The HP Spectre X360 15 (2017) has a very good mix of design, performance, usability and price

Highs

  • Beautiful 2-in-1 design
  • Large battery and low-power CPU
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Very good keyboard+trackpad, excellent display

Lows

  • Not a light 15.6-inch computer
  • No fingerprint reader

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 9/10

Building on the design of the 2016 HP Spectre X360 15 laptop, HP has pushed this model further with the addition of the latest Intel processors, a discrete graphics chip, a larger battery capacity and many more features. At the same time, this computer retains and improves upon the excellent industrial design that made its predecessor popular. Add to this a relatively aggressive pricing, and you have a 15.6” laptop computer worth considering. The new HP Spectre X360 15 2017 was announced at CES 2017 (model 15-bl002xx), and here’s our review.

Configuration, as reviewed

  • Core i7-7500U CPU 16GB RAM, GeForce 940MX GPU
  • 512GB SSD NVME PCIE
  • 15.6” UHD IPS LED Touch-screen (3840 x 2160) + N-Trig Digitizer Pen
    WiFi AC + Bluetooth 4.0
  • 79.2 Wh battery
  • Dimensions: 14 x 9.88 x 0.7 in, 4.42 Lbs
  • $1499 on HP.com as tested (May 17 2017)

Industrial design

The HP Spectre 360 15” has a beautiful industrial design. While we reviewed the “silver” version last year, this time we are looking at the “Dark Ash Silver” model, which is, in fact, a metallic dark brown with copper accents. Although we are not sure why it is called silver by HP, we like the design very much. Check the photo gallery to form your opinion, but we will say that it is classy and probably the most beautiful laptop in its category.

"PROBABLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LAPTOP IN ITS CATEGORY"This computer has an all-metal construction, and you can tell: it is extremely rigid and seem really solid. It will not bend or twist when you hold it. At 4.41 Lbs, it is not the lightest computer in its category which ranges from 3.96 Lbs (Dell XPS 15) to 4.62 Lbs (Gigabyte Aero 15). As you will see later, PC makers have worked diligently to make each computer distinguishable from competitors.

As a result, the HP Spectre X360 15 (model 15-bl002xx here) also comes with a digital N-Trig pen that makes it attractive to a specific public. Also, the fact that it has a 2-in-1 360-degrees swivel design allows it to work well in “flat” (180-degrees open) and “tablet” (360-degrees) modes, which is not the case for all competitors in the 15.6” category.

The advantage of the multi-mode (360-swivel) design is that it combines the productivity of a laptop, with a functional tablet-mode. It is, however, a laptop-first design, which means that the “tablet mode” would be a bit better with a tablet-first mobile computer such as the Surface 4 Pro, for example.

Keyboard / Trackpad

As usual, HP has integrated a huge trackpad (140x65mm) which is just a few millimeters smaller than a Galaxy S8 smartphone in touch surface area (!).  A larger keypad makes touch interactions more comfortable, especially if you use Windows swipe gestures.

The keyboard has a key-travel of 1.5mm, which makes the keystrokes comfortable in my opinion (and for my taste). We all have different preferences, so if there’s an optimum key travel that you like, you should try to figure out which distance (in mm) it is, and keep it for future reference. They key size is about 15x15mm.

IR Camera for face unlock, but no fingerprint reader

The HP Spectre 360 15 (2017) is compatible with Windows Hello and supports sign-ins with facial recognition, but does not have a fingerprint reader. Both fingerprint and facial login provide a high degree of convenience and allow you to quickly log-in in a few seconds, with nearly zero errors. That should encourage you to use more secure (text) passwords (here’s how to create strong passwords), and lock your computer as soon as you leave the area.

We know that fingerprints provide a very strong entropy (complexity), which is similar to having an extremely long password. How secure the IR front camera has not been widely studied (it depends on the biometric data quality), We know that this IR camera prevents easy spoofing such as using photos. That is because the face from a photo or a screen does not show up in the IR camera (it looks like a blank sheet of paper): IR just works on a different wavelength.

Ports

  • The right side has 1x (full-size) HDMI, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 (HP Sleep and Charge) and 1x 1 Thunderbolt 3 (HP Sleep and Charge). Either USB-C ports can be used to charge the laptop.
  • The left side has 1x headphone/microphone combo, 1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (HP Sleep and Charge) and an SD Card reader.

We like the presence of USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps), along with the USB 3.1 ports, both in USB-C and USB-A (classic) connectors. If you have many legacy devices such as Ethernet adapters and mice, you may find yourself running out of USB-A ports, but an adapter can easily fix this.

Note that while many adapters are present in our review package (USB to Ethernet, and more ), they are NOT included in the retail box, so you have to purchase them separately. At Ubergizmo, we typically use 3rd party combo adapters that merge USB, Ethernet and maybe even card readers or video-out. With USB-C+Thunderbolt 3, these have become quite useful and efficient.

Sound system tuned by B&O

"THE SOUND QUALITY IS AMAZING"The HP Spectre X360 15 (2017) has the same speaker placement and design as last year’s model. This is good news because having speakers on either side of the laptop is optimal: sound energy is aimed directly at the user and isn’t wasted by a reflection on a table surface for example.

As a result, this is the best-sounding laptop we have tried to date, and I am very impressed with the sound quality. It is, of course, a formidable machine to watch movies on, but it is also very agreeable to use to play music and is better than many portable speakers I have – the sound quality is amazing given how little space HP engineers have. There is no distortion even at the loudest setting.

In recent years, HP has been pushing the audio boundaries with the help of Bang and Olufsen (B&O), and this is paying off big time. If you love having great audio, HP computers tuned by B&O should be high on your list.

Display

The 4K display is a high-quality IPS LCD and provides very good image quality. Because it has a high pixel density (~282 PPI), text and interface are very sharp, and things are just beautiful in general. When compared to last year’s model, the bezels are thinner on the left and right sides. The bezel went from a rather thick ~15mm down to ~5mm, which has a huge positive impact on how the laptop looks when turned on.

The bezel at the top has remained relatively large because HP wanted to include the color webcam and IR webcam at that location. It is understandable because this is still the best placement for video-conferences. Many people feel like placing the webcam at the bottom of the screen makes the view angle a bit odd.

Stylus

The 2017 HP Spectre X360 has the particularity of coming with an N-trig digital pen (included in the box), and that will make Photoshop and e-pen lovers in general very happy. When you combine the 15.6” diagonal with a high-precision digital pen such as this one, it opens a lot of artistic possibilities that other 15.6” simply don’t match.

I am not an artist by any means, but I tested the pen with the sticky notes apps which immediately shows that the ink responsiveness is excellent and that the pressure sensitivity makes it feel very natural, visually. The pen’s tip has been tuned well, providing a good sensation. The size of the pen is such that it feels very much like using a regular pen.

System performance

The system performance of the HP Spectre X360 15 is very good as it comes with a recent Intel Core i7-7500U (15W TDP) main CPU, along with a GeForce 940MX discrete graphics solution. However, there are nuances that you should consider.

First of all, many of the 15.6” competitors in the same price range have opted for a more powerful Intel Core i7-7700HQ (45W TDP) CPU. If you look carefully, you will notice a large difference between 15W and 45W TDP (thermal design point) for those CPU options. The TDP does not exactly represent the “power consumption”, but rather the thermal design point. That said, more heat does correlate to higher power consumption).

The discrete GeForce 940MX graphics pushes the graphics performance and app compatibility further than the Intel integrated graphics alone (also present in the laptop), but other competitors now feature the newer GeForce 1050 or 1060 graphics from NVIDIA, which is even more powerful.

In benchmarks, having an Intel Core i7-7700HQ translates into significant performance gains. That kind of performance is best exploited for video production, 3D work, or gaming. If you do not do any of those, it is probably not that important.

Value for the price, for the weight

How a computer performs in relation to its weight and price is also very telling. Because no one wants to spend infinite money, or want to carry a very heavy computer, choosing the right one is often a trade-off between price, weight and performance. The short story is that the HP Spectre X360 15 is a very good computer “for the price”, but other computers with a comparable weight will outclass it in synthetic performance. Those two charts will give you an idea of what to expect:

Battery

The 2017 version of the HP Spectre X360 features a much larger 79.2Wh battery when compared to last year’s model (64.5Wh). The 90W power supply has a USB-C connector, which connects to either USB-C ports on the laptop for charging. Note that many laptops ship with a 45W power supply, so there’s a chance that this model charges faster while you are using it.

In general, the most reliable proxy for battery life (within a class of device) remains the battery capacity relative to the CPU/GPU/Display combo. The hardware platform of the HP Spectre X360 15 (2017) is slightly less power-hungry as other competitors. However, others have increased their battery capacity slightly to offset that.

The battery capacity/price of this computer is quite decent, and this laptop stands in the middle of the pack based on this particular metric, even against an array of formidable competitors. Note that, there isn’t a 1080p version of this computer available, so it is not possible to trade graphics sharpness for longer battery life. Many other 15.6” laptops do offer that option at order time.

Conclusion

The HP Spectre X360 15 (2017) is a very good, beautiful, 15.6” multi-mode computer that is priced aggressively. At ~$1499, the configuration that we tested may not win the “absolute performance” battle, but it does win the performance/price and the battery/price comparison most of the time. At $1499 the Spectre X360 15 simply offers much value for the money.

"THE SPECTRE X360 15 OFFERS MUCH VALUE FOR THE MONEY"While others like the Dell XPS 15 ($2145) or the Gigabyte Aero 15 do provide more CPU and Graphics power, they also cost a lot more money when you want similar attributes: 15.6” 4K display, large battery, 512GB SSD, 16GB RAM. The Lenovo Yoga 720 15 seems like a good value contender, but we need to re-run some benchmarks because the benchmark numbers we currently have for the Yoga 720 seem lower than what its hardware seem capable of.

In the end, the HP Spectre X360 15 is an excellent choice for a whole lot of people who do not need (and want to pay for) the absolute best synthetic performance, or better gaming capabilities. It is a very solid productivity machine, with advanced audio and creative abilities, thanks to the digital pen.

Overall product rating: 9/10

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