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Taking the '2' Out of '2-in-1'Posted
UNBOXING (5/5): The Spectre x360 15 has a premium unboxing impression. I wasn’t flabbergasted, but it definitely led to some anticipation and excitement. In the box, you get a leather pouch to hold the laptop and HP Pen (which is also included), the laptop itself, the DC power adapter and the documentation. I was not expecting the leather pouch, whatsoever, but was very pleased that HP has included it, so I’ve been using it. It’s a nice snug fit, very professional looking, and the pen can be stowed away in the dedicated slot above the velcro strip. The pouch certainly won’t be holding your DC power adapter, but HP is betting that you won’t need to charge this laptop mid-day. BUILD QUALITY (4/5): Among premium 2-in-1 laptops, the Spectre has a very solid all-aluminum chassis with no keyboard flex and average display bend/wobble for a laptop of this caliber. The display hinge is ever-so-slightly off center (HP needs better Quality Assurance), but is quite sturdy, which is certainly reassuring for long-term use. The edges of the device are angled, but don’t feel sharp, so holding it is comfortable. It comes in around 4.5lbs, so this is definitely a heavier machine, despite being thinner. Premium metal designs typically come with this tradeoff, but I’ve personally found it to be worth it, considering the durability as well as experience. DISPLAY QUALITY (4/5): The Spectre x360 15” has a 3840x2160 IPS display—specifically the AUO30EB by AU Optronics. It reaches around 400 nits brightness average and looks crisp and clean, as one should expect. If you’re looking to do color sensitive work, I’d advise researching this panel to determine if it meets your needs. That being said, this display is great for productivity and entertainment purposes with no noticeable backlight bleed. I’d love to say this display blew me away, but frankly, I have been spoiled by a Dolby Vision display, and even at only 1080p, the Dolby Vision display’s contrast and vibrance kept my eyes glued to it. Don’t get me wrong, this Spectre’s UHD display is great, but if you’re looking for that WOW factor, I’d advise you to at least research laptops with a Dolby Vision display (which come in both 1080p and UHD variants). That being said, if you aren’t already spoiled with such technology like I am, then this display will still spoil you with crisp, clear images and videos. TOUCH SCREEN INPUT (3/5): As for the touchscreen functionality in Windows 10, I found it to be shoddy when trying to scroll on pages in various applications as well as the Chrome Web Browser. This wasn’t the case in Microsoft Edge for some reason. You can expect other aspects to work just fine, but you may encounter lag when trying to performing lengthy swiping gestures in various apps. After doing some research, it seems like this issue may be attributed to the touch screen’s firmware. Do not try to install firmware from other HP laptop displays, as it will brick your touch screen and pen functionality. Hopefully HP can release a firmware update for this display. I’ve tried getting a hold of them, but they have not been responsive. This lack of touch screen reliability will be a deal breaker for many—and rightfully so, as this Spectre x360 touts itself as a premium 2-in-1, but it’s lacking the touch screen reliability that gimps it as a 2-in-1. Instead, it’s a good premium laptop, but there are already plenty of those at cheaper prices. PEN INPUT (2/5): HP created a premium-feeling pen, but in application, it’s mostly unreliable. What makes this unreliable is the “pressure sensor” inside the pen. I’ve found that as you tilt, it becomes more difficult for the pen tip to apply enough force to the pressure sensor. As a result, I commonly experience unregistered strokes, and that just leads to a frustrating writing experience. If you were considering using the HP Spectre for lots of pen functionality, this pen is not the most reliable, so I don’t recommend using this PC for that purpose. HP does sell other pens, but I’m not sure those products ultimately lend to better results. KEYBOARD (4/5): The keyboard on the Spectre is a pleasure to use, but took me a day or two to get used to. The key presses are relatively quiet, and I think HP was going for that kind of experience, whereas my other 2-in-1 has louder, more tactile key presses and took no adjustment period for me to begin typing at full speed. Even so, the Spectre delivers a typing experience that isn’t cramped or forcing me to extend my fingers beyond their normal comfort. There’s no keyboard flex, making this a very solid typing experience. While I do prefer my other 2-in-1’s keyboard experience, I can definitely say this keyboard outclasses the keyboards on many other laptops that I have owned and reviewed. As a software engineer, I believe this keyboard would lend itself well towards productivity purposes. The keys are backlit and have two brightness modes as well as having the ability to be completely off. TOUCHPAD (4/5): With the synaptics drivers, the sensitivity and mouse acceleration felt slow—forcing me to lift my fingers more frequently to move the mouse cursor across the large 15.6” display. After uninstalling the Synaptics driver in the Device Manager under the “Mice and other pointing devices”, it began using the Precision touchpad drivers. I found myself enjoying the experience a lot more, and the sensitivity was perfect. On top of that, all the touchpad gestures began to work flawlessly, lending to increased workflow and productivity. SOUND (4/5): In terms of sound quality, the Spectre’s Bang & Olufsen speakers get plenty loud while maintaining clarity without distorting. I personally found it sounded best in the normal laptop mode, but it also sounds good in tent mode. That being said, it does lose some of its resonance in tent mode because the speaker unit above the keyboard will be firing away from you, rather than towards you. HP chose to counter this problem by also putting speakers on the bottom of the chassis, so that you have speakers facing towards you when in tent mode, as well. While I personally think this speaker is outclassed by the Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers found on a different premium 2-in-1 laptop, the Spectre still holds its own by delivering a very enjoyable audio experience that everyone can appreciate. I/O (5/5): One advantage that the Spectre has is its availability of ports. It’s equipped with 2 USB-C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 3. Either port can be used to charge the Spectre. It also has a standard USB-A port. Additionally, an HDMI port is available for use with an external display, but it should be noted that it defaults to using the Intel UHD Graphics 620 and will only switch to using the MX150 if an application calls for it. There is also a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, a microSD card slot, and a switch to toggle the webcam connection. Lastly, the DC power jack is the default method of charging the device. PERFORMANCE (4/5): This is where the Spectre really shines as a 2-in-1. It’s equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U with 8 logical threads, 16GB RAM and a Toshiba KXG50ZNV512G NVMe SSD with a drive capacity of 488,386MB. The Spectre delivers excellent performance, considering its lower-voltage CPU. After upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, I was able to run docker containers and a full stack web development environment without hiccups. The SSD is a NVMe drive. Utilizing a GTX 1080 in an eGPU, performance was comparable to other Thunderbolt 3-capable laptops and was more reliable than my other premium 2-in-1—as it did not incur any peripheral latency from my mouse and keyboard when stressing the eGPU in a game like Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 3440x1440 at the Highest preset. So if you’re looking for a 2-in-1 capable of being used with an eGPU, I think this Spectre is an excellent choice. As for the Nvidia Geforce MX150, it’s got 2GB of GDDR5 memory for light gaming capability. This GPU is intended more for competitive eSports-type of titles like Rocket League, CS:GO, League of Legends, and the like. You certainly won’t be playing at the native 3840x2160 resolution of the display unless you’re playing 2D titles. Those who are primarily focused on productivity or other media consumption will find that this GPU should do what they want. BIOMETRICS (3/5): I live in a climate without much humidity during the winter. Sometimes my fingers end up drying and more cracked, but this usually hasn’t been a big deal for fingerprint sensors on smartphones. This Spectre uses an off-the-shelf fingerprint sensor from Synaptics which isn’t particularly great, in my opinion. While it works, it often takes me a few tries. You may have a different experience than myself, but it’s also worth mentioning that this issue is not exclusive to this laptop; rather, it’s commonplace for this particular fingerprint sensor. BATTERY (5/5): In terms of battery life, the Spectre x360 is fantastic. I’m easily getting a full day of use with lighter workloads—such as writing up this detailed review. With heavier workloads, you’ll definitely get a few hours, but it will be dependent on your usage. The device charges via the DC power adapter OR through the USB-C ports. I’m pleased to say that I’ve used third-party 65W and 100W USB-C chargers with this laptop successfully. I do like that you have the choice between DC or USB-C charging, unlike some laptops which only charge through one or the other. Having more options is better! CONCLUSION (3/5): As it stands today, this Spectre x360 does not quite live up to the great expectations of a '2-in-1'. While it’s a great as a premium laptop, it doesn’t make sense to pay the extra cost for an unreliable touch screen and pen. If HP can fix the issues regarding the touch screen and pen, I’d give it a solid recommendation.
I would recommend this to a friend
Sleek 2-in-1 with Great PerformancePosted
The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 is a premium looking and performing laptop. It has an eye-catching design, and solid specs to back it up. It comes loaded with a 4K touchscreen, NVME SSD storage, and an 8th gen Intel i7. Specs CPU – Intel (8th Gen) i7-8565U Quad Core 1.80 GHz processor w/ integrated Intel 620 graphics Memory – 16GB DDR4-2400 Graphics – Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB Screen – 15.6” 3840 x 2160p UHD (4K) IPS w/ anti-glare Storage – 512GB NVME SSD Ports – 1X USB C / 1X Thunderbolt / 1X USB 3.0 / 1X HDMI 2.0 / 1X microSD Slot / TRRS 3.5mm Jack (headphone and mic support) Audio – Bang & Olufsen quad speakers Webcam – 1080P with dual microphone Dimensions – 14.21 x 9.84 x 0.76”; 4.78lb Other – Fingerprint Reader / HP Digital Pen / Leather Carrying Pouch Design The design of the Spectre x360 2-in1 is stunning. The packaging that the laptop came in was elegant, and well designed. I was impressed before I even slid the cover of the box to reveal the laptop. Pulling the laptop from its packaging reveals a sturdy feeling heft – it feels expensive. The shell is metal (aluminum I’d assume) with a sandblasted finish that resists smudges. The finish looks dark grey with bronze-chrome accents on the sides and hinges. Overall the design looks really sharp and professional. Opening the laptop, you are greeted by the same color scheme as the outside. The bronze-chrome shows up around the edge of the trackpad and around the entire screen lid. Sticking with the sandblasted metal inside, it again completely resists smudges and fingerprints. The conversion from laptop to tablet is seamless. Like other HP 2-1 products I have used, the hinge provides the right amount of resistance to allow the main body and screen to be used at any number of angles and configurations. The keyboard and trackpad are disabled early enough in the transition to keep errant clicks and button pushes from happening. In tablet mode, the thickness of the machine increases to 0.79” at its thickest points (furthest from the hinges). Sometimes 2-in-1’s take time to figure out how you want to hold them – clicking keys, covering speakers, etc.The Spectre x360 didn’t seem as bad though. The off-center trackpad helped with the initial clumsiness, and the speaker locations aren’t easy covered up. I was initially a bit dismayed by the lack of storage location for the pen. I honestly found the magnetic areas for it while measuring the thickness of the laptop in tablet mode with my calipers. The locations are on either side of the palm rest below the control key (on the left) and the enter key on the number pad. It would have been nice to have a location on the side of the laptop (like the Surface Book) for when the laptop is closed. The leather carrying pouch has a pocket to store the pen, which is better than nothing. The ports have an OK layout. The USB’s, Thunderbolt, and microSD are all located on the right side of the body. The HDMI, AC port, and 3.5mm port are on the left. I would have liked to see some additional USB ports located on the other side – 1) for more ports and 2) for flexibility on plugging things in. I am sad that a networking port was not included – instead I will have to pick up a USB C/Thunderbolt to ethernet dongle at some point. Performance The quad core i7 is a fast, and efficient processor. At only 15W TDP, it is kind to the battery life of the system while still getting the job done quickly. I didn’t notice too much of a performance bottleneck from the processor or the GPU under normal browser/productivity-based activities. Switching programs was seamless, and I never felt any hesitation from the computer to complete a task. The only way I could make the computer feel loaded down was with several tabs in Firefox running Youtube videos, while installing a game from Steam. This is a pretty bogus workload just to get it to feel slow. If you installed some heavy productivity software, or graphic design/modeling software, you could slow it up but that’s about it. In all reality the Spectre x360 has plenty of power and speed thanks to the 16 GB of RAM, and its NVME SSD. The GPU is on the low end, but it is better than the on-die Intel 620 graphics. The MX150 is akin to a GTX 1030 in terms of power, which is still enough to watch/stream 4K Netflix. I tried some limited gaming. I loaded up DiRT Rally (circa 2017) from my Steam library. With the MX150 I had to knock the settings down to low with the resolution set to 1080p (V-Sync off). I was able to get a playable 57/74/100 (min/avg/max) fps with these settings. The x360 should be able to play most games low-med settings and dialed back resolutions. I do have to mention that this was achieved while plugged into AC power. On battery my minimum frames plunged to 25fps and made it unplayable. This version of the Spectre x360 comes with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVME drive for its primary (and only) storage. The 16GB of RAM should be plenty (it can go up to 32, but it is not easily accessible to swap out). The NVME drive is very fast – sequential read/write is 3122.7 / 529.4 Mbs in CrystalDiskMark with 5s intervals and 16GB test file size. 512GB may not be a large enough drive size for some but it should be adequate for the vast majority. If you need more space go for an external drive that can connect via the Thunderbolt port or use cloud storage. Display The 15.6” 3840 X 2160p UHD IPS touchscreen display looks great. It has a high gloss finish like you would expect in today’s touchscreens. HP lists it as an anti-glare screen as well, which I don’t fully agree with. The screen is glossy enough that you can see the reflection of the keyboard in the screen if the background is dark. The screen is beautiful. This is my first 4K screen period, but I was amazed at how good everything looked. I loaded up several 4K shows on Netflix (Altered Carbon, Planet Earth 2, Blue Planet 2), and they looked great. The screen images were very sharp, colors looked great, and the refresh rate didn’t induce any motion blurring. Even at laptop viewing distance I could not discern individual pixels (282.42 PPI for this screen). The multipoint touchscreen is very responsive, and easy to use. Whether using my finger or the pen, I had no problem interfacing with the OS via the touchscreen. The touch locations were accurate, and it didn’t have any difficulty responding to my inputs. I let my kids have a go at it with a few touchscreen games (Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds), and it didn’t have a problem with their frantic swiping. Keyboard and Trackpad The keyboard is a ten-key design (number pad included – Hooray!) with body color match keys. The keys have a white backlight (adjustable high/low/off). The backlight times out after 30 seconds, even on AC power - this is somewhat annoying and would be nice if I could force it to stay on. The keys have a relatively short throw with a full travel length of 0.04” and low to mid force requirement. The key actuation is soft with the actuation point is right in the middle of the key travel. My HP Chromebook has a similar keyboard setup, but its actuation felt closer to the top of the key travel. Either way, the Spectre’s keyboard felt a little more fluid to type on and was nice to use. The trackpad is one of the better ones I have used – and I usually dislike trackpads. It is also body color matched with a satin surface texture, so your fingers glide across it. The multipoint touch was accurate, and the trackpad was responsive. HP Digital Pen I don’t have a ton of use for the digital pen, but I can see its usefulness. I mostly used it to doodle in MS Paint to draw pictures for my kids. The pen was very easy to use. The included software lets you customize the 2 side buttons to perform whatever action you choose. The pen itself was very accurate – I could sign my name and it would look like my signature on paper. I can see how this pen would be great if you are a teacher grading (digital) papers, an editor marking up a manuscript, etc. For my use simple doodles are fine, and my kids have fun drawing me pictures and saving them (it’s a nice keepsake I guess). Also, 2 extra pen tips are included in the pen box – don’t lose them! Sound The sound from the B&O quad speakers is great. Like all laptops there is no bass or real low end. The mids and highs were bright and clear, and the speakers had enough sound to fill a room. Dialog sounds clear as well, so watching Netflix or listening to music isn’t a problem. The speakers radiate from the top (above the keyboard) and bottom front (L & R). The bottom front speakers keep the sound pumping out in tablet mode, so obscuring the speakers with your lap won’t be an issue. Webcam I thought the webcam in the Spectre would be similar to the one in my x360 Chromebook, but this is an improvement. In my x360 CB, the webcam was good in bright lighting but not so much in low light. The Spectre’s webcam is quite a bit better. The sensor is 1080p (FHD), and it performs well in a wide range of lighting. I was able to use it with just the backlight of the screen as the only light source. The mics are also a little better, but still a bit tinny. I can live with that since the picture quality is pretty good. Also, no need to put tape over the lens for privacy since there is a switch on the right side of the laptop that disables the camera. Overall I am impressed by the Spectre x360. It has plenty of speed and power. The Intel i7-8565U is a great current gen processor that should be able to keep up for years to come. The 512GB NVME drive is seriously quick. The 4K screen is very sharp, and the touch screen is precise. The design of the machine is very eye catching and professional looking. For The majority of use cases this laptop will be perfect and should not disappoint. Gaming is its only weak spot, so be prepared to crank the settings down.
I would recommend this to a friend
Very powerful top end 2-1Posted
Outside looks: My first impression of this new Spectre was “wow” absolutely beautiful laptop. It’s actually heavier than I expected and feels like it’s made of very rigid metal. The outside edges are gold colored with the main body in dark brown. The top lid has a satin finish with angled shiny gold colored edges, and a HP logo in gloss gold right in the middle. The bottom of the unit is very plain, the same satin brown finish as the top with two rubber feet running the width of the unit. There are only two screws visible and a long strip of perforations for cooling also running the width of the machine along with two larger exhaust vents on both the left and right side. There are also two perforated speaker ports towards the front corners. On the left edge there is a power button “in an unusual place” mounted on a 45 degree angle next to the power port, then there’s a HDMI out port, a section of exhaust vent and a headphone jack. On the right side there is a lightning bolt port, “set in the corner also at a 45 degree angle like the power button” a USB C port, a full sized USB 3 port, a very tiny switch to turn the camera on/off, another section of exhaust venting and then a micro SD reader “not full sized this time”. The front has nothing on it and the back just has the two very heavy duty solid metal hinges one having and embossed “Spectre” logo in it. Screen quality: The screen is absolutely gorgeous, the colors are very vibrant and clear. My only complaint and personal preference is that the 3840x2160 resolution can make the text of some applications so small they are almost impossible to read. I would prefer anything 17” and under to have a 1080 screen at most and I’ve adjusted the resolution down to that. Unfortunately when downscaling does make everything larger and easier to read some of the fonts look fuzzy in certain apps. Playing movies the screen is stunning, one of the sharpest screens I’ve seen in a while, and the viewing angles are really wide with very little change from side to side viewing. The screen is covered in high gloss glass and does have quite a bit of reflection to it. Keyboard / Trackpad/Pen: The keyboard is extremely good on the Spectre laptops and this one keeps up with the previous models. HP was able to include a keypad which I prefer to have on all my laptops and keep the whole keyboard full sized. There are very small margins on the right and left side of the keyboard and that helped them keep the size close to desktop sized keys. The base is extremely stiff and you really can’t feel any flex in the keyboard while typing. I could easily type on this all day long. The keyboard is also backlit with two levels of brightness available, on high it’s not so bright to be annoying and on low it’s perfect for viewing in a dimly lit room. The one annoyance I have with it, is the backlight automatically shuts off after 30 seconds of in activity. I really dislike this and wish there was an option to have the backlight always on while plugged in. I asked HP support about this and they stated there’s no way to adjust this. The trackpad is nice and big, it’s wider than most, and typical of what HP uses in other machines. It does not have dedicated L/R buttons but the usual pressure sensitive bottom L/R corners, not my favorite either but it works. The multi finger scrolling works most of the time, I’m just not a big fan of track pads and always use an external mouse. The pen is similar to the other pens that came with the other HP laptops I’ve used, it’s very accurate and makes drawing on the screen easy. It is powered by a single AAAA battery and you’ll want to take that out if you don’t use the pen for extended periods. There’s no place to store the pen either so you’ll have to keep track of where you place it. Sound Quality: This Spectre comes with 4 speakers, 2 above the keyboard and another 2 toward the front on the bottom edge. There’s a Bang & Olufsen label on the right just above the keyboard. Sound quality is excellent, very clear and bright, it’s lacking bass but I never expect much bass out of thin portable laptops either. The volume gets fairly loud but not overly, at full volume it was clear and not distorted, just don’t expect it to fill a room, but plenty for sitting and watching a movie in a small area. Wireless Connectivity: HP uses an Intel AC-9560 card that includes Bluetooth. My wireless signal was excellent on both 2.4 and 5 GHz, 2.4 giving greater range as usual but the 5 GHz signal never dropped too low while checking it walking around the house. I have 1 GB fiber and was able to get 470Mbps+ up and 380Mbps+ down consistently on the 5 GHz band. I find that pretty amazing as my desktop usually pulls around 350Mbps down at the same distance. Ports: I’ve noticed a trend toward getting rid of ports on the 2-1 machines lately. This one does at least have one full sized USB 3 port on the right side, along with a USB C port and a Lightning bolt capable port. Unfortunately this didn’t come with any type of adapter for those ports but I did have a USB C to USB 3 hub and that worked perfectly plugging in a thumb drive and an external 1tb hard drive. There’s also a full sized HDMI port on the left side and you can attach either an external monitor or TV there “I haven’t tried this out yet though”. If you like using an external mouse you’ll be using up the one single full sized USB port so you’ll have to get some USB to USB C adapters for anything else you want to connect or use a Bluetooth mouse to free up the full sized port if you really need it. Gaming performance: This Spectre happens to come with the Geforce MX150 and has 2gb of DDR5 memory. It’s good enough for some casual gaming, especially older titles. I installed Steam, set up Fallout 4 and Witcher 3. Fallout 4 runs really good at medium-high settings, on maximum there’s some stutter slower frame rates so I’d never run it more than medium “it still looks great though” Witcher 3 runs really well on low-medium settings, high is playable and on ultra it’s just way to slow to play enjoyably. Even with the settings on medium the game looks really good on this screen and plays plenty well. The device does get very hot while gaming though. Internals and upgrading: If you want to open up the unit you have to remove the bottom rubber strips to access the hidden screws, “I won’t be opening this one up to take a look inside but fortunately the maintenance manual is available on HPs website. Likes: The design, while a little unusual “due to the beveled edges and angled corners”, is visually striking, and everyone I showed it to thought it looked amazing. The weight and how rigid the overall unit is make it feel like a premium laptop. The keyboard is excellent, and one of the best I’ve used in a 2n1 laptop. I can type comfortably on it for extended periods without feeling cramped for space. There’s very little flex in the base of the unit and it feels rock solid while typing. With this also having a keypad it feels like it’s more business oriented than a media / gaming laptop. Overall speed wise this new Spectre is fast really fast. With this unit having 16 GB of memory and the newest Gen 8 I7-8565U processor and a fast 512 GB SSD drive, it doesn’t have any problems running any desktop software that I threw at it, “MS Office Suite, Photoshop, DVD Creator”. I also streamed videos from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu without a hitch. The screen “when set at full resolution” looks pretty amazing while watching videos. The 512 GB SSD should be plenty for most people, I’m used to seeing 256 GB drives in these so the extra drive space is nice to have. Geekbench 4 scores were 5198 single core and 16246 multicore, which beats my desktops I7-6700s score of 4675 single core, and almost matches its 16421 multicore score. It comes with both the HP IR camera and finger print reader for security. The IR camera and facial recognition work really well and unlocks the laptop faster than I could put in a password and just as fast as using the finger print reader. When the IR camera activates there are two fast flashing IR illuminator lights on each side of the camera, with these the IR camera can identify you in pretty much any lighting situation. I tried this out by turning off all the lights in the room at night, the screen was the only illumination in the room, and the facial recognition instantly identified me and unlocked the laptop. Heat: During normal use the Spectre never got hot, it stayed plenty cool but when I played any graphic intensive games things really started heating up. After 30 minutes of playing Witcher 3 the keyboard was getting noticeably warm around the WASD keys, and the rest of it was just plain too warm for comfort. My thermal camera shows a top temp around 122 at the left side vent and around that same temp just to the right of the WASD keys. The whole unit was uncomfortably hot after 45 minutes of playing. I’ll be using this laptop for web browsing, work related software, email and media. Light gaming would be fine but anything graphic intensive like Witcher, in my opinion, just gets way too hot for comfort. Under normal use conditions the laptop never heated up anywhere near the Witcher heat levels and remained comfortable even after many hours of use web browsing and watching movies. Final thoughts: If you are looking for a top tier business / media laptop that’s convertible and want a larger screen this new Spectre is definitely something well worth considering. This would also be an excellent device for a college student “although expensive”, typing papers on this would be a breeze. The build quality is really outstanding and the metal construction just makes it feel like a premium device, although a little on the heavy side.
I would recommend this to a friend