This 13-inch HP Spectre x360 laptop is now obsolete. Check out our review of the newly updated, au courant 13-inch HP Spectre x360 2021, outfitted with the latest internals, for a more modern device.
The redesigned 13-inch Spectre x360 (starting and reviewed at $1,349) is HP's latest design triumph. With its faceted edges, chamfered corners and unique colors, the new Spectre x360 is truly a sight to behold. And while this elegant 13.3-inch laptop may be the prettiest we've ever tested, the Spectre x360's 12-hour battery life, strong performance and powerful speakers are what make it a top pick.
Add a vivid display and a physical webcam kill switch, and the Spectre x360 gets our strong recommendation for anyone shopping for an ultrabook, a 2-in-1 or just an excellent all-around laptop. It's also one of the laptops with best battery life.
HP Spectre x360 pricing and configurations
The $1,349 Spectre x360 base model I reviewed packed an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, an Intel UHD 620 GPU and a 13.3-inch, 1080p touch-screen display.
For $1,449, you can upgrade to a 13.3-inch, 1080p display with Sure View, which uses an integrated privacy filter to protect your sensitive files. That model comes with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
If you value display quality over privacy, then skip SureView and spend another $100 on the $1,549 4K touch-screen model.
While the Spectre x360 isn't priced any higher than most premium ultrabooks, I wish there were a cheaper Core i5 version to bring the price closer to $1,000.
HP Spectre x360 design
Like an artist refining their trade, HP has incrementally improved the design of its laptops with each new product. Now, with the Spectre x360, the company has crafted a masterpiece.
The Spectre x360's sleek aluminum chassis is beautifully contoured, featuring faceted edges and sharply chamfered corners that look as if they were cut by a master jeweler. These aggressive angles give the Spectre x360 the sort of sophisticated elegance you'd expect from exorbitantly priced accessories sold by a luxury fashion designer.
Centered on the laptop's stylish eggplant lid is a modern HP logo in gold chrome; opening it reveals a gold-trimmed touchpad next to Spectre branding. Above the keyboard is a speaker grill drilled into an attractive triangular pattern. Bang & Olufsen branding sits directly underneath and a discrete fingerprint sensor resides on the bottom-right corner of the deck.
The attention to detail is outstanding and even extends to the Spectre x360's accessories: The included faux-leather sleeve has a built-in stylus slot and the laptop's charging cord is wrapped in nylon.
HP abandoned the boring silver finish we criticized on last year's model and replaced it with two unique color schemes: Dark Ash Silver (purple/brown with gold accents) and Poseidon Blue (dark teal with pale accents). As a 2-in-1, the Spectre x360 can rotate into tablet or tent mode, and although the laptop may look like a jewel, its flexible hinges and rigid lid feel sturdy.
But for all of my praise, I can't ignore the Spectre x360's chunky top and bottom bezels, especially since nearly all of its competitors now have edge-to-edge displays. Also, instead of improving the stiff volume rocker on last year's model, HP did away with it altogether. Now you'll need to tap your way into the volume settings when using the machine in tablet mode, instead of adjusting audio via a physical button.
The Spectre x360 is a very portable device, at just 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches and 2.8 pounds. In comparison, the LG Gram 14 2-in-1 (12.8 x 8.3 x 0.7 inches, 2.5 pounds) is thicker yet lighter than the Spectre, while the Lenovo Yoga C930 (12.6 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches, 3.1 pounds) and Huawei MateBook 13 (11.3 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches, 2.9 pounds) are heavier but just as thin.
I applaud HP for going a bit thicker with this year's model. It's still a very portable machine and the extra height allows for a USB Type-A port and improvements to battery life (more on that later). Anyway, I was far too busy gawking at this thing's contoured edges to care about tenths of an inch.
HP Spectre x360 ports
The Spectre x360 doesn't have many ports, but those it does have are functional and futureproof. A Thunderbolt 3 charging port on the right side offers blazing-fast transfer speeds and the ability to connect to multiple 4K monitors or an external GPU.
Also on the right side of the laptop are a headphone/mic jack and microSD card slot. A lone USB 3.1 Type-A port resides on the left side of the laptop, a welcome addition considering most modern ultrabooks are abandoning it for a slimmer design.
A second Thunderbolt 3 charging port hides neatly on the Spectre x360's right chamfered corner. The clever positioning makes it easy to connect a power cord without having to shift the device around, and the port's rear-facing angle keeps cords out of the way.
On the other hand, the illuminated power button on the opposite corner is somewhat problematic. The button presses into my palm when I hold the Spectre x360 in tablet mode, and although quite a bit of pressure is required to actuate it, you can inadvertently induce sleep mode if you're not careful.
HP Spectre x360 display
From aqua skin to fiery scarlet hair, the sundry colors in a trailer for the upcoming X-Men movie Dark Phoenix popped on the Spectre x360's display. The vortex of fire enveloping Dark Phoenix at the end of the trailer was a sea of punchy oranges and deep purples. The display was so crisp that I noticed a boot floating among thousands of shards of wood as Jean Grey hovered in midair, staring down her adversary, Quicksilver, with menacing orange eyes.
The panel's punchy colors reflect the Spectre x360's ability to cover 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That makes the display more colorful than those on the Gram 14 2-in-1 (128 percent), Yoga C930 (100 percent) and MateBook 13 (122 percent). The display on the average premium laptop (118 percent) also isn't as vibrant.
In contrast with the Spectre x360's vivid display, its peak brightness is somewhat of a letdown. While the panel is far from dim, at 287 nits, it doesn't get as bright as the category average (329 nits) or competing laptops like the MateBook 13 (318 nits). Then again, the Yoga C930 (273 nits) and Gram 14 2-in-1 (253 nits) also fell short in this area.
I had no problem using the Spectre x360's touch screen to navigate the web or draw pictures in Paint 3D with my fingers or the included Active Pen.
HP Spectre x360 keyboard and touchpad
HP did it again, fitting a super-comfortable keyboard onto a razor-thin chassis. With 1.4 millimeters of travel, the Spectre x360's chiclet-style keyboard depresses deeper than most of its ultrabook competitors. Yes, that's a bit short of our 1.5-mm preference, but the keys still feel punchy and provide excellent tactile feedback, perhaps because of their ideal 70 grams of actuation force.
Better yet, the keys are large, well-spaced and offer two backlit brightness levels, the highest of which is quite luminous. Getting back to this beauty's design, even the large, simple font HP used on the keys looks sophisticated.
My fingers blazed through the 10FastFingers.com typing test, reaching 120 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 96 percent. Both of those scores are a point above my typical 119-wpm, 95-percent speed and accuracy rates.
The Spectre x360's 4.7 x 2.3-inch touchpad responded quickly to my swipes, and I appreciated how much real estate my fingers had to execute gestures, like swiping with three fingers to change windows or pinch-to-zoom.
HP Spectre x360 audio
"Wow." That's all I could muster when the Spectre x360's top-firing speakers blasted audio loud enough to fill a large conference room. I certainly wasn't expecting so much oomph out of such a small machine. More importantly, the quality of the speakers is very good.
When I listened to The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights," Ben Gibbard's vocals sounded crisp and clear, even when the volume was maxed out. There was a nice weightiness to the synth bass that generates the song's distinct electric sound. That same bass bump added energy to Swae Lee, Slim Jxmmi and Rae Sremmurd's song "Guatemala."
HP Spectre x360 performance
Equipped with an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Spectre x360 accommodated my demanding web-browsing habits without breaking a sweat. I simultaneously loaded 20 Google Chrome tabs before streaming an Overwatch League match in which the San Francisco Shock stomped all over the Washington Justice. There wasn't even a hint of lag when I watched Gordon Ramsey's epic Hot Ones YouTube video while that beatdown played in the background along with two more full HD Twitch streams and a 1080p gameplay video of The Division 2.
The Spectre x360 performed well in our synthetic benchmarks, but competing ultrabooks edged it out on most tests. For example, the Spectre x360 scored a 14,935 on the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance benchmark, which tops the category average (13,293) and the Yoga C930's (Core i7-8550U, 14,739) result, but falls short of what the MateBook 13 (Core i7-8565U, 17,214) and Gram 14 2-in-1 (Core i7-8565U, 15,943) achieved.
The 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD inside the Spectre x360 performed well on our File Transfer test, duplicating 4.97GB of mixed-media data in 13 seconds for a rate of 391.5 megabytes per second. That matches the rate of the Gram 14 2-in-1 (512GB M.2 SATA SSD, 391 MBps) and tops the Yoga C930's (256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, 339.3 MBps) efforts. None of those ultrabooks could keep up with the blisteringly fast MateBook 13 (512GB NVMe SSD, 636 MBps), which topped the premium laptop average (548.4 MBps).
On our Excel Macro Test, the Gram 14 2-in-1 (1:25) and Matebook 13 (1:05) matched 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses faster than the Spectre x360, which required 1 minute and 34 seconds. HP's ultrabook fell just short of the premium laptop average (1:31) on that benchmark.
The Spectre x360 also lagged behind on our Handbrake video-transcoding test. The HP laptop needed 22 minutes and 30 seconds to transcode a 4K video into 1080p resolution, whereas the Gram 14 2-in-1 (21:17), Yoga C930 (20:45) and MateBook 13 (18:30) completed the task a bit more quickly.
HP Spectre x360 graphics
Because it relies on an integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU, the Spectre x360's graphics performance is average for an ultrabook. You shouldn't run into issues running demanding programs, like Adobe Photoshop, or even playing modern games at low settings, but a discrete GPU is required for more graphics-intensive tasks.
The HP Spectre scored a 90,977 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark test. That tops the category average (88,194) and two other Intel UHD 620-equipped laptops -- the Yoga C930 (85,758) and Gram 14 2-in-1 (87,220) -- but the discrete GeForce MX150 GPU in the MateBook 13 (141,995) crushed the competition.
We saw similar results with the racing game Dirt 3. Drifting around hairpin turns was buttery smooth on the Spectre x360, which played the game at 56 frames per second (above our 30-fps playability threshold). That rate is higher than what the Yoga C930 (37 fps) and the Gram 14 2-in-1 (51 fps) scored, though the MateBook 13 (166 fps) offered, by far, the best gaming experience.
HP Spectre x360 battery life
The Spectre x360 is a champion marathon runner when it comes to battery life; in fact, it could easily last into a second day of use, depending on your workload. With an outstanding runtime of 12 hours and 7 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness), the Spectre x360 outlasted the Yoga C930 (8:09), MateBook 13 (6:15) and the category average by several hours. The Gram 14 2-in-1 (11:28) put up a good fight, but also fell short of the Spectre x360.
HP Spectre x360 webcam
The Spectre x360's 1080p camera is better than most integrated webcams, but the images it produces are still only OK. The lens accurately captured my dirty-blonde hair and naturally warm skin tone, and it even caught the subtle variances of gray in my striped sweater. However, my face looked a tad blurry when I shot video in our dimly lit office. Image quality improved exponentially when I moved into direct sunlight; my face was more crisp and I could even make out individual strands of hair in my beard.
If you're worried about people snooping on you, the Spectre x360 has a physical on/off switch that electronically turns off the webcam when it's not in use, an elegant alternative to the sliding webcam cover we've seen from other laptop makers.
HP Spectre x360 heat
The HP Spectre x360 remained reasonably cool after we played a 15-minute HD video in full screen. While our heat gun registered a toasty 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom hinge, the rest of the laptop, including the center of the keyboard (87 degrees), the touchpad (80 degrees) and the underside (95 degrees) stayed at or below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
HP Spectre x360 software and warranty
HP brought its entire suite of apps to the Spectre x360; while some of these are genuinely useful, things get messy when you compound them with a multitude of Windows 10 bloatware.
Coming straight from the manufacturer are HP's Audio Control and HP Audio Switch apps, which let you control audio inputs and adjust volume levels. These apps are gratuitous, because most of the tools they offer are already built into Windows 10, like the ability to connect to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi headphones and speakers. More frustrating is that a litany of apps that provide diagnostics and support - HP Command Center, HP Documentation, HP Hardware Diagnostics Windows, HP Support Assist and HP System Event Utility - could simply be combined into one comprehensive program.
But wait, HP didn't stop there. Also on the Spectre x360 are HP's JumpStart, to help you set up your new PC, and a simple Pen Control app for assigning actions to the stylus' two buttons.
Courtesy of Microsoft are two Candy Crush games (because one wasn't enough) and another kid-friendly game called Cooking Fever, along with apps like Fitbit Coach, McAfee Security, Netflix and LinkedIn, among others.
HP Spectre x360 vs. the competition
If you're looking for a 2-in-1 and value a garaged pen slot, then consider the Lenovo Yoga C930. Like the Spectre x360, the Yoga C930 has a premium design and strong overall performance. Still, the HP lasts 4 hours longer on a charge.
The Gram 14 2-in-1 is another good alternative for those who want a larger display, but it lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port and has weak speakers. For those who don't need a convertible, we strongly recommend the Dell XPS 13, which is more compact than the Spectre x360 and has a brighter display. However, the 4K version of the XPS 13 doesn't last as long on a charge as the HP.
The HP Spectre x360 excels in almost every area. The 2-in-1 lured me in with its attractive laptop chassis, and enchanted with outstanding battery life, a world-class keyboard and powerful speakers. The Spectre x360 also offers strong performance and its 13.3-inch, 1080p touch screen is sharp and colorful. Along with its new design, this year's model introduces compelling new features, like a physical webcam kill switch and a discrete fingerprint sensor, which add up to make it one of the best Surface Pro alternatives.
If it's not obvious, I'm a big fan of the Spectre x360. That said, the laptop isn't perfect. For one, competing ultrabooks are thinner and lighter, and the Spectre x360's chunky display bezels nearly compromise otherwise elegant design. Also, the display, while vivid, doesn't get as bright as its competitors, and the Spectre x360 is filled with bloatware.
Overall, though, HP knocked it out of the park with the Spectre x360. It's a compelling 2-in-1 and undoubtedly one of the best laptops on the market.
Credit: Laptop Mag