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HP Spectre x360 (2020) review

HP’s flagship 2-in-1 gets a 2020 refresh

HP Spectre x360 (2020)
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

HP Spectre x360 is an updated convertible laptop that's certainly no ghostly apparition; it’s real, and a powered-up CPU makes it even more awesome than before. This could very well be the best laptop HP has ever made.

For

  • Stylish and high-quality finish
  • Great all-around performance
  • Built-in security features are useful

Against

  • New components means battery life takes a hit
  • Can run hot at times

Two-minute review

Although the HP Spectre x360 15 is already an impressive device, that hasn’t stopped HP to bring in key updates for 2020. As a result, the HP Spectre x360 15 for 2020 not only exemplifies the best qualities of both laptops and tablets thanks to the line’s cutting-edge design and features, but also packs a few new bonuses over older models.

That starts unsurprisingly with a brand-new processor, Intel’s Core i7-1065G7, which is an absolute powerhouse thanks to its quad-core design that’s capable of handling the more demanding end of the notebook work spectrum. There’s also the flashy new Iris Plus integrated graphics that allows this super-slim convertible to hold its own against bulkier laptops with discrete graphics cards. 

Rounding it all out is the RAM, which is now doubled, a 1TB hard drive with Intel Optane technology, and the stunning 4K touch display that was only available on the top-of-the-range HP Spectre x360 (2019) model.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

What you’ve got here is a gorgeous and powerful laptop that’s impressive in its performance and still a dream to use. The HP Spectre x360 15 isn’t your everyday office grinder; it’s something sexier, something new.

Of course, all that glitz comes with a price tag to match. Our model clocks in at $1,749.99 (around £1,350, AU$2,600), which is no small sum to pay for a laptop, but we’ll get more into that later. The HP Spectre x360 does cost more than many 2-in-1s available on the market right now, although you’ll struggle to find one with the same raw quality of design and performance.

Packing that powerful hardware into such a slender chassis does have its drawbacks, of course. The HP Spectre x360 runs pretty hot, particularly if you’re using it for demanding tasks such as 3D rendering or 4K video editing.

This is no gaming machine either; the lack of a proper graphics card means that the latest big games will be beyond your reach. However, the Iris Plus graphics can handle more than you might expect at lower resolutions - perfect for puzzle games, or low-poly indie titles.

The drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits, though - not even close. And these problems really aren’t unique to the HP Spectre x360 (2020), either; there’s no laptop lighter than the HP Spectre x360 (2020) that can play games better, or manage heat more efficiently. It’s an undeniably top-notch product, and for that we award it five stars.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)
Spec sheet

Here is the HP Spectre x360 (2020) configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7 (quad-core, 8MB Intel Smart Cache, up to 3.9GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus (integrated)
RAM: 16GB LPDDR4 (3200MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) AMOLED
Storage: 512GB SSD (PCIe, NVMe, M.2)
Ports: 1x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, microSD card reader, combi audio jack
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX 201 (2x2), Bluetooth 5
Camera: HP TrueVision HD 1080p IR Webcam
Weight: 2.87 pounds (1.3 kg)
Size: 12.04 x 7.66 x 0.67 inches (30.6 x 19.45 x 1.69 cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Our review model of the HP Spectre x360 (2020) is high-end, but overall pricing in the US starts cheaper at $1,299.99, going up to $1,899.99 depending on the configuration. A number of options are available, with the option to custom-configure your own x360 on HP’s website. 

The 4K AMOLED screen (a stand-out feature of our model) does have an exclusive configuration, though.

In the UK, four fixed configurations of the HP Spectre x360 (2020) are available, ranging from £1,199 to £1,799. More configurations are available in Australia, ranging from AUS$2,199 to AUS$3,599.

Overall, the pricing is what we’d expect for a premium 2-in-1 laptop. It leans towards the expensive side, but you get what you pay for here; the HP Spectre x360’s superior design and performance are worth the higher price. It’s also worth noting that the HP Spectre x360 (2020) does come with HP’s Tilt Pen, a decent smart stylus.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Design

Straight out of the box, it’s clear that the HP Spectre x360 (2020) is a high-quality piece of hardware. The brushed metal finish means the whole laptop feels robust, and the same build quality extends to the namesake 360-degree hinge that enables it to swap between laptop and tablet modes.

Naturally, weight is a factor here. Despite its sturdy chassis, the HP Spectre x360 (2020) is as lightweight as they come, weighing in at just over a kilo. It’s easy to hold in one hand, and the near bezel-less screen means that the overall size is only a little larger than the display itself.

It’s impressively thin, too; perhaps not the absolute thinnest and lightest laptop on the market, but it’s up there with the other major contenders. However, that super-thin design means that there’s limited room for heat management inside the case.

The HP Spectre x360 (2020)’s cooling is handled by two small fans that sit together on the base of the laptop, and while they do run quietly (unless you’re thrashing the CPU with demanding software), they’re not particularly powerful. The HP Spectre x360 (2020) can get quite hot during periods of extended use, never to a concerning degree but perhaps to an uncomfortable one if it’s actually sitting on your lap.

Fortunately, the rest of the design is free of such engineering mishaps. As we said, the screen bezel is practically non-existent, and the display itself is a glorious AMOLED panel. Blacks are black as pitch, while bright colors pop with vibrance and the maximum brightness is great even in well-lit spaces.

The keyboard is also a joy to use, softly backlit in white with nice large keys despite the compact design. There’s no numpad - and the arrow keys are frustratingly truncated - but these are issues that plague almost every 13-inch convertible laptop. The trackpad definitely beats out many of its contemporaries, though, with a wide touch area and satisfyingly firm click.

Physical connectivity is well-handled, with two Thunderbolt 3 enabled USB-C ports and a single USB-A port that opens on a sprung clasp; the port itself is larger than the super-thin edge of the laptop, so it snaps shut when not in use. It’s a nifty bit of design that we’ve seen before, but rarely done this well.

Joining those ports are a headphone jack and microSD card reader, although we do wonder if HP should have sprung for a dedicated AC charging port. The HP Spectre x360 charges via USB-C, leaving you with one less port if you want to use it plugged in.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Benchmarks

Here’s how the HP Spectre x360 (2020) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench CPU:  687 points
GeekBench 5: 1,259 (single-core); 4,442 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,434 points 
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours 2 minutes 
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 10 hours 55 minutes

Performance

Intel’s 10th-generation laptop CPUs pull their weight and then some, so pairing one with a solid 16GB of high-speed RAM means that the HP Spectre x360 (2020) chews up everyday work tasks with ease. Web browsing, streaming videos, and using the Microsoft Office software suite are all smooth and easy to do on the HP Spectre x360.

This 2-in-1 isn’t satisfied with just that, of course. More complex tasks like rendering and video encoding are more of an option here thanks to the expanded memory and new, more powerful processor. Of course, if you’re working with high-intensity software on the regular, you might want a system with a more powerful graphics solution.

The Iris Plus graphics dominated older integrated graphics in our tests, powering through with high scores in our graphical tests compared to previous models. Performance in our Cinebench rendering benchmark wasn’t quite as impressive, but was still good for an ultralight laptop.

Gaming on the HP Spectre x360 (2020) is definitely an option too, although only at the decidedly casual end of the spectrum. Recent triple-A releases aren’t likely to run well without severely dropping the resolution and graphical quality, but slightly older games or titles without demanding graphics should run fine. We enjoyed a spot of Tomb Raider and the excellent indie gem FTL: Faster Than Light with good performance at 1080p.

There are some integrated features boasted by the HP Spectre x360 that all fall under one umbrella: privacy. This is the ideal laptop for anyone wary of the risks posed by an online presence, with multiple features designed to keep you and your data secure.

First up is a now-common laptop feature, the Windows Hello function. Using an IR camera array connected to the x360’s HD webcam, you can log into your laptop using your face, even in poorly lit conditions (i.e. when you’re curled up in bed trying to watch Netflix).

Next is the camera kill switch, a physical switch on the side of the laptop that manually cuts power to the webcam for added security. There’s also a fingerprint scanner just below the keyboard, letting you login quickly if you don’t want to use Windows Hello.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

Battery life is one of the only areas where the HP Spectre x360 (2020) doesn’t outright excel. The battery life is still good; standard use will see it last all work day, around 10 hours, without needing to charge. As with previous models of the HP Spectre x360, higher intensity tasks will batter that battery, cutting it down as low as 4 hours.

It’s not bad, although it’s actually slightly below previous configurations of the HP Spectre x360. The 2019 model actually performed better in battery tests, but only by a small margin. All that fancy new hardware has taken its toll.

The battery does charge quite fast thanks to the USB-C connector, charging from empty to 100% in barely more than an hour. It’s easy to charge while in use, too, thanks to the angled USB-C port ensuring that the power cable won’t get in your way.

HP Spectre x360 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want lightweight performance
The HP Spectre x360 delivers the best in convertible laptop performance without compromising its ultralight and sleek design. This is a laptop that can handle the sort of tasks that you’d need a desktop PC for five years ago, and it’s awesome.

You need flexibility
Swapping between laptop and tablet modes on the HP Spectre x360 feels like a dream, thanks to the gorgeous 4K touchscreen and robust two-point hinge. With good battery life and the help of Windows 10’s Tablet Mode, this device is as flexible as they come.

You want security
Simply put, the physical security features offered by the HP Spectre x360 put it ahead of most other 2-in-1s. Add in some antivirus software and regular malware scans with Windows Defender, and you’ve got yourself a super-secure system.

Don't buy it if...

You need more power
If you’re working with high-level editing or rendering software, you’re going to need something bigger than the HP Spectre x360 (2020). There isn’t a laptop this lightweight that can really do it, unfortunately.

You’re on a budget
The HP Spectre x360 is top-of-the-line, but it has a price tag to match. If you’re trying to keep the bottom line low, it’s better to opt for something less flashy, like a Chromebook or Lenovo’s new ThinkPads.