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Monday, 17 April 2017

The HP Spectre x360 looms large

Multimedia playback is more convenient in tent mode with the HP Spectre x360.

Multimedia playback is more convenient in tent mode with the HP Spectre x360.

The HP Spectre x360 is a product line that can get quite confusing because HP has used this exact name for the first-generation ­product (that appeared a while back) as well as for the current second-generation model, without any change in the name whatso- ever.

Just like the first-generation model, the second-generation is one of those machines with a ­touchscreen and a keyboard that flips all the way around to the back of the display to turn it into a tablet.

However, that’s where the ­similarities end – the second-­generation Spectre x360 has had quite an extensive overhaul in design and hardware.

The laptop is now thinner and lighter than the original while the ports have seen a significant change with the most notable ­addition being two USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The one we have for review today is the HP Spectre x360 13in with the latest “Kaby Lake” ­seventh-generation Core i7-7500 CPU running at 2.70GHz.

A thing of beauty

I have to say that this latest HP Spectre x360 is a real beauty – the finish is predominantly sandblasted aluminium with some shiny metal accents.

HP has reduced the bezel on either side of the Spectre x360, which makes for a much smaller overall footprint than most 13.3in notebooks.
HP has reduced the bezel on either side of the Spectre x360, which makes for a much smaller overall footprint than most 13.3in notebooks.

Together with the new highly- stylised HP logo, the whole design looks very, very nice and the build quality also seems to be right up there.

Once you open it, you’ll see that the sandblasted metal finish extends all the way inside to the keyboard and palmrest as well.

The screen is a nice 1080p 13.3in IPS panel with very thin bezels on the side so it has a smaller ­footprint and since it doubles as a tablet, it’s touch-sensitive – in fact, I found the screen to be very ­responsive when touched, with almost no lag at all when dragging open windows around.

Above the keyboard is a very nice highly-stylised speaker grille that looks to me like the TriForce from the Legend Of Zelda series and the Bang & Olufsen name printed on one corner.

The stylised speaker grille and Bang & Olufsen branding hint at the quality of the sound coming from the Spectre x360.
The stylised speaker grille and Bang & Olufsen branding hint at the quality of the sound coming from the Spectre x360.

The Bang & Olufsen name should clue you in to the quality of the Spectre x360’s speakers – despite being so svelte and light (this 13.3in model is only about 1.29kg), the speaker is actually quite loud and generally has pretty good sound, though perhaps a little lacking in bass.

The Spectre x360 has two USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side and just like on the latest MacBooks, either of the USB Type-C ports can be used for charging the device.

Thunderbolt 3 support means that though the connector is the same, if you plug in a Thunderbolt 3 compatible external hard disk, you’re looking at data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps compared to USB-C 3.1 which only has a ­maximum speed of just 10Gbps. Kudos to HP for integrating the very latest standards.

In case you’re thinking that with USB Type-C ports you’re going to have to get a dongle for your ­regular-sized USB external drives or other accessories, don’t worry – HP has also included a full-sized USB port on the left side of the Spectre, right next to a 3.5mm headphone port.

However, there is no HDMI port so if you want to output your ­display to an external monitor or projector, you do have to get a USB Type-C to HDMI dongle.

Typing on the Spectre x360 keyboard is an enjoyable experience with the keys having a satisfying springiness, travel and spacing.
Typing on the Spectre x360 keyboard is an enjoyable experience with the keys having a satisfying springiness, travel and spacing.

Interestingly, the Core i7-7500 in the Spectre x360 isn’t passively cooled despite the device being so thin – there are two fans which run most of the time and though you can hear it if you put your ear near the vent, it’s actually pretty quiet at normal working distances even when the CPU is under load.

The keyboard is quite nice with good spacing and enough travel and springiness to make typing a satisfying experience.

Being a convertible notebook, you can orient the screen in a number of ways – starting with it open as a regular notebook, you can tilt the screen back until it lays flat on the table and further on into ‘tent mode’ and eventually all the way around until it lies ­underneath the keyboard.

Oh yes, the keyboard is also backlit.

Performance

The IPS display on the Spectre x360 is really good – wide viewing angles and the colours are very balanced right out of the box.

In fact, according to HP’s ­specifications, this Spectre x360 can display the full sRGB colour gamut and about 70% of Adobe RGB colour so it’s a good option if you want to use Adobe Photoshop CC on the go.

It’s really nice to see that ­notebook manufacturers are ­taking display quality and colour accuracy seriously these days – not too long ago, even relatively high-end notebooks had TN panels with poor viewing angles and horrendous colour.

In terms of CPU performance, the Spectre x360 does pretty okay – as I said it works great with Photoshop CC and also with Netflix in HD.

I tested Photoshop CC on it a bit and it ran mostly smooth and lag-free with almost anything I could throw at it.

Of course, it’s by no means a gaming machine, but it can ­handle some less graphically-intensive games with no problems.

Battery life is actually pretty good – yes, HP claims up to 15 hours battery life, but in real world use and with the brightness set to a comfortable level (about 40%-50%) we got about eight to nine hours of use on it.

That’s actually pretty impressive and should be just about enough for a good day of work.

Conclusion

You’ve probably guessed it by now – I really like this second-­generation HP Spectre x360.

It checks off all the important boxes when it comes to a ­convertible notebook – it looks good, it ­performs well and it has just enough ports that you won’t feel like you’ve compromised by getting something this thin and light.

Then there’s the good battery life, the great screen and the loud speakers and you’ve really got a pretty good all rounder in a very small package.

Of course, at RM5,999 for the Core i7 version you’ll be paying for this kind of quality but I think it’s actually well worth the price for such a nice balance of looks and features – it’s clear that HP didn’t skimp when it came to designing the Spectre x360.

Pros: Looks great; relatively small for a 13.3in notebook; great keyboard; good performance; good battery life; three USB ports.
Cons: No built-in HDMI output means you’ll need to get a USB-C to HDMI dongle.

Spectre x360
(Hewlett-Packard)

2-in-1 notebook
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
PROCESSOR: 2.70GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor
MEMORY: 8GB RAM
DISPLAY: 13.3in HD (1,920 x 1080 ­pixels)
GRAPHICS: Intel Graphics 620
STORAGE: 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
PORTS: One USB Type-A, two USB Type-C 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 combo ports, 3.5mm stereo output.
OTHER FEATURES: HD webcam
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 30.7 x 21.8 x 1.39cm
WEIGHT: 1.29kg
PRICE: RM5,999
RATING: Four and a half stars
Review unit courtesy of HP Malaysia.

 

Tags / Keywords: Science Technology , Spectre , x360 , HP , Windows 10 , ultrathin notebook , convertible

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