HP Spectre x360 The HP Spectre x360 has a solid aluminum body, smooth 360-degree hinges, an excellent display and very long battery life. The Spectre x360 is one of our new favorite laptops, thanks to its premium design, fast performance, vibrant screen and comfortable keyboard. It's relatively heavy compared to competing laptops, but it mostly makes up for it with nearly best-in-class battery life. Performance and battery With dual video outputs, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort, the Spectre x360 can drive two external monitors at once, and the system also follows a welcome recent trend of dropping older USB ports and making every port a USB 3.0 version.
But, before you expect too much in terms of performance from the new Intel CPUs, a MacBook with last year's Core i5 CPU, was still in the running (and led in one test), while a different Broadwell-generation chip, the ultra-low-voltage Core M found in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, was slower in all tests by a noticeable margin.
It's battery life that really makes this system stand with the best in its category, with the Spectre x360 running for exactly 12 hours in our video playback battery drain test. That's not as rare a score as it might have been even last year, but having more laptops that top a dozen hours of battery life is not a trend anyone should argue with.
A pair of Dell XPS 13 systems, with substantially similar hardware configurations (including the same fifth-gen Intel Core i5 CPU), showed the wide range of possible battery life, with a higher-res touchscreen model running for about seven hours, while a non-touch 1,920x1,080 screen model running for about 12 hours, closely matching the Spectre x360.
The midrange x360 I reviewed featured Intel’s popular 5th-generation “Broadwell” Core i5-5200U, 8GB of DDR3/1600, a 256GB M.2 SATA SSD and an IPS 1920x1080 screen. This configuration will set you back $1,000, but you can step it down to $900 by halving the SATA SSD and RAM. Personally, I’d say spend the extra $100.
This configuration is actually fairly competitive. Outfitted with similar components, Dell’s XPS 13, for example, is $800—but it’s not a convertible and it even lacks the touchscreen at that price. Also, the XPS 13’s smaller, lighter form factor feels great until you touch the keyboard. The Spectre x360’s keyboard is far more comfortable to type on than the XPS 13’s. Frankly, I’d probably trade the XPS 13’s compact size for the Spectre x360’s keyboard in a second if it were my everyday driver.
Other details of the Spectre x360 also impressed me. The tiny power button on the left side of the frame is a bit annoying—you have to hunt for it. However, it takes just enough pressure that you can’t easily activate it by accident. On the convertible Yoga 3 Pro, I’d put the machine to sleep all the time just by picking up the chassis.
The clickable trackpad is superwide. While that can leads to false taps (I flail my thumbs when typing at full speed and mash my palms, too), I didn’t have any issues with it—my measured typing speed was comparable to what I’d achieve on a full-size laptop keyboard. I can’t say that about Dell’s XPS 13. One issue on the Spectre x360 worth noting: On occasion, I found it didn’t detect my right mouse-click.
In port selection, HP plays it safe and sane with three USB 3.0’s, mini DisplayPort and a full-sized HDMI. There’s also an SD card reader and a combo analog audio jack. Apparently HP doesn’t live in that bizarro MacBook world, where you get lauded for eliminating consumer choice in ports and forcing people to carry a bag of dongles.
The shell is milled from a solid block of aluminum. To add pizzazz, HP polished the edges of the body and screen. It gives this convertible a beautiful look that sets it apart from any other unit we’ve seen this year.
It's heavier than a MacBook Air, and like many similar hybrids, it leaves the keyboard exposed in tablet mode. Higher-end screen options could limit battery life.
THE BOTTOM LINE With long battery life, good performance and an attractive design, the HP Spectre x360 is one of the best convertible notebooks you can buy. While not as light, or convenient, in tablet mode as the , the x360 is less expensive, has a more powerful processor and lasts longer on a charge. If you're not interested in a convertible, the nontouch version of the offers similar performance and much longer battery life in a smaller package. But if you want something that can adapt with your needs, the Spectre x360 is a very good choice.