If you spend an inordinate amount of time around laptops like I do, the new narrowness to the 5th-gen HP Spectre x360 13 would immediately strike you. The previous model had chunky black bezels at the top and bottom of its display, increasing the overall width of the device. HP slashed most of that unnecessary space here, leaving behind a modest bezel at the bottom of the display with the HP logo on it. The company developed a super-tiny (2.2mm) IR camera as well, so it could keep that form of Windows Hello on the shrunken top bezel.
The higher screen-to-body ratio is great to see, but HP is still using a panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio. That means a lot more scrolling than necessary, and it makes me wish that HP looked at the previous version of the Spectre x360 13 in a different way. Instead of abolishing the top and bottom bezels entirely, the company could have instead put a 3:2 aspect ratio screen on the laptop and removed any excess bezel that surrounded it. The final design wouldn’t be as narrow as this new model is, but it would have given users a more practical display.
The display options are typical of a flagship laptop like this: there’s an FHD touchscreen, an FHD panel with HP’s SureView privacy filter, and a 4K OLED panel that will surely be enticing but will likely be overkill for most. The FHD touchscreen on my review unit was lovely to use, although it did suffer from glare when angled toward open windows and while in the pathway of direct sunlight. Only display enthusiasts and creatives will actually get practical use out of a 4K OLED panel, and they must be willing to sacrifice some battery life in order to get it.
Privacy and ports
The camera kill switch sits on the right side of the laptop, and it’s now accompanied by a mic-mute button on the keyboard. The camera switch electronically cuts off power to the webcam, so similarly to a webcam shutter, it’s a good feature to have for those who want more control over their privacy. The only bad thing about it is that the webcam and the IR camera are connected, so if you flip the kill switch, you won’t be able to use the IR camera for Windows Hello. In addition to the IR camera, passwords, and pins, though, the Spectre x360 13 also has a fingerprint reader on its right palm rest that you can use to unlock the machine.
The edges of the Spectre x360 13 are thicker than you may expect, and that’s mostly due to its gem-cut style. It’s thicker than the Dell XPS 13, but that actually helps HP’s laptop because it can fit one or two more ports than Dell’s laptop. Next to the camera kill switch is the microSD card slot and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one on the flat edge and one on the corner (one on each side would have been preferred for convenient charging purposes, but we can’t get everything we want). The corner on the left side holds the power button, and next to that are a headphone jack and a drop-jaw USB-A port.
Dell continues to produce XPS 13s without USB-A ports, and that likely will never change. But we’re still a bit far off from USB-A being totally taken over by USB-C, so it’s useful to have on any laptop. It’s reassuring that HP didn’t try to go as thin as it possibly could on the Spectre x360 13 (like it did on the Elite Dragonfly), but, rather, the company kept a bit of heft in order to keep a valuable port on the machine.