HP is out to dethrone the Surface Pro by making its Spectre x2 ($1,149 to start, $1,299 as tested) better than ever. This detachable 12.3-inch notebook features an improved hinge system and a bright, vibrant 3K display. Plus, unlike the Surface Pro, the Spectre x2 comes with a super-comfy keyboard and a pen that works with Windows Ink at a much cheaper price than a similarly configured Surface. Only short battery life holds this 2-in-1 back from being our top pick.
The Spectre x2 sports an eye-catching black-and-copper machined aluminum design with a dark ash silver finish that pops when light bounces off, making it one of the most attractive 2-in-1 PCs on the market today.
Unlike last year's model, which used a stiff switch to activate the kickstand, users extend and retract the hybrid's stainless-steel kickstand by manually moving it to the position they require. It's a welcome improvement.
As a tablet, the HP Spectre x2 weighs 1.7 pounds and measures 0.31 inches thick, which makes it similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro (1.7 pounds, 0.33 inches) and the Samsung Galaxy Book (1.7 pounds 0.29 inches), thinner than the Lenovo Miix 720 (1.7 pounds, 0.4 inches) and lighter than the Dell Latitude 5825 2-in-1 (1.9 pounds, 0.38 inches).
With its keyboard, the Spectre x2 weighs 2.5 pounds and measures 0.54 inches. That's similar to the attached Galaxy Book (2.6 pounds, 0.6 inches), the Surface Pro (2.4 pounds, 0.54 inches) and the Miix 720 (2.6 pounds, 0.6 inches), and lighter than the attached Latitude 5825 (2.7 pounds, 0.6 inches).
The Spectre x2 offers only USB Type-C ports (splitting the two connectors between the left and right sides), but it's not a problem for legacy users, as the detachable includes a USB Type-A adapter. Take note, competitors: This is how you do it. Its headphone jack and microSD reader sit on the left side of the tablet.
While kickstand-based detachable laptops don't make for good typing experiences in your lap (which none of its competitors offer), the stainless steel kickstand on the Spectre x2 is great for drawing with a stylus. Drawing on the Spectre x2 and Surface Pro, set at their widest angles, I noticed that the former stayed stable, while the latter wobbled slightly.
The bright 12.3-inch, 3000 x 2000-pixel panel in the Spectre x2 pumps out beautiful looking images. Watching the 4K science-fiction film Tears of Steel on the panel, I noted that black tones looked inky and pure, and colors -- such as flapping green foliage and the red of a flowing cyborg eye -- looked vibrant and accurate. The screen offered enough clarity for me to read the microscopic text of an augmented-reality overlay and see the crisscrossing adhesive bandages on the bottom of a robotic arm.
According to our colorimeter, the Spectre x2's display produces 123 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is near the 127 percent from the Latitude 5285 and the 130 percent from the Miix 720. Higher marks came from the 140-percent Surface Pro and 205-percent Galaxy Book.
The Spectre x2's panel is also quite bright, emitting up to 365 nits. That's similar to the 361-nit Lenovo Miix 720, and better than the 289-nit category average, the 188-nit Latitude 5285 and the 342-nit Galaxy Book. The 396-nit Surface Pro gets even brighter. This makes for decent viewing angles, as I saw its colors only slightly darken at 30 degrees to the left and right.
The Spectre x2's touch screen accepted my taps accurately and speedily responds to Windows 10's swipe-in gestures. Doodling in MS Paint with my fingers, I noticed a slight delay when my fingers moved at a slightly speedy pace.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Active Pen
The detachable keyboard that comes with the Spectre x2 is one of the best I've ever used. Its aluminum-over-plastic deck and keys felt excellent underneath my hands, giving the Surface Pro's ($169) Alcantara Type Cover a run for its money.
Its keys offer a comfortable typing experience that allowed me to tie my 80 words-per-minute average on the 10fastfingers typing test. Its keys are slightly shallow, with 1.3 mm of travel (we hope to see at least 1.5mm), but their 70 grams of required actuation force makes up for that (we look for at least 60g).
The 4.7 x 2.1-inch touchpad provides a solid feel to each click and accurate input recognition. It also speedily recognized Windows 10's three-finger app-navigation gestures, and allowed for smooth two-finger page scrolling in Chrome.
The detachable includes an HP Active Pen stylus, which is Windows Ink-certified and offers decent tracking and solid palm-rejection. One of its downsides is a small but noticeable amount of latency (an issue the Galaxy Book's S Pen avoids). Another downside is that, with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, it's not as responsive as the Surface Pro's ($99 extra) Surface Pen, which sports 4,096 levels as well as tilt-sensitivity. Annoyingly, the Active Pen came with a sticker that, when removed, left a residue I had to wipe off.
For those about to rock, the Spectre x2's sweet sound salutes you. Radiohead's Karma Police sounded excellent on the 2-in-1, filling our large conference room with clear guitar strings, crisply crashing drum cymbals and accurate vocals.
HP gives the option to adjust sound via the Bang & Olufsen Audio utility, which is most-easily accessed from the HP Audio Switch taskbar utility. The default Music setting provides a solid balance that's great for trailers and tunes, and the Voice and Movie options just narrow and dampen the sound.
Armed with an Intel Core i7-7560U CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Spectre x2 is made for multitasking. I saw no lag after splitting my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and a dozen Chrome tabs (including Slack, Google Docs and TweetDeck), with Paint and password-manager 1Password running in the background.
This configuration scored a very good 8,633 on the Geekbench 4 general performance benchmark. That's similar to the 8,652 from the Surface Pro (Core i7-7500U, 16GB of RAM) and the 8,434 from the Miix 720 (i7-7500U, 8GB of RAM), and beats the 5,916 from the Galaxy Book (Core i5-7200U, 4GB of RAM). The 8,915 from the Latitude 5285 (Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM) is the highest score of the bunch.
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The 360GB NVMe M.2 PCI-e SSD in the Spectre x2 duplicated 4.97 GB of multimedia files in 22 seconds, for a speed of 231.33 megabytes per second. That tops the 217.06 MBps category average, the 203.57 MBps from the Miix 720 (256GB PCIe SSD) and the 267.9 MBps from the Galaxy Book (128GB SSD). We saw higher rates of 339.28 MBps from the Latitude 5285 (256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 40 SSD) and 339 MBps from the Surface Pro (1TB SSD).
The Spectre x2 turned in a solid time on our OpenOffice productivity macro test, matching 20,000 names to addresses in 3 minutes and 33 seconds. That's similar to the results from the Latitude 5285 (3:27) and the Miix 720 (3:34), and better than the 5:56 ultraportable average and the 5:14 from the Galaxy Book. The Surface Pro (3:13) took less time.
The integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 chip in the Spectre x2 paced it to a score of 92,759 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That beats the 57,294 category average, the 65,938 from the Latitude 5285 (Intel HD 620), the 49,088 from the Miix 720 (Intel HD 620) and the 63,187 from the Galaxy Book (Intel HD 620). The Microsoft Surface Pro (Iris Plus 640) scored a higher 109,678.
While HP isn't marketing the Spectre x2 as a gaming machine, it can handle modest titles. The hybrid ran the Dirt 3 racing game (set to medium graphics, 1080p display) at a smooth 67 frames per second, beating the 38-fps ultraportable average and the 53-fps rate from the Galaxy Book.
Unfortunately, you'll need to take the Spectre x2's power cord with you if you're going to be away from an outlet for more than a few hours. We ran the Laptop Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi) four times on HP's 2-in-1 and it averaged only 5 hours and 1-minute of endurance, with a high time of 5:27 and a low-time of 4:53.
The Surface Pro lasted more than 2 hours longer at 7:30, while the Galaxy Book lasted an hour longer (6:38). Lenovo's Mix 720 turned in a similarly disappointing 5:37.
The Spectre x2's 3.6-megapixel front camera and 9.4-MP rear-mounted lens capture decent color, but falter elsewhere. So while the grass and sky looked accurate in a selfie I shot on our rooftop terrace, only the front of my hair and the top of my forehead rendered crisply.
I noticed similar issues with the skyline shots and video I captured, where only a small section of a tree's red leaves looked clear, and the green petals of a shrub appeared blurry.
The Spectre x2 gets warm, but not too hot. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on this system, our heat gun caught a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit on its shell, which means it reaches -- but doesn't break -- our comfort threshold (95 degrees).
Software and Warranty
The Spectre x2 includes some useful tools from HP and some other stuff you'll probably consider uninstalling as you set the notebook up. Once you've decided on keeping or deleting Candy Crush Soda Saga and Sling TV, you'll likely notice the Pen Control app, which allows you to change what the two buttons on HP's Active Pen do. HP's Orbit allows you to send files between an Android phone and the Spectre x2, and its Smart utility allows you to control HP all-in-one printers.
Configuration Options and Accessories
We tested a $1,299 Spectre that features a Core i7-7560U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 360GB of SSD storage. It features a 3000 x 2000-pixel display (found in all configurations) and includes its attachable keyboard, HP Active Pen and a black, faux-leather sleeve.
The Spectre x2 starts at $1,149, with a model that includes a Core i5-7260U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Unless you're using demanding programs, you'll likely be better off getting the 16GB RAM upgrade, which brings you up to $1,249, rather than the $1,299 Core i7 model we tested.
The Spectre x2's colorful and bright display, seductive design and excellent keyboard almost place it at the front of the class for detachable 2-in-1 notebooks. We also appreciate the improved hinge mechanism and included Type-A USB dongle.
When it comes to specs and what you get in the box, HP's system is also a better value than the Surface Pro, as it includes a keyboard and pen in its starting configuration for just $1,149. A similarly specced Surface Pro starts at $1,299 before you add the Surface Pen and keyboard; it costs $1,558.98 overall, which is a $410 difference.
However, the Spectre x2's lower battery life can't be ignored. That's why we recommend splurging on the Surface Pro, because it offers 2 hours more endurance on a charge. Microsoft's 2-in-1 also has a better pen. But, overall, the Spectre x2 is a fantastic option for the money.