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Help Me, Laptop: Should I Buy a Surface Laptop 2 or HP Spectre x360?

There are so many great laptops to choose from nowadays that it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. It's a good problem to have but makes going to your local electronics store a stressful ordeal. Reddit user SedentarySloth hit a roadblock looking for the perfect laptop for law school and needs our help. Don't worry, SedentarySloth, we've got you covered.

This incoming student already did their homework, narrowing down their search to either the HP Spectre x360 or Surface Laptop 2. These are two of the best ultraportable notebooks we've reviewed in the last year, and excellent laptops for college students.

We're going to run through the pros and cons of each system so that SedentarySloth can make an informed buying decision. We'll also throw some other options out there that fulfill the student's laptop requirements of having long battery life and good reliability.

HP Spectre x360 (13-inch)

HP knocked it out of the park with the latest 13-inch Spectre x360. There's so much to love about this 2-in-1 laptop but the highlight has to be its luxurious design.

With chamfered edges and faceted corners, the Spectre x360 has both the brawn and beauty you'd expect of a laptop inspired by precious gems. We're also big fans of the two unique color schemes: Dark Ash Silver and Poseidon Blue. And while it's not the lightest laptop we've tested, at 2.8 pounds, the Spectre x360 is still very portable.

Of course, the Spectre x360 is a 2-in-1 laptop, unlike the Surface Laptop 2, so if you like the idea of tablet mode, then go with the HP.

MORE: Best HP Laptops

Looking beyond the attention-grabbing chassis, the Spectre x360 offers fast performance, a benefit of its 8th Gen Intel Core CPU and fast PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD. Battery life, at an outstanding 12 hours and 7 minutes, is one area the Spectre x360 outperforms almost every other ultrabook, including the Surface Laptop 2.

A comfortable keyboard is important for any student, especially law students typing up legal writing. The Surface Laptop 2's keyboard is good, but the Spectre x360's is as good as it gets for a laptop this size. And finally, the Spectre x360's speakers are good enough to fill a dorm room with clear audio when you want to jam out with your roommate.

If you're going to use your laptop outside a lot, the Spectre x360 might not be for you because the screen doesn't get particularly bright. And as beautiful as the chassis is, some thicker bezels mean the Spectre isn't the most modern-looking laptop. Also, the touchpad, which lacks Precision drivers, could be more responsive.

Surface Laptop 2

If you can't wait for the rumored Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Laptop 2 is a great option for college students. However, we'd choose the 13-inch Spectre x360 over the Surface Laptop 2 unless display quality matters most to you.

I say that because the Surface Laptop 2's 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504-pixel display with a 3:2 aspect ratio is drop-dead stunning. Capable of reproducing a ridiculous 176% of the sRGB color gamut, the touch panel on the Laptop 2 is among the most vivid we've ever tested. And peaking at 321 nits, it's also among the brightest.

But when you consider what both laptops offer, the Spectre x360 comes out ahead. There are really two major problems we have with the Surface Laptop 2: the SSD is very slow compared to other premium laptops and there is no Thunderbolt 3 port. And while the Surface Laptop 2 has a touch screen, you don't get the flexibility offered by the Spectre x360 2-in-1.

MORE: Microsoft Laptops - Brand Review and Rating - Laptop Mag

That being said, if you find a good deal or like the idea of owning a Microsoft device, you won't regret buying the Surface Laptop 2. The clamshell notebook has an elegant chassis coated in Alcantara fabric and its battery life, while not as good as the Spectre's, lasts for more than 9 hours.

Other great college laptops

The Spectre x360 and Surface Laptop 2 are some of the best laptops for college students, but there are several other notebooks worth considering.

If you like the security features and durability of a business laptop, then we strongly suggest the 5-star rated Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which has a super lightweight design, fast performance and a class-leading keyboard. Combine that with all-day battery life and a gorgeous HDR display and there's very little we don't like about the X1 Carbon. But among those very few complaints is the laptop's high price, so be on the lookout for a price reduction (especially since a 7th Gen model is now available).

Of course, we have to mention the Dell XPS 13, our favorite laptop for several years running. The XPS 13 is a juggernaut among ultrabooks, having gained its notoriety for having an incredibly compact design, stylish looks, faster performance, longer battery life and gorgeous 1080p or 4K display options. If the XPS 13 is priced out of your budget, consider the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA as an alternative (as long as you're OK with a dim display).

And finally, if you want a larger display, consider the Dell XPS 15, which gets you a lot of the same things we love about the XPS 13 along with faster performance and an optional OLED display. Just be ready to pay a good chunk of your tuition for one of the higher-end configs.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.