HP Specter x360 Review: Precise Computing
HP Specter x360 detailed review
The original HP Specter X360, which debuted in 2015 with 6th gen Intel Core processors, was one of the best 2-in-1 ultrabooks, but sadly it never made it to India. So, when HP launched the new version of Specter x360 with 7th Gen Intel Core processor in India, I was quite happy.
The new machine is thin and light. In fact, the HP Specter x360 is one of the thinnest and lightest 2-in-1 laptops to buy today. However, at a starting price of Rs 1,15,290, it does not fall into the affordable category. Moreover, if you want the top of the line version, which we have reviewed, it will cost you Rs 1,57,290. That being said, HP does not want to sell to the average consumer with this line. The Specter range is for the enthusiastic person, who does not want to compromise on performance, appearance or style. So, if you are one of those enthusiasts, here are my thoughts on the machine.
Construction and design
The problem with creating a slim and light notebook is that there is limited space to work with and although all premium laptops have almost the same courage inside, it is very difficult to put it together without compromise. Here, the HP designers have done a great job putting this machine together. From the double barrel hinge design, to the finer details like the finely cut edges, everything about the Specter design looks precise. The work of matte black and copper paint is reminiscent of what we saw in the original HP Specter last year, but this time it looks more mature. The two-piece frame seems obsolete, yet elegant.
At the same time, the laptop seems to be quite strong and durable. This is partly because of the CNC aluminum chassis and partly because of how it is held together. All of this makes the Specter x360 the ultrabook to look its best at the moment, and its beauty is not just deep in the skin.
There is little to no flex on the keyboard and display. The screen gets gorilla glass protection, which is smooth to the touch and easy to use with the bundled pen. The hinge stabilizes the display for everyday normal use, but it can be better with a little more resistance.
Since it is a convertible, the display can be folded the whole way. Like other laptop manufacturers, HPO pulled a page out of Dell’s design book and cut out the bezels on the side of the display, making the whole chassis even smaller. This helps in weight loss and thus makes it easier to use in tablet format. Fortunately, HP retains the thick upper and lower bezels, which are helpful when using it in portrait adaptation in tablet form. Even more important is that the camera is in the center position above the display.
Display and I / O
Outside of fit and finish, the design is complemented by displays. Like last year’s model, the Specter features a top of the IPS LCD panel, which is one of the brightest we’ve seen recently. Now, it’s still not as bright as the new Dell XPS 13, but according to our tests, anything above the 300 Lux mark is enough for everyday use. The problem I’ve encountered is that the display is shiny and therefore quite reflective, but since it’s a touchscreen laptop, it can’t be helped. However, once you adjust the display to an angle where it is visible, you’ll be glad to see its color fidelity.
The touchscreen capability of the machine seems to be precise and there is no delay problem. HP bundles a pen with Specter, which is great for writing notes or some casual drawings. However, the Windows Marketplace still lacks a wide range of pen-enabled apps. I just wished that like the Surface, the pen could be held by a magnetic strip, but it was probably just me.
The two USB Type-C ports have been moved from the original Specter, but moved to the side. Both support Thunderbolt and fast charging at this time for your connected device (phone). This puts the HP Specter X360 ahead of the competition, further proof of the future. For all your other non-Type-C USB accessories, HP has added a Type A port that works on USB 3.0 standards. Although I do miss an SD card slot, this is the price you pay for a slim and light laptop.
My other complaint with the Specter x360 is that it doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, which I believe should be standard on a premium machine like this. It has Windows Hello feature, which worked without any problems during my testing period.
Keyboard and touchpad
For the Specter x360 keyboard, this is a pretty standard thing. This is the same Chiclet style keyboard that we used in the original Specter. However, the keys are on the soft side and the backlighting doesn’t make you blur at night. However, you still don’t get two-stage backlighting, which is another thing I think should be standard on a high end machine.
You get the 1.3mm Key Travel, which is perfect for a laptop with this size and form factor, but you can get better than its counterparts. As the HP beats the display-sized bezel, the overall length of the keyboard deck has also shrunk. This means there is very little sewer space on either end of the keyboard deck. Also, since the last column of keys is just a shortcut button, it takes a while to get used to it. That said, this is one of the best keyboards you’ll find in a 2-in-1 Ultrabook.
The glass touchpad is also decent and supports multi-touch gestures up to four fingers. It does an excellent job of tracking your finger and never misses a double tap gesture. The touchpad relies on the Synaptics driver to run the show, which also allows for decent palm rejection. Now, Palm’s rejection is a plus because the wide touchpad prevents typing. Laptops don’t have separate left and right click buttons, but even integrated mouse keys are well applied. Left and right clicks are a bit shallow and click with an audible sound However, you can only press the left and right keys at the bottom of the touchpad, which seems a bit old school compared to the Apple MacBook’s Force Touch.
Like the build quality, HP has ensured that the Specter always delivers the best performance. Although the machine is also available in an Intel Core i5 variant, our review unit is at the top of the line variant here. In it you get an Intel Core i7-7500U, which has a dual core processor with 2.7GHz base clock and can turbo up to 3.5GHz. You will also get 16GB DDR3 RAM and a superfast 512GB NVMe drive from Samsung. For graphics, you have Intel HD 620 graphics, which has enough firepower for everyday work and some light gaming. I don’t mind using slower DDR3 RAM instead of DDR4 and besides reducing the cost, I can’t think of any good reason to choose them for HP.
Using the machine extensively as a daily driver, I noticed that it boots quickly (less than 10 seconds), has enough computer power, and plenty of RAM for all the Chrome tabs you want to open. So it is good for all kinds of office work including light video editing. However, there is a heating problem that becomes effective as soon as you start pushing the machine. HP has a couple of fan designs inside the Specter for all cooling purposes, but they don’t seem to be very effective. Occasionally, I’ve seen the CPU touch up to 60 degrees Celsius, even in simple tasks, such as playing a high-resolution 1080p video or browsing in Chrome only. Heat becomes a bigger problem when you start cranking things up and try running programs like handbrake or light gaming. The maximum temperature I recorded was about 72 degrees on the chip and about 43 degrees Celsius on the left side of the keyboard. It’s still not uncomfortable in hot areas, but an Ultrabook of this caliber shouldn’t have to deal with heating problems first.
Also, I have seen a slight performance drop of around 100-150 MHz during stress testing, but it does not affect the overall performance of the machine, which is smooth everywhere. As I mentioned, you can also do some light gaming (if you don’t feel the heat). I tested the Specter x360 with Dota 2 and Asphalt 8 and both games run quite well offering a playable frame rate.
For audio, you’ll find a four-speaker system in the x360, powered by Bang and Olufsen. The keyboard has two speakers at the top and two at the base in the two corners. This way the laptop manages to make decent noise and is quite intuitive if you want to use laptops in different locations like tent mode. Although the base output is still weak and at maximum volume, there are some distortions, it is still one of the best ultrabooks on the market in terms of sound quality.
I would also like to mention that the 2MP 1080p camera is one of the best I have seen in an ultraportable recently.
Another area where the HP Specter shines is due to battery life and for good reason. On this small, yet powerful machine, the HP packs a huge 3-cell 57.8 Wh battery. This enables the machine to run from evening to dawn on a single charge, providing 9-10 hours of use time in daily office work pressure with 50% brightness. What’s even more impressive is that the laptop doesn’t throttle significantly during battery life and you can use the full potential of the machine consistently. It only takes more than 2 hours to fully charge and since it charges through a standard Thunderbolt port, you can charge it with any power brick that comes with Thunderbolt certification.
The last row
Overall, I think HP has tried to strike the right balance between performance and design and has achieved that goal for the most part. There are no major issues with this laptop other than the built-in heating, which doesn’t matter if you don’t push the machine. That being said, it could still be a deal breaker for some.
Having said that, I think it’s the best 2-in-1 Ultrabook on the market right now. It has excellent build quality, is well designed and offers 2-in-1 flexibility. I don’t have any major complaints about keyboard or touchpad and battery life is a big plus. All of this makes it the best 2-in-1 Ultrabook we’ve tested this year.
How to compare it
The top line of the HP Specter X360 is priced at Rs 1,57,990, which is not really affordable. That said, this particular variant of the HP Specter X360 costs around $ 1349.99 in the US. That’s around Rs 88,500 (approximately), which isn’t actually bad for a slim and lightweight laptop with such high-end special features. Unfortunately, in India it all came down in price and hit the high price tag spectrum, as it did last time.
At the same time, if you’re not looking for a 2-in-1 and you need a laptop and more for everyday use, the new 2017 MacBook Pro with Touchbar and better Intel Iris graphics is a good option. . It is equally powerful, even with its Core i5, and has a similar battery life. It has a better display, keyboard and touchpad.