The HP Spectre x360 13 is the fourth computer I'm looking at in my quest to find a new portable computer. This road test involved a few days at home and a road trip to New Orleans.
Speeds and feeds
My requirements are quite straightforward.
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB storage
- Pen input (preferred)
- Detachable (preferred) 12 to 13 inch touchscreen display
- Under $1500
- Cellular comms (strongly preferred)
Of the four systems I’ve tested so far, the HP Spectre x360 13 is my favourite. It has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Although the memory is not user upgradeable, I rarely keep a system for more than three years so I doubt that will be an issue. As I’ve said before, my needs are quite modest and I’ve only had one system with 16GB in the last few years. I find 8GB is enough for my needs.
It has pen input, with a supplied stylus, but lacks cellular comms and, as a 2-in-1, lacks a detachable keyboard.
Although the keyboard is not detachable, it does flip all the way around so I can use it to watch movies on the plane as it passes as a tablet - at least according to the flight crew.
HP has taken a bet each way with the Spectre when it comes to ports. There’s a single USB-A connector on the left side and a pair of USB-C ports on the right. Most of my peripherals still depend on USB-A connectivity so having both ports offers some future proofing and legacy support.
My big problem with the Spectre is price. The RRP of the model I was sent to test is $2299 which is far above my $1500 price limit. I did a quick online scan for special deals and found I could save around $200 on the full price. So, the big question for me was whether the Spectre is good enough to make me change my mind on the budget.
Out of the box
From unboxing to working, the Spectre was ready in about 15 minutes. I needed to install a couple of essential apps after that but now that I've done this a few times, I’m pretty quick at finding what I need from the Windows Market and installing a couple of other apps such as HipChat and WhatsApp from their respective websites.
The display is excellent but I did need to adjust the 1920x1080 display as it was set to show everything at 150% of normal size by default. I preferred things a little smaller so I dropped it to 125%.
And why this machine ships with Windows 10 Home and not Pro is a source of amazement to me. This is a premium machine that is perfect for business. Shipping with Home means I need to spend more money too upgrade to Pro so I can use BitLocker to encrypt the hard drive and access some other useful business features.
I get this is a cost decision, but Microsoft should simplify things and have just a single version of Windows. End of rant!
Otherwise, everything was great.
Extra software - bloatware?
I’ve already commented on the amount of extra software installed to Windows machines elsewhere.
The main issue for me was that I ditched the McAfee software as it was nagging for registration. I use Windows Defender as it updates seamlessly in the background and doesn’t get in the way while I’m working.
On the road
After a couple of weeks of use, I was hard pressed to find something that was really annoying about the Spectre. On occasion, the camera seemed to either take a long time to instate or not recognise my face when using Windows Hello for logging in. This is still one area where the iPad’s TouchID system stands out.
The Bang and Olufsen speakers worked well - I watched a bunch of Netflix while in my hotel room and they were fine.
Battery life was excellent. Although I carried the charger around while at a conference, I only used it when recharging at night. Two hours of full screen Netflix using the internal speakers took just 13% of the battery’s juice. And a full day of taking notes, writing and submitting stories barely drained half the battery - although there were periods where the machine was asleep as I walked between rooms and the conference venue and my hotel.
Unlike the Dell XPS 2-in-1 I tested there were no funny sounds from the speakers.
However, the Spectre doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner. Given the very spotty experience I had with a couple of different Windows 10 systems that use this with Windows Hello, it’s no great loss.
Would I buy this?
When I started this process a few weeks ago I was looking for a system that would replace my iPad Pro. That lead me to think I was really looking for a similar form factor - a tablet with a detachable keyboard. But something happened along the way. I found that I really liked having a light fully-featured laptop again. Over the last month, my expectations of what I wanted in a computer have shifted.
As some might have noted, I’m a Mac user but Windows 10 on the right hardware is very compelling.
If my budget can shift, the Spectre is definitely a possibility.