Not all laptops are the same.
You discover this when you realize how much the keyboard sags on cheap Chromebook models or the speakers for playing Netflix movies sound like they are stuffed with cotton.
The latest HP Spectre x360, an updated model that is brand new for 2016, is a step forward for HP–it’s the best laptop they’ve made in some time. I like it better than the more stylish (and more expensive) HP Spectre for reasons I’ll explain later. The x360 has a few minor issues you should know about if you buy one, but it’s a powerful and light 2-in-1. And, for anyone who needs to do serious productivity machine, it is a major ally.
In terms of design, the x360 is thin (at .54 inches), light (at 2.85 pounds), and durable. The enclosure is made from CNC machined aluminum, and in my tests the laptop felt rugged enough to withstand a drop or two. The keyboard doesn’t sag when you type.
I really like the 13.3-inch display, which almost goes all the way to the edge on the side, similar to the Dell XPS 13 (the new 2016 model). This is a new trend with laptops. If you use an Apple MacBook today, check the edges of the screen–there is a wide bezel. Dell pioneered a thin bezel, so in some ways HP is following suit here. It makes the laptop itself smaller and lighter with the same screen real estate.
In a demo, HP pointed out how the webcam on the Dell XPS 13 is off center, located on the lower left of the display. They made a good point, although this is the future of laptop screen technology. When there’s an edge-to-edge screen, there isn’t room for a webcam in the normal spot. With the XPS, it looks like you’re off to the side.
Hammering on the x360 keys, I tended to type as fast as any recent laptop, including my personal favorite–the Google Chromebook Pixel 2015, which is not for sale anymore. I have yet to try the new Apple MacBook Pro that has a Touch Bar where you can swipe through photos on a secondary display above the keyboard, but I imagine that will be a curiosity and not a productivity booster per se. For me, the x360 worked fine typing up multiple documents and answering email all day. No problems there.
The real point of choosing this 2-in-1 is that it converts into a tablet by rotating the screen all the back around. You can also set it up on both ends like a tripod to watch movies or show a sales demo. Windows 10 is not the best touch operating system, mostly because there are still not enough touch apps to make it work as an iPad replacement yet. I did like swiping through photos and videos. I doubt I’d use the tablet mode that often in my daily routine unless more high quality Windows 10 apps emerge.
Battery life runs around nine hours. My test machine that costs $1,299 and uses an Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB hard drive, and 16GB of RAM lasted all day without any problems, and that was with videos running in the background.
I do have a couple of minor complaints. On the x360, there’s a Home, End, Page Up and Page Down button to the right of the keyboard for some reason. I kept hitting Home by mistake, which takes you to the beginning of a sentence. The wide trackpad is spacious enough but it’s a bit on the slippery side. When I used two finger scrolling in the Chrome browser, my fingers didn’t always register on the trackpad.
The one thing that makes this x360 laptop (which costs $1049 for the Intel Core i5 base model) a better buy than the thinner HP Spectre (which costs $1,020 for the base model) is that you won’t hear as much fan noise. It might seem like a minor issue, but the x360 stayed super silent during my entire test without any whine or noise from the fan trying to keep the laptop cool.
Sleek, silver, stylish, and fast–the HP Spectre x360 gets my nod as the best HP laptop.