REVIEW: HP Spectre x360 13 Convertible Laptop
One thing’s for certain, if you’re in the market for a laptop that’s going to grab attention, the HP Spectre x360 13 is your answer. This is one of the most strikingly designed laptops we’ve seen in a long time. It’s like a cross between a Lamborghini Aventador and a premium piece of high grade jewellery. This 360 degree convertible PC has angular design cues dotted all around its edges with the power button and charging port/Thunderbolt 3 port positioned at 45 degree angles on either upper edge of the sides of the device.
The model we got sent was the ‘Dark Ash Sliver with Copper Luxe Accents’ version but there’s also a Poseidon Blue colour option too if that’s more your style. Looks aside, the HP Spectre is a fantastic piece of kit. Packing Intel’s new Whiskey Lake CPU and with the option to go for a 4K display, HP are ticking all the right boxes with this year’s model variants. They’ve also included this very clever ‘kill switch’ for the webcam which allows you to internally disconnect the camera with the flick of a physical switch, more on this later.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the review, below are the specs of the model we were sent to test.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8565U (1.8 GHz base frequency, up to 4.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, 8 MB cache, 4 cores)|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Body||12.16×8.58×0.57in, 2.92 pounds|
|Display||13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS BrightView WLED-backlit multitouch-enabled edge-to-edge glass (1920 x 1080) with integrated HP Pure View privacy screen.|
|Storage||512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD|
|Battery||4-cell, 61 Wh Li-ion|
|Ports||(2) Thunderbolt 3
(1) USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
(1) 3.5mm combo audio
|Audio||Quad speakers, Bang & Olufsen with Dolby Atmos support|
|Colour||Dark Ash Silver with Copper Luxe accents|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
One other little thing to note, this device comes with a really nice yet practical leather sleeve that you can slide your new Spectre in to so it doesn’t get all scratched up with you place it in a bag. It’s a nice touch.
Design & Build Quality
There’s no two ways about it, this is one of the nicest looking laptops/portable PCs you can buy right now. When I first unboxed it in our offices, everyone’s first remarks were, “damn, that’s a nice looking laptop!” This is definitely not a MacBook clone, that’s for sure.
As I mentioned above, this new Spectre comes in two colour options, Ash Silver or Poseidon Blue so even if you wanted to emulate owning a ‘Windows powered MacBook’, you can’t.
When it comes to port options on this new device, HP has you pretty well covered. On the left hand side of the device, you’ve got your upgraded USB Type A port which is now USB 3.1 Gen 2 allowing for speeds up to 10Gbps. It’s nice to see HP include this upgraded option, especially given it’s a full sized USB port on such a slender and angular device.
On the right of the device, you’ve got two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which is used for charging the device and the other can be used to connect up to two 4K monitors at once. There’s also a Micro SD card slot, 3.5mm combo audio jack and the ‘kill switch’ for the privacy camera. More on this below.
When ti comes to the display’s layout, there’s still some chunky top and bottom bezels unfortunately but HP have managed to reduced the already slim side bezels ever so slightly, which is good. Located in the top bezel is the webcam along with the IR camera for facial recognition for Windows Hello.
To the bottom of the keyboard, HP has placed the fingerprint scanner, having moved it from the side of the device. In terms of hardware, one thing we do miss is the physical volume rocker. Something like this makes a lot of sense for a PC with this convertible form factor so having to fiddle around with Windows 10 touch volume controls isn’t the best solution.
Placed both above the keyboard and on the lower bottom half of the device are the 4 Bang & Olufsen speakers with Dolby Atmos support. You might be wondering why there are speakers placed on the bottom of the device but, when you fold the x360 into other form factors, HP wanted to ensure a clear audio experience. When it comes to quality and loudness, these speakers are fantastic and watching Dolby Atmos supported films on Netflix really is an impressive experience.
The new HP Spectre x360 13 gives you to option to chose between 3 different display configurations. There’s the 1080p, 1080p with Sure View and the 4K option. The model we’re testing came with the 1080p display with Sure View. Sure View is HP’s answer to having a privacy display on your device. Hitting F1 on the keyboard activates the feature and it causes the screen to turn white when looked at it from anywhere but straight on.
It’s a nice little feature if you’re not a fan of people prying at your screen or if you use your laptop in public spaces a lot. The effect of having Sure View switched on takes some getting used to though but it’s still a nice addition if you need it.
The screen itself is very impressive with some really nice peak brightness levels although it’s a bit too glossy for our liking. At 1080p, text, photos and videos look decently recreated but if you want the best of the best, you should go for the 4K option. One upside to the 1080p display is the battery life though.
The Spectre also comes with a standard pen in the box also but you can splash out for HP’s Tilt Pen, which is sold separately, if you’re someone who uses digital pens for work a lot.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Spectre has a pretty great keyboard. It uses metal chiclet-style keys, which are accurate and comfortable. As far as keyboards in consumer laptops go, this is a good one.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the trackpad. There’s a slight mushiness feel and this results in poorer performance. Also, some gestures don’t work, and it gets annoying sometimes when you’re used to using other, more intuitive, Windows and Mac powered laptops. This is definitely something HP needs to work on to bring this laptop into the upper echelons of usability.
As I mentioned a few times above, HP has included a ‘Camera Kill Switch’. A physical slider on the right hand side of the device which, when flicked, internally disconnects the camera. Now, there’s no physical little slider that moves in front of the camera lens when you flick this switch but, when you do, and you head into the Device Manager settings, you’ll see that you can’t even find the drivers for the camera meaning the laptop thinks it doesn’t even have a webcam built in, which is pretty cool!
One downside though, the switch itself is quite loosely fitted so it rattles around a bit when moving the laptop. Given the impressive attention to detail in terms of build quality on this laptop, we wish HP had taken more time to ensure this particular part was better fitted so as to avoid this.
Inside, there’s an Intel Core i7 CPU with integrated graphics. What this means, it’s pretty much going to be able to handle a vast majority of tasks you through at it. When it comes to real-world performance, the Spectre does exactly what you’d expect a laptop at this price and form factor to be capable of. Microsoft Office’s offerings are a breeze to use and multiple tab browsing, video viewing and music listening tasks, all working at once, don’t seem to phase this device.
For more GPU intensive tasks though, you might see some slight slow down so, if you’re looking to do a fair bit of intensive photo or video editing, you might want to take a look at this model’s bigger sibling, the Spectre X360 15″, which has a more powerful CPU and Nividia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
Now, it’s here where the new Spectre x360 13 really stands out. HP claims this model can have a battery life of up to 20 hours, which is fairly crazy but, having used it for the last few weeks, we actually think they weren’t far off.
On a normal working day, unplugging this laptop at 7.30am and working on it right up until around 5pm in the evening, I still had more than enough battery to get me through some more casual browsing and video watching in the evening when I got home.
If you’re an even lighter user, you could potentially even get 2 days of use out of a single charge which is amazing. It really is some of the best battery life performance I’ve seen on a Windows PC laptop.
In the end, we always knew HP’s updated Spectre x360 13 was going to be good. Their Spectre family of devices have always been up there with the best in terms of performance and features and with the incredible look and feel of this new x360 13 model, HP are offering one of the best convertible Windows PCs available right now.
The Spectre is available from Curry’s PC World with prices starting from €1,439.99.