If you prefer a larger screen on your 2-in-1, the 15-inch HP Spectre x360 (starting at $1,279; $1,499 as reviewed) stands out from the pack. It's a sleek laptop in a beautiful gold-and-charcoal color scheme with a 4K screen and long battery life. Though there are other good 15-inch convertibles on the market that sell for less, the Spectre x360 is definitely worth the splurge.
The Spectre x360 is one of the handsomest laptops on the market. This year, HP is applying the dark gray-and-copper color scheme that was available on only the most expensive models in 2016 to the company's more mainstream models, and they're all the better for it (in fact, the boring silver color is no longer available). The copper accents give HP its own distinct aesthetic compared to all of the silver notebooks on the market. The Spectre feels premium, too, thanks to its CNC aluminum body. The lid is all black with the exception of a sleek variation of the HP logo.
When I lifted the lid, I was greeted by the 15.6-inch, 4K display with ultrathin bezels on the sides, an island-style keyboard with home-row keys and speaker grills with creative, triangular cutouts.
If you're familiar with last year's Spectre model, you'll notice a change in the device's dimensions. Specifically, it's 0.8 inches narrower and just under an inch thicker (0.07 inches). The company claims that the almost-unnoticeable amount of extra thickness allows for a larger battery.
At 4.4 pounds and 14 x 8.9 x 0.7 inches, the Spectre is a fairly average size and weight for a 15-inch 2-in-1. The Lenovo Yoga 910 is smaller and thinner, at 3 pounds and 12.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches, but the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (4.6 pounds, 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches) and the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin (5 pounds, 14 x 10.1 x 0.8 inches) are heavier and larger.
The Spectre's 360-degree hinges allow it to be used like a regular laptop, as well as a tablet (if you fold the keyboard all of the way back), a display (if you place the keyboard face down with the display facing up) or a tent (an upside-down "V").
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HP is continuing the trend of premium devices that offer just a few ports, but the Spectre x360 has all of the essentials. The left side boasts a USB 3.0 port,a headphone jack and an SD card reader, and the right side is where you'll find a USB Type-C port (which you'll use for charging), a Thunderbolt 3 port and an HDMI output.
The 13-inch x360 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but since this model has full-size HDMI, it's hard to be too upset about the change.
If you need a bit more variety, the laptop comes with three USB-C dongles in the box: converters to Ethernet, VGA and full-size USB.
I was blown away by the colors on the Spectre x360's 15.6-inch, 4K touch screen, but I wish it were a tad brighter. When I watched Tears of Steel in 4K, green, blue and purple holograms popped against the gray walls and equipment in a lab, and I was able to see the rust on a rampaging robot.
The screen covers an excellent 113.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut, surpassing the 92-percent mainstream category average and showings by the Yoga 910 (98 percent), Notebook 7 Spin (72 percent) and Inspiron (62 percent).
Those vivid colors aren't always precise. The screen has a Delta-E color-accuracy score of 3.5 (0 is ideal), above the average (2.4) and much higher than the Yoga (0.8), Inspiron (0.9) and Notebook 7 Spin (1.8).
The Spectre's screen could also be a bit brighter. It measured an average 255 nits on our light meter, which is lower than the mainstream average (268 nits), the Notebook 7 Spin (260 nits) and the Yoga 910 (292 nits).
Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus
The keyboard on the Spectre x360 is punchy, with a deep 1.5 millimeters of travel. But it requires just 50 grams of force to press (we prefer 60g), which occasionally resulted in me bottoming out, but didn't really affect my performance. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I sped along at 115 words per minute (on the higher end of my average range) and my usual 2 percent error rate.
The touchpad on the Spectre is just what I expect from a premium product. It's spacious, responsive and clicky. I browsed the web, scrolled with two fingers and rearranged programs using Windows 10 gestures with aplomb.
HP also includes its Active Pen in the box, and the stylus comes in the same dark gray as the laptop. It supports 2,048 degrees of pressure sensitivity, and I was easily able to change the width of my pen strokes in Microsoft Ink's Sketchpad. It has two buttons that can be programmed with the HP Pen Control app to right-click, take a screenshot, change the computer's volume and more. The stylus is slightly thicker than the average pen and is comfortable to hold, but I wish it were magnetic like the one that comes with the Microsoft Surface so I would have somewhere reliable to put the tool.
HP's partnership with Bang & Olufsen continues to bear fruit with the Spectre x360. When I listened to Justin Timberlake's "Losing My Way," the volume practically punched me in the face, immediately filling our midsize conference room. The sound was mostly balanced, and the lead and backing vocals and cymbals were clear. But I wanted a bit more oomph from the drums, so I went into the Bang & Olufsen Audio Control software and fiddled with the bass and treble equalizers until the audio output was more to my liking. I imagine the majority of the users will never need to open the app.
With a 2.9-GHz 7th-Gen Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX CPU, our review configuration of the Spectre x360 is primed for getting work done. I had 30 tabs open in Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of Last Week Tonight without a hint of lag.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Spectre x360 earned a score of 8,017, just slightly lower than the Lenovo Yoga 910 (Core i7-7500U, 8,102). Both fell short of the 10,681-point mainstream category average, but that includes a bunch of gaming notebooks which have more powerful processors.
The Spectre powered through our File Transfer Test, copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files in just 18 seconds, which translates to 282.1 megabytes per second. That's faster than the average score (168MBps), and showings by the Notebook 7 Spin (77.3MBps), Inspiron (122.6MBps) and Yoga (195.7MBps).
It took the Spectre 3 minutes and 34 seconds to pair 20,000 names and addresses in our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro, tying the Yoga's time. The average is slower (4:22), as are the Notebook 7 Spin (4:03) and Inspiron (4:47).
The laptop can do some very light gaming. Using its integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, the Spectre ran Dirt 3 at 29 frames per second on par with the 29-fps average but below our 30-fps playability threshold. The Nvidia GeForce 940MX isn't primed for intensive games, though. When I ran Rise of the Tomb Raider on our budget settings (SMAA anti-aliasing, high and medium settings), the game stuttered along at 15.2 fps.
On the 3DMark graphics benchmark, the Spectre earned a score of 93,759, beating the category average (83,427), Notebook 7 Spin (940MX; 88,956), Yoga 910 (Intel HD Graphics 620; 77,093) and Inspiron (Intel HD Graphics 520; 64,067). You might get a light boost in Photoshop performance, but creators and gamers alike would be better served by a workstation or gaming laptop with an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU.
Despite its 4K screen, the Spectre x360 has surprising endurance thanks to a large battery. The notebook ran for 8 hours and 36 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. (Last year's 1080p model ran for 8:27, so this is an impressive feat.) The category average is 6:43, which the Inspiron managed to top, at 6:55. The Notebook 7 Spin was a poorer performer (5:53), but the Yoga 910 outclassed the field at a whopping 10:36.
The 1080p webcam on the Spectre x360 produced fairly average results. A test image snapped at my desk appeared clear and had accurate colors. However, very specific details, like my hair, were hard to see. This camera is fine for casual video chatting, but you might want an external camera for professional use.
The Spectre felt the heat when we put the notebook through its paces. After the machine streamed 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the touchpad measured 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the center of the keyboard reached 97 degrees and the bottom of the laptop hit a toasty 106 degrees. The latter two measurements surpassed our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
The Spectre x360 comes loaded with a bunch of software, including some of HP's own. JumpStart teaches users to use the laptop and Windows 10, information most people don't need. HP's Audio Switch makes it easy to change audio outputs over HDMI.
The Orbit software is among HP's most useful apps, making it painless to transfer links and photos between an iPhone or Android phone and your laptop (though only phones can send pictures). It's sort of like Lenovo's SHAREit app.
But there's also a bunch of bloatware, including Facebook, Twitter, Drawboard PDF, Minecraft, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Royal Revolt 2 and Netflix.
The Spectre x360 I reviewed costs $1,499.99 and has a 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 620 and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU that has 2GB of RAM .
For $1,279, you can downgrade to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, while a $1,699 model bumps the storage up to 1TB. However, every model comes with a 4K display and a stylus in the box.
There's so much to like about the 15-inch HP Spectre x360, including its vivid 4K display long battery life and quality speakers, which are some of the best you can find on a laptop. The warm temperatures and modest Nvidia GTX 940 graphics are relatively small drawbacks.
The $1,199 Lenovo Yoga 910is a good option for people who don't care about 4K and prefer this machine's 10.5 hours of battery life, but the Yoga lacks the Thunderbolt 3 port and SD card slot that the Spectre x360 offers. If money is an issue, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 is more affordable, at $750 with a 1080p display and full HDMI. But there's no Thunderbolt 3 on the Dell, and this machine is much heftier.
However, if you want the best 15-inch 2-in-1 on the market, the Spectre x360 is the runaway favorite.
Photo credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide