fronted display, I had almost no problems using it outside, even on a sunny day. It comes as a complete rarity and makes this laptop truly a machine you can use in any scenario.

The laptop's downward firing speakers are equally impressive. Even with the laptop resting on top of my legs, music played through the covered speakers with full clarity. They definitely don't offer the same tonal range as a good pair of headphones, but the built-in tweeters do a fine job.

HP Spectre x360 review

I especially enjoyed watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones on this machine. Thanks to the excellent display, I could discern all the dark details inside the House of Black and White, while the speakers clearly projected everything from gravely dialogue to the sharp clash of swords.

Battery to last

With a lean machine like the Spectre x360, I usually expect to get a middling four to five hours of lasting power. And so, it came as a delightful surprise to see HP's hybrid get me through 5 hours and 53 minutes of regular use. Just under 6 hours of battery life might not sound too impressive, but this was all done with running the convertible machine through a gauntlet of tasks including streaming the last episode of Game of Thrones, a handful of Hearthstone games and editing photos in Photoshop.

With a typical day of word processing and web browsing, I was able to eke out another 30 minutes of juice before the Spectre x360 ran dry. This laptop also ran for 4 hours and 38 minutes on the strenuous PCMark8 battery test.

HP Spectre x360 review

The Surface Pro 3, on the other hand, ran for only 3 hours and 55 minutes, a shorter screen-on time that could be attributed to its higher-resolution 2,160 x 1,440 display. It's also fair to say the extra power draw of the high-res screen, coupled with almost no room for a massive battery, led Asus' own hybrid to an unimpressive 4 hours and 42 minutes of battery life.

Bundled software

Unlike Asus, Lenovo or even MSI, HP is one of the better companies that don't preload their laptops with a heap of unwanted applications. There are a few bits of bundled software you'll want to get rid of almost immediately, like Dragon naturally speaking. But, for the most part, you should find most of the apps listed below useful in some way:

HP Support Assistant – An essential always-on system tray application, which keeps an eye out for software updates such as new BIOS installs and Intel HD Graphics patches.

HP Connected Drive – HP in-house cloud network, which lets users save an unlimited number of files as long as they're under 100MB large.

HP Connected Music – A cloud based photo sharing service powered by Snapfish, beyond editing photos this app is also tuned to help users print their photos on to cards and other mediums.

HP Recovery Manager/Media Creation – Back up your laptop and restore it with these preloaded apps.

McAfee LiveSafe – Although this anti-virus and firewall software comes with a free 30-day trial offer, you may want to uninstall it the first chance you can for a less obtrusive solution, like Windows Defender.