HP Spectre x360 13 review: A high-end two-in-one that’s hard to beat

There was a lot to love about the 4th-generation HP Spectre x360 13, but HP wasn’t satisfied. The new 5th-gen laptop, which debuted at the end of 2019, has more improvements than you’d think just by glancing at it. in fact without inspecting it thoroughly, you may think the new Spectre x360 13 looks and feels just like the previous model. But fear not, it’s different—HP significantly shrank the device, added a mic-mute button, gave it optional LTE support, and stuffed 10th-gen Ice Lake Intel processors inside of

Best HP Spectre x360 13 review:

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.

 

Screen 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x1080) WLED touchscreen
OS Windows 10
CPU Intel Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake)
RAM 8GB
Storage 512GB PCIe SSD + 32GB Optane Memory
GPU Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX 201 (2×2), Bluetooth 5
Ports 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-A, 1 x microSD card, 1 x headphone jack
Size 12.1×7.7×0.7 inches
Weight 2.88 pounds
Battery 60Whr 4-cell
Starting price $1,099.99
Price as reviewed $1,299.99
Extras Camera kill switch, mic-mute button, optional LTE, active pen included

 

 

Keyboard and trackpad

HP brought the Spectre keyboard design to the Envy 13 a few months back, and the keyboard on the Spectre x360 13 is almost identical to that on the Envy 13. I like the size of the keycaps: the travel is decent, and the typing experience is a smooth and quiet one. This is one of the best keyboards to type on in public. Not only is it a solid keyboard that won’t tire your fingers, but people sitting a few seats away will not be bothered by your furious typing. I also appreciate the dedicated page navigation keys on the far-right side of the keyboard and the fact that the entire keyboard is backlit.

Instead of a Synaptics trackpad, the new Spectre x360 13 has a Precision touchpad, which is a good upgrade. However, HP didn’t alter the size of the trackpad, so it’s still a slightly narrower than usual rectangle that looks almost cramped on the sparse space below the keyboard. It’s not difficult to use and works as a Precision touchpad should, but I do wish it was a tad bit taller.

It’s worth mentioning that the 360-degree hinge on the Spectre x360 13 is largely the same as it was on the previous model. It was a sturdy yet smooth mechanism before, and it remains as such now. The laptop can be easily switched from laptop to tablet to tent to presentation mode, and the touchscreen supports all of these different use cases well. HP also bundles its active pen with the new Spectre x360 13, so you don’t have to pay extra for a scribbling device.

Performance

Our HP Spectre x360 13 review unit ran on an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe SSD. That configuration is almost identical to the Dell XPS 13 two-in-one model we reviewed (the XPS 13 had 16GB of RAM), so it wasn’t surprising that both machines performed similarly on our benchmark tests.

The Spectre x360 13 produced high scores on almost every performance test and almost all other tests as well. The machine gets a graphics boost from the Intel Iris Plus GPU, which should make it better for light gaming and other graphics-intensive tasks. The laptop was a speedy work companion for me over the few days I used it; it never slowed down or hiccupped while I had multiple tabs and programs running at once.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Spectre x360 13 managed heat and fan noise, too. HP added a graphite sheet into the chassis to help disperse heat, and it complements the thermal management system that was already inside the machine. The back-center of the underside of the chassis was slightly warm to the touch while running our benchmark tests, but it wasn’t enough to warm up my lap significantly. The fans went unnoticed during my regular use of the machine, and they were almost completely silent even while running our most intense graphics tests.

Battery life

The battery life on the new Spectre x360 13 isn’t as awesome as that on the previous version, but it’s still pretty great. The laptop lasted an average of 1,189 minutes, or just under 20 hours, on our Wi-Fi test. It lasted an average of 819 minutes, or about 13.5 hours, on our webGL test. Both of those scores are better than those of the Dell XPS 13 two-in-one by at least an hour and a half, and they exceed Intel’s Project Athena standards for laptops (the Spectre x360 13 is Project Athena-verified).

Few things left to nit-pick

HP made the Spectre x360 13 better in almost every way. That’s saying a lot about a device that was already on our list of our favorite Windows ultrabooks as the best convertible. I applaud HP for making the Spectre x360 13 thinner and lighter than it was before without giving up anything too important.

The new design is more streamlined than ever before, and while the jewelry-like cuts will alienate some, it’s a striking laptop nonetheless. If I could change anything about the design, it would be the 16:9 screen into a 16:10 or 3:2 screen, and I’d be more than willing to go back to a slightly wider silhouette to get that.

It’s not billed as a business notebook, but you could get the SureView display option and have quite a few enhanced privacy features on the Spectre x360 13 now that it comes with a camera kill switch, mic-mute button, fingerprint reader, and an IR camera. Both business and regular users will be happy with the performance gains that come with Ice Lake architecture as well, and both will be happy to have that one, vital USB-A port to support their old accessories and peripherals.

By contrast, the Dell XPS 13 two-in-one doesn’t have a USB-A port, nor does it have an IR camera or optional LTE. It does have an edge over HP’s laptop with its 16:10 screen, but otherwise the Spectre x360 13 gives you more standard features for your money. It also includes an active pen in the box, something I always look for in convertibles as a useful perk.

Most of my issues with the new Spectre x360 13 are small—the hoarded Thunderbolt 3 ports, the small arrow keys, and the narrow trackpad. Aside from the screen’s aspect ratio, I’m most disappointed that the new laptop doesn’t last as long as the previous model (20 hours versus a whopping 30.5 hours, respectively, on our Wi-Fi test). But the new Spectre x360 13 still manages to have a battery life that beats out all of the competition, so the reality isn’t bad at all. If you’re looking for a Windows convertible and don’t mind spending over $1,000 to get one, the HP Spectre x360 13 is the one to buy.

The Good

  • Camera kill switch and mic-mute button.
  • Includes one drop-jaw USB-A port.
  • IR camera and fingerprint reader.
  • Optional LTE and Optane Memory.
  • Stays quiet and relatively cool.
  • Good performance.
  • Great battery life.

The Bad

  • Both Thunderbolt 3 charging ports are on the same side.
  • Small arrow keys.
  • Trackpad is quite narrow.
  • Can get expensive.

The Ugly

  • 16:9 aspect ratio.

OUR TOP RECCOMENDATION

CHECK THE DISCOUNTED PRICE

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *