Architects and artists may argue about whether form follows function, but the HP Spectre x360 13t has both. This 2-in-1 ($899 starting, $1,520 as tested) has a beautiful metallic design that looks good whether it's in laptop, tablet, tent or stand mode. Add in strong performance, above-average battery life and powerful speakers, and you have one of the best 13-inch convertible laptops on the market.
With its rounded edges, minimalist branding and optional copper-colored sides and hinges, the new Spectre x360 13t screams luxury. The shiny black (HP calls it "ash silver") lid is understated. The words "Hewlett-Packard" are emblazoned in copper coloring instead of "HP," and this same logo can be found on the back hinge. The sides and hinges are the same shiny copper color, providing some nice contrast to the dark lid. Some models are only available in a standard silver, and the color options depend on the price (see below).
Inside is a backlit, island-style keyboard, the 13.3-inch 2560 x 1440 touch screen and both the Spectre logo and Bang & Olufsen emblem.
With a footprint of 12.79 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches, the Spectre x360 is roughly the same size as Lenovo's Yoga 900 (12.75 x 8.86 x 0.59), but larger than Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 tablet (11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33). At 2.4 pounds, it's heavier than the Surface Pro 4 (1.73 pounds), which has a keyboard cover rather than a full base, but lighter than other bend-back 2-in-1s like the 2.8-pound Yoga 900.
Because of the Spectre's 360-degree hinge, it can be used in a variety of modes, including a regular laptop, a tablet (with the keyboard folded all the way back), a display (resting on the keyboard with the screen facing the user) and a tent (folded into an upside-down "V").
Keyboard and Touchpad
With just 1.49 mm of key travel, the Spectre x360 13t's keys fall a bit flat. When typing, I bottomed out quite often, though the reliable 60 grams of force required to press the keys prevented them from feeling mushy or uncomfortable. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I hit 103 words per minute, which is in my average range for speed, but I had an error rate of 3 percent, which is higher than my typical 1 to 2 percent.
The keyboard is backlit, albeit not terribly brightly. In a puzzling design decision, HP added a dedicated key to turn the backlight on and off, and it remains distractingly illuminated even when the rest of the keyboard is dark.
I love the 5.5 x 2.5 touchpad -- it's incredibly spacious, and the option to keep my finger anywhere on the wide, smooth surface makes it easy to use. It recognized Windows 10 gestures without a hitch, and I had no trouble swiping between programs, flicking to my desktop and scrolling through Web pages.
The Spectre x360's 13-inch, 2560 x 1440 display produces detailed, bright images with highly accurate colors. When I watched the latest trailer for Captain America: Civil War on this notebook, I noticed a lot of detail on the character's faces, like the deep wrinkles on General Ross' face. Iron Man's red suit looked accurate, but Captain America's blue duds seemed a little darker than they should have been.
The Spectre x360's screen clocked in at 307.6 nits of brightness on our light meter, just under the ultraportable category average of 309 nits. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 was the brightest of the group at 382 nits, while the Lenovo Yoga 900 was the most dim at 284 nits.
HP's 2-in-1 covers an excellent 110.8 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which would explain its vibrant tones. That's more than both the Surface Pro 4 (100 percent) and Yoga 900 (93 percent).
The Spectre's fairly precise display registered a Delta-E color accuracy score of 0.97 (the closer to zero, the better). That's not as good as the Surface Pro 4, but much better than the Yoga 900.
I sat back, relaxed and listened to Major Lazer and DJ Snake's "Lean On" play loud and clear from the Bang & Olufsen speakers. The vocals, rhythmic clapping and synthesized melodies were all rich and powerful, no matter whether I used the Spectre as a laptop, stand, display or tent.
Bang & Olufsen's software was buried in the system tray (it wasn't listed in the list of programs), and for good reason: there's not much you can do with it besides adjust the volume. Luckily, the speakers sound good enough on their own not to need the extra help.
With a Core i7-6500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, our review configuration of the Spectre X360 provided more than enough performance for productivity and entertainment. I didn't experience any slowdown when I browsed the Web in Google Chrome with 13 tabs open, one of which was streaming 1080p video from YouTube.
The Spectre x360 achieved a score of 6,829 on the Geekbench 3 synthetic performance test, beating the Surface Pro 4's score of 6,811 (Core i5-6300U, 8GB of RAM) and the Yoga 900's mark of 6,264 (Core i7-6500U, 16GB of RAM) by a hair.
HP's 2-in-1 took just 4 minutes and 2 seconds to complete our spreadsheet macro test, where we pair 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice Calc. The Surface Pro 4 and the Yoga 900) were slightly slower than the Spectre x360.
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The Spectre x360's solid-state drive is faster than the average ultraportable, delivering a transfer rate of 173.4 MBps. However, the Lenovo Yoga 900 was slightly faster, and the Surface Pro 4 blew past them both at more than 300 MBps.
The integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU isn't enough to handle intensive video games like Far Cry Primal or Tom Clancy's The Division. With its 3DMark score of 62,054, you will have to settle for Words with Friends, Candy Crush and perhaps some World of Warcraft, but that's the best you'll get.
Ports and Webcam
The Spectre x360 has a healthy helping of ports for peripherals and external monitors.
The left side of the laptop is home to the power port, a USB 3.0 port and an SD card reader, while the right side is where you'll find a Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone/microphone combo jack.
The webcam delivered a grainy photo without much detail -- my hair and beard both appeared as blobs without much definition, though it did capture my dimple and the various shades of gray in my sweater. Lights behind me were blown out, but I appeared properly exposed.
The HP Spectre x360 lasted an impressive 8 hours and 26 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. That's a tad longer than the ultraportable category average of 8:09, and should be enough for you to keep your laptop unplugged most of the day. The Lenovo Yoga 900 fared worse at 7:57, while the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 endured for only 6:05.
The Spectre x360 got a bit hot under the collar when we subjected it to our heat test. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video, its touchpad reached 94 degrees, just 1 degree under our maximum comfort threshold of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The G&H keys broke that threshold at 99 degrees, while the underside of the laptop hit a toasty 111 degrees.
Software and Warranty
The Spectre x360 comes with all of the most common Windows 10 bloatware, including Candy Crush Soda Saga, Flipboard and Twitter, as well as Netflix, Snapfish and CyberLink YouCam 6.
The more helpful apps are HP's own -- HP Recovery Manager will help you restore your data after a crash, while HP Documentation is a quick link to your device's instruction manual, should you ever need to reference it.
HP offers a one-year limited warranty with the computer, but you can upgrade to cover damage outside of the warranty. You can get one year of accidental damage coverage for $179.99, two years for $249.99 or three years for $329.99.
The HP Spectre x360 13t that we reviewed came with a Core i7-6500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 2560 x 1440 touch screen. When we configured it on HP's site, it cost $1,519.99.
The base model costs $899.99 and comes in silver instead of black and gold. It has an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1080p display.
There are a number of customization options, but we recommend a $999.99 option, which comes with a Core i5-6200U, 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM, and a 1080p touch screen, which should be enough for most users. This version comes in silver -- the black-and-gold combination doesn't come into play until you reach the $1,149.99 price.
The HP Spectre x360 13t is a premium 2-in-1 with the looks and performance to back it up. Its sexy chassis (especially in black and gold), accurate screen, powerful audio and strong performance make it an Editors' Choice pick. We just wish the bottom ran cooler.
The Lenovo Yoga 900 is another great 2-in-1 with a higher-res screen than the HP, a comfier keyboard and a lower price (when similarly configured), but the Spectre's longer battery life and lighter weight make it a compelling choice.
If you want a true 2-in-1 that doubles as a laptop and tablet, it's hard to do better than the Spectre x360.