hp-spectre-x360-15__heroPitched by HP as a (literally) flexible computer with an “exquisite craftsmanship”, we were curious to see how the HP X360 15.6” felt like in the real world and if it could live up to the legend. We took it for a spin at Mobile world Congress – there’s nothing like a real world situation such as a trade show coverage to see what a laptop is made of. In this review, we go over the all-metal industrial design, the 360-degree hinge and the overall performance and value proposition of HP’s Spectre X360 15”.

Industrial Design

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The HP Spectre x360 design allows it to go from laptop to tablet mode by rotating the display all the way. This design choice makes it a real competitor for Lenovo, which introduced the “multimode” idea with the YOGA line of products.

hp-spectre-x360-15__05The 360-degree swivel design makes the computer feel like a completely normal premium computer (and not a 2-in-1 tablet) while the tablet mode or tent mode makes the Spectre x360 nice to use if space is cramped (long flight), especially when reading documents or watching movies.

"AN ALL-METAL DESIGN WHICH FEELS VERY NICE AND EXTREMELY RIGID"

The pure tablet mode is better on real “detachable” 2-in-1 tablets, but the x360 design has a better ergonomy in productivity mode. HP has other 2-in-1 models to address specific needs.

hp-spectre-x360-15__12The Spectre x360 15” is an all-metal design which feels very nice and extremely rigid. There’s a shiny HP logo behind the screen, and the bottom is where the cooling vent is. Screws retain the back cover, and it seems possible to open the laptop to access the motherboard (I haven’t opened it). There are two speaker grills in the back, but the main ones are in the front.

Ports

On the left side, you will find the Power connector, one USB 3.0 slot, the 3.5mm audio jack, the full-size SD card reader and the Power button. That’s also where the hot air exhaust exits.

The right side has two more USB 3.0 ports, one USB C port, along with one micro Display Port (DP) and one full-size HDMI connectors. The volume rocker is on that side too.

  • 3x USB 3.0
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x mini-DP
  • 1x USB-C 3.0

Keyboard

hp-spectre-x360-15__10Opening the laptop reveals the keyboard which is painted with a grey metallic color to match the overall appearance of the laptop. I really like the key travel depth and the overall feel of the keyboard.  They keyboard quality is very important to me since I spend most of my time writing and answering emails.

The keys also don’t become greasy over time. I mention this because I’ve seen many keyboard designs have that problem. The key layout is classic, and you will have no problem adapting to it.

On either side of the keyboard, there are two large speaker grills. If you look closely, you will see that HP has worked with Bang and Olufsen to tweak the audio for this laptop. In general, bigger laptops have an inherent advantage with sound volume and quality because there’s more space to build the air intake and to place larger speakers. It’s all about “pushing air” at the end of the day.

Trackpad

hp-spectre-x360-15__11The trackpad is very large. At 5.5” x 2.5”, it’s one of the largest that I have used to date. The glass surface is also very smooth to the touch, and it looks like HP has made a particular effort to make it as comfortable as possible. If you use many trackpad gestures to boost your productivity, this detail should score some serious points.

You can click on the lower left/right of the trackpad to emulate the corresponding mouse buttons. The amount of force required seems just right to me: not too stiff, not too soft — and the trackpad is so wide that there’s no way to click the wrong side by mistake.

Display: 4K IPS, with Quand-HD and 1080p option

It doesn’t sound like it when you read tech sites, but 15” is the most popular laptop size. That’s probably because many users are more interested in something comfortable and productive, instead of having something ultraportable. It’s true that the extra real-estate and/or display resolution does matter, a lot.

I use both 15” and 13” computers and when I’m in a non-mobile situation (remote office, hotel…) the 15” feels so much better when working on a desk. It’s definitely a trade-off, but if you’re transporting your laptop in your car most of the time, it’s very different from having one on your back in a bag.

"GET THE 4K MODEL AND DON’T LOOK BACK"The HP Spectre x360 15” has several display options ranging from 1080p to 4K. Although we have both the 1080p and the 4K models in the office, the 4K is the main one we used, and since the difference between both options is only $60, we see no reason to hold back — just get the 4K model and don’t look back.

The only exception to this rule is if you use Photoshop CS or other software that don’t handle hi-DPI (very pixel density) very well. The app icons can become tiny and this could be a source of frustration. Do a little bit of research to make sure your favorite apps will work well, but 4K is crystal clear – it’s worth it.

Learn moreWhat is PPI?
Learn moreHigh PPI displays: do you really need them?

All models use a shiny glass surface treatment, which makes the colors nicer (they “pop” more), but of course, the display is quite shiny if you work outdoors on a sunny day.

At 368 NIT, the display provides plenty of brightness to make it comfortable in bright lighting conditions. The backlight seems to be stronger on the upper-right. Although it’s not very visible to the naked eye (unless you know what you’re looking for), the brightness is strongest at the upper-right (374 NIT) and a bit less so on the lower-left (315 NIT).

Regardless of the resolution, all option use an IPS LCD panel, which provides a great viewing angle, and I’ve been impressed with the quality of the display. The only thing that would love to see is thinner bezels and an OLED option, but at the moment, I haven’t seen any competitor with a 15” OLED display.

Processor, RAM, and Storage

The computer we reviewed is equipped with an Intel Core i7 6500U, which is part of Intel’s latest 6th generation of processor. It is a powerful chip, which seats next to the Intel Core i7 6700HQ which has more threads and more internal memory, but the biggest differences between the two are the faster Intel Graphics core and the higher power consumption of the 6700HQ. The hardware platform has been carefully picked to attain a great mix of design, speed and price.

"CAREFULLY PICKED TO ATTAIN A GREAT MIX OF DESIGN, SPEED AND PRICE"

The i7 6500U has an Intel HD 520 graphics unit (GPU) while the 6700HQ has an HD 530 GPU. This difference yields a 2X faster graphics performance for the 6700HQ. On top of that, the multi-thread performance is also about 2X higher.

However, the i7 6500U has a much lower power consumption (~12W TDP) than the 6700HQ (~36.5W TDP), so the 6500U is a good choice for most situations. Maybe gaming and workstation applications would warrant a higher power consumption, but HP made the right call here, in my opinion.

The base Spectre X360 15” comes with 8GB of RAM (DDR3), which is good enough for many people, but if you like opening a bunch of browser tabs, or have many apps running at once, the 16GB option would be a good idea (+$80).

This computer uses an SSD which starts at 256GB of capacity. Going to 512GB should not affect performance, although it’s a stiff upgrade, at +$200. It’s up to you to decide if you need/can afford it. I use my laptops as secondary computers and I am comfortable even with 128GB of storage.

If you want to save money, try to be diligent with your (mobile) storage usage, but keep in mind that most people aren’t going to upgrade their laptop’s SSD, so take a bit of time to think this through. What you get is most likely what you’ll keep.

Performance

Interestingly, the HP X360 Spectre 15.6” is one of the rare 4K 15.6” laptops that is optimized for low-power and productivity, instead of gaming and high graphics performance. Most relevant competitors are equipped with the i7 6700HQ processor, coupled with an external graphics processor (GPU), often the GeForce GTX 960M.

OpinionAre benchmarks important? What do they mean?

Those other laptops are designed to be “gaming-capable”, but they do consume more power, and they can be much bigger and heavier too. Let’s look at the performance numbers:

hp-x360-16_pcm8_work hp-x360-16_pcm8_creative hp-x360-16_pcm8_home

In general, you can see that other 4K 15.6” laptops have higher “absolute” performance, and this is not surprising since they consume more power, and have a dedicated NVIDIA graphics chip. Now, let’s look at this through the prism of “performance/price” and “performance/weight.”

Performance / Price

From a “value” standpoint, the HP Spectre X360 is much better positioned. The Lenovo Y700 leads this round because it has an excellent peak performance, and it is well priced. But its 5.7Lbs weight is a far cry from the X360’s 4.02Lbs.

hp-x360-16_pcm8_home_price

Performance / Weight

Looking at performance from the “weight” perspective (mobility), the Spectre X360 15.6” is also well positioned. This time, the Dell XPS 9550 takes the lead because it can compete with the X360 in terms of industrial design (thinness and weight) and has higher performance — but it is also much more expensive and costs nearly $700 more for the closest (but not identical) comparable configuration.

hp-x360-16_pcm8_home_weight

Battery life: very decent

hp-x360-16_pcm8_battery

At 64.5Whr, the battery capacity of the HP Spectre X360 15.6” is quite good, but some 15.6” laptops have even bigger capacities: the Dell 9550 features an 84Whr battery while the ASUS UX501VW has a 96Whr battery. While this is impressive, you should also keep in mind that their platform (CPU+GPU) does consume more power than the X360’s.

If you look at how big the battery is, relative to the size of the laptop, the Dell XPS 15 9550 easily takes the lead, with the Lenovo landing way behind.

hp-x360-16_pcm8_battery_weight

But how much battery you get for your money is also important. The chart below shows that the XPS 15 is relatively pricey while the Zenbook Pro UX501VW offers more battery for each dollar spent, at the expense of being bigger and 1Lbs heavier.

hp-x360-16_pcm8_battery_price

Conclusion: great design and value-proposition

The HP Spectre X360 has a unique positioning in the 15.6” 4K Market because it is not assumed to be a “gaming” laptop or a “workstation” of sorts. It can be an excellent productivity computer with a leading edge all-metal design that is small, nice, and (relatively) affordable in that segment.

Because it is aimed to be a productivity and entertainment system, it can use low-power components which will make the most of its sizeable battery capacity. Its 360-degree design makes it the best entertainment laptop of this group. And all that comes at a competitive price.

The Dell XPS 15 (model 9550) is the only computer that challenges the HP Spectre X360 design head-on. It is superior to the HP Spectre X360 in some ways, but you lose the 360-degree swivel capability and the price difference is quite steep. You would need to take a good look at whether or not you need the extra performance, and battery capacity — many people don’t.

We have been impressed with the build quality, and overall value proposition of the HP Spectre X360, and think that it is an ideal system to entertain and get some work done for a vast group of PC users.

Overall product rating: 9/10

Filed in Computers >Reviews. Read more about HP and Laptop Reviews.

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