HP Spectre x360 Review: Windows 10 Laptop Spins Around Refined Excellence – Forbes

Offering a delightful gold trim around a signature shade that is tough to describe (I’m going to go for a  dark walnut), the Spectre x360 is HP’s answer to consumers looking for a convertible laptop.  It offers HD gaming, a 4K touch screen and an innovative hinge.

The package offers a comfortable eight hours of battery life as long as you keep the screen brightness down, and while laptops of this size are going to need a decent sized bag, the Spectre manages to offer the feeling of portability with a machine that works well on your desk.

But has it done enough to stand out in a sea of Windows 10 laptops? I think it does, partly because of HP’s new design language, partly because the designers had a clear sense of what they wanted to deliver and had a realistic price point to aim for.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

The standout feature of the x360 is proudly part of the name. The ability to open out the screen from the closed clamshell and rotate through 360 degrees so you have a tablet styled handheld device is stunning. I’m not sure how practical a 15.6 inch screened tablet is, and I’d argue that it’s more ‘arm-held’ than ‘handheld’ because of the size and weight but it looks impressive.

As with all convertibles and transforming portable computers that are available in the current market, you need to think carefully about the use cases that the computer will be used for. If you’re never in a situation where the extra transforming power is needed, then it’s not a feature, it’s a luxury. In day-to-day use I never found a time when I genuinely needed the x360’s full rotation – it was nice to have, but it was never a’must have’.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

What makes the x360 a strong contender to be a ‘must have’ is the fact that the hinge can hold the device at any orientation in that 360 degree swoop. This is where the practical nature comes to light. You can keep the screen at a tight angle when you are travelling and space is limited on a train or aeroplane, you can use the keyboard as a stand to create an inverted V to watch films and media comfortably, or you can open the hinge up to a wide-angle, or even flat, to create the best working angle wherever you are.

The hinge on the HP Spectre x360 is far more than a gimmick, but on its own it’s not enough for me to rush out and pick up a Spectre – although it’s very close to achieving that thanks to the utility it offers. It’s when you consider the hinge design with the rest of the package that you realise how attractive the package is.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

HP has worked hard on the visual package of both the Spectre x360 as a single device, and across its portfolio of business and consumer devices. This sense of identity and belief gives these machines character. You can pick out an HP laptop from its shape at a distance, the stylised logo is simple but clear, and there is a sense of pride that comes out of all these machines. More than most, the Spectre x360 draws a metaphorical line in the sand that says this flair and style is a worthwhile investment to make.

There is personality here, and even though Windows 10 is ubiquitous across many brands, HP has managed to make its latest generation of laptops stand out.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

Yes, you can look at the Spectre x360 and see everything you expect to see in a laptop, there’s no radical reworking of the design beyond the 360 degree hinge, but the elements all add up to make a machine that feels uniquely HP. These cues are also present in the business-focused Elitebooks, but there’s a sense that those machines needed to fit the boring look of an office.

But this is clearly a consumer-focused laptop. From the colours and focus on multimedia to the smaller range of ports and reduced security options, HP has decided enterprise is for enterprise and Spectre is for consumers… because consumers have less need for these options? Perhaps not, but it does open up the portfolio and give you the choice when you buy.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

In use I found the keyboard to be an excellent laptop keyboard. The island-style keys will be familiar to many users, but there is sufficient space between the keys to allow for accurate and fast typing. The action is solid and there’s no floating keys or different pressure required. I would have liked to have a little bit more travel in the keys, but that’s something that is particular to my style of hard and fast typing (probably born out of my days with the classic IBM Model M keyboard).

HP has made the standalone hashtag key on the right hand side curiously large and I think I’d prefer a larger enter key, but otherwise the layout is standard and easy to navigate.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

The touchpad is superbly wide which helps whip the cursor across the expansive screen, although it lacks Microsoft’s Precision certification. It’s not a huge issue but it can crop up occasionally when you need pixel accurate selection (such as when I edit audio for podcasts).

With speaker grilles either side of the keyboard there’s good stereo separation, although in tablet mode it does mean the sound is being pushed out the back of the machine. The Bang & Olufsen partnership is there to help tune the speakers to give the best audio performance, but with a small amount of depth the Spectre x360 struggles to replicate any particularly powerful bass lines.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

For all the cutting edge design and fashionable looks of the Spectre x360, you need to keep an eye on the specifications. While they are solid for the price point of the laptop, there are more powerful devices out there with the same rough cost. With a dual-core i7 CPU, and Nvidia’s GTX 940MX, HP’s fifteen-inch monster feels a few months behind the competition.

The specs still deliver a hefty and powerful punch, but it’s not a knock-out combination. If you are looking for ultimate performance this is not the machine for you, But it offers above average performance and its more than acceptable for most consumers. If you do want to run a few high-end games then tweak the graphics settings back a touch and you’ll be a happy bunny.

I also feel that the specifications on the screen have been trimmed back slightly to help with the cost. It is a touchscreen and it does have stylus support (and works with Microsoft’s Ink technology). The color balance is wonderful, with the white and black ends of the brightness providing a huge range of contrast. But with an sRGB color gamut of around 83% (and only 60 of Adobe’s RGB gamut value) the color range is limited. Again it’s perfectly fine for daily use, but if you’re a professional and need that extra touch of accuracy, this is not the HP laptop for you.

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)Ewan Spence

HP Spectre x360 (photo: Ewan Spence)

At lot of your purchasing decision around the Spectre x360 will come down to your desire for the hinge. I get the feeling that the extra cost of outfitting the base laptop with the 360 degree magic has led to a little bit of compromising in other areas – notably a chipset that can be beaten on the market for a similar price… but only on laptops with a standard hinge that opens up to a fixed angle.

Style wise the Spectre 360x stands out from the crowd and is a looker. The switch to an overside tablet with the hinge is a good one for some use cases, but you’re not going to be looking at this laptop for performance You’re going to be looking at this laptop because it turns heads, has a unique character, and it looks good. The HP Spectre x360 is the laptop that you’ll want to be seen with.

Now read my review of the sister laptop, the business focused Elitebook…

Disclaimer: HP UK supplied a Spectre x360 15 for review purposes.

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