The HP Spectre line of Ultrabooks traditionally performs a balancing act between ultra-power and ultra-portability. The HP Spectre x360 15 leans more on the former, with a flexible hinge, stylus support and a fingerprint sensor. Then, there’s the powerful Kaby Lake Refresh processors that top everything off.
With a gorgeous 4K touchscreen and an included stylus, the HP Spectre x360 15 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops of the year. It even has long enough battery life to make it a contender for the office and classroom alike.
This is the kind of device that virtually every PC manufacturer on the planet sells, with products like the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1. But, with all this competition, it can be hard to get attention. But, how does the HP Spectre x360 fare? Well, let’s dive in.
Price and availability
This particular model of the Spectre x360 in the US is currently priced at $1,399 (about £1,055, AU$1,873) at the time of writing. Its regular price of $1,599 (about £1,206, AU$2,140) includes everything you see in the spec list to the right.
A slightly less expensive model is available in the US, priced at $1,369 (about £1,032, AU$1,833). For a couple hundred dollars of savings, you get the same processor, 8GB of memory, the same 4K display, and 256GB of storage. On the high end of the customization options is a 2TB SSD and an Intel Core i7-8705G for roughly $2,369 (about £1,787, AU$3,172).
If you’re in Australia, you can pick up a similar Spectre x360 for AU$3,199. However, instead of using an Nvidia GPU, HP uses a Radeon RX Vega M GPU and lowers the SSD space to 360GB instead of the 512GB in the American model. It’s a decent trade off, considering the processor is bumped up to the Intel Core i7-8705G.
HP takes a similar approach in the UK, using a Radeon GPU and faster processor while cutting the included memory down to 8GB and leaving the SSD at 512GB.
The HP Spectre x360 15 sits comfortably between the Dell XPS 15 and the Surface Book 2 when it comes to price. The XPS 15, without a 4K display and with discrete-class Radeon Vega graphics, starts at $1,299 (about £957, AU$1,653). Bumping up the display’s resolution to get closer to the Spectre’s 4K capabilities, you’re looking at $2,099 for a similar XPS 15.
With the Surface Book 2, however, you’re looking at $2,499 (£2,349, AU$3,649) for the entry-level model, equipped with a beefier Nvidia GTX 1060.
The HP Spectre x360 15 has a sleek and elegant appeal to it. A dark gray housing is broken up only by shiny gold highlights on the edges, surrounding the touchpad and its hinges. Once you open the lid, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant 15.6-inch 4K touch display with slim bezels on the vertical sides and a thicker bezel along the top to make room for the webcam and Windows Hello tech.
With total measurements of 14.13 x 9.84 x 0.76 inches (35.9 x 25 x 1.94cm; W x D x H) and weighing in at 4.59 pounds (2.14kg), you’ll need to be ready to lug this machine around. Admittedly, it’s not the heaviest laptop we’ve reviewed, but it’s a bit on the hefty side for a convertible device. In other words, you aren’t going to want to hold this in tablet mode for too long.
If you look on the left side of the HP Spectre x360 15, you’ll find a charging port, a full-size USB 3.1 port, a speaker grille, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an SD card slot and the power button. On the right is a Thunderbolt 3 port, a USB-C port and an HDMI input. There’s also another speaker grille, a fingerprint sensor and a volume rocker.
By placing the fingerprint sensor, power and volume keys on the sides of the housing, HP made it possible to unlock or adjust volume when the screen is rotated all the way into tablet mode.
Speaking of rotation, the hinges on the HP Spectre x360 15 are strong enough that the screen stays in place whether you’re typing away on the keyboard or tapping the screen to select items.
The touchpad is centered with the HP Spectre x360 15, rather than the keyboard, so it’s a bit off-center to the left, thanks to a number pad to the right of the keyboard.
To our eyes, the screen on the Spectre x360 is sharp and crisp, if not a little over saturated in color. The text is free of any pixelation, and images appear clear as well.
Watching a movie or brewing your favorite sub on Reddit, you’ll find very little to fault with the display used on the HP Spectre x360.
The Spectre x360 makes for a good Windows Hello partner, offering both a fingerprint sensor and facial recognition. We set up both unlock methods during our testing and found the facial scanning tech to be faster and easier to use.
As you wake the laptop, it begins looking for your face using the webcam at the top of the display. Within a blink of an eye (but try to avoid blinking too much), the Spectre unlocks.
The fingerprint sensor is on the right side of the laptop, next to the volume rocker. It’s slightly recessed with the housing, so you can easily find it without even looking. But, we found that it could be difficult to line up our registered finger with the sensor to get a consistent reading and, in turn, unlock the HP Spectre x360 15.
Stylus and pen input
Included in the box is a stylus and a AAAA battery. Yeah, four A’s – we counted them a few times just to be sure. The HP Spectre x360 15 pen has two buttons on it, one to erase part of your writing or drawing and the other to select an item or right click on something.
So, the pen does require power, but there is no convoluted Bluetooth pairing or setup process. Once you power the pen on for the first time, the HP Spectre x360 15 will recognize and accept input from the stylus.
Once that’s done, there’s a comforting level of familiarity to holding this stylus, with similar weight to that of an everyday pen. Turning on the stylus is done by tapping the tip to a surface and gliding it across the display of the notebook.
The HP Spectre x360 15’s stylus feels natural when jotting on the display, with little to no latency between writing and marks appearing on the display.
First reviewed July 2018
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve used the HP Spectre x360 quite a bit. The keyboard has taken some getting used to, often feeling a bit cramped despite its size. The touchscreen has proven itself a winner, while the touchpad leaves us frustrated at times.
That said, the overall performance on this machine is impressive.
We won’t bore you going point by point through the benchmark scores, but we will point out that despite lacking the same class of GPU as the Surface Book 2, the Spectre held its own. For example, the Spectre nearly matched the latest Surface Book’s single-core Geekbench 4 score (4,815 to 5,024) and handily beat the multi-core score (14,446 to 13,896) of Microsoft’s laptop.
Similar remarks can be made about the Spectre’s performance when compared to the XPS 15.
In everyday use, however, the Spectre felt smooth and free of any significant hiccups. The included GeForce MX150 isn’t powerful enough to get through an intense gaming session of any AAA games, but you will be able to play more casual games without worrying about performance.
Battery life on the HP Spectre x360 is good enough for us. In the PCMark 8 battery test, it scored 6 hours and 6 minutes, with 7 hours and 55 minutes in our own movie test. So, we’re sure the Spectre x360 15 has enough juice to get through a cross-country flight.
Comparatively, the Dell XPS 15 fell short of the Spectre’s battery mark, lasting 5 hours and 8 minutes in our video playback test. The Surface Book 2, however, handily beat the Spectre in the PCMark 8 battery test with 7 hours and 39 minutes of performance. We’re still waiting to see how long the Surface Book 2 lasts in our video playback test, but we think it’s safe to say it’ll top the Spectre’s performance.
Software and features
Sigh. One day, we will be able to omit a bloatware section from most of our laptop reviews, but until that day here we are, yet again talking about how intrusive programs such as McAfee’s LiveSafe suite are to the end user.
What’s more annoying than pre-installing software such as McAfee products, is that the program routinely prompted us to renew our subscription with prompts that looked a lot like Windows 10 system alerts in the middle of the display. These types of alerts are deceptive and designed to trick users, and that’s incredibly frustrating.
The Spectre x360 is an impressive piece of kit, especially when you consider the price. Its performance is nothing to scoff at, and when you add in a 4K display and stellar battery, the deal gets even sweeter.
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 laptop that can do just about everything, the Spectre x360 is worth a long, hard look. However, for anyone that just wants to save some money and maybe even get some more gaming in, the XPS 15 is probably the best way to go.