HP Spectre x360 15 Review: A Versatile, Attractive, Premium Ultraportable

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HP Spectre x360 15: Design, Build Quality And Software

Laptop makers have been obsessed with building increasingly thin and light notebooks, with portability and bragging rights at stake. At just 0.7 inches (15.9mm) along the waistline, the Spectre x360 15 is only a hair thicker than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air despite offering a bigger display (the Spectre x360 13 is even thinner at 0.55 inches, or 13.8mm). However, it packs a bit of heft, weighing in at 4.42 pounds. That's not particularly heavy in and of itself and is actually pretty good for this form factor, but there's no getting around the fact that smaller laptops weigh less. The 13.3-inch version, for example, weights 2.89 pounds.

HP Spectre x360 15 Closed

The build quality is evident the moment you unbox the Spectre x360 15. It is carved from a single slab of aluminum, and unlike plastic and carbon fiber laptops, there's no flexing the lid on this ultraportable. It is sturdy at every point, including its hinges, which allow you to prop the display in a variety of angles.

Aesthetically, HP says the Spectre x360 15 is "designed to attract attention," and that it does, with what we would call a dark gunmetal gray finish with gold accents, including a reflective etched logo that sits in the center. Overall it looks similar to last year's design, though gone is the strip of gold on the back that housed a few I/O ports. There is something to be said for subtlety, and HP nails it on this year's model.

The Spectre x360 15 has a smooth feel to it. both on the lid and around the curved corners. It is not completely immune to finger smudges, though they're far less noticeable than on laptops with glossy exteriors.

HP Spectre x360 15 Open

Though the Spectre x360 15 sports a 15.6-inch display, it has narrow bezels on both sides, allowing for a smaller footprint than most notebooks in this category. It measures 14 (W) x 9.88 (D) x 0.7 (H) inches, so in essence this is a 14-inch laptop with a 15.6-inch LCD panel.

HP Spectre x360 15 Open Front

The model we received came with an upgraded 4K Ultra HD display powered by NVIDIA's GeForce 940MX GPU. You can also get this laptop with a Full HD 1080p display, though if you have the coin, we recommend bumping up to 4K—that extra on-screen real-estate comes in handy for multi-tasking and photo manipulation, among many other tasks. There is not enough horsepower here to game at 4K, but this isn't a gaming laptop.

At full blast, the display puts out around 350-360 lux by our measurements. It is bright and crisp with some of the best viewing angles we've seen on a laptop—there is a slight loss of contrast when viewing at an extreme angle, but otherwise it maintains its visual quality without washing the colors out or suffering other forms of degradation.

HP Spectre x360 Keyboard
HP Spectre x360 15 Touchpad

The keyboard is another area where HP scaled back its gold accents. Whereas the previous iteration used keycaps with gold lettering, they're white (or "dark ash silver") on this year's model. They are also backlit with a white LED that can be turned on or off, though you can't adjust the luminosity.

Typing on the island-style keyboard is fairly comfortable for a laptop. There is sufficient spacing to avoid feeling cramped when you're hammering out a long report, and the tactile response and key travel lend themselves to a punchy typing experience. For other tasks, such as music playback, media keys and other shortcuts are offered by the Function keys and respond by default without pressing the Fn key.

HP Spectre x360 15 Keyboard

Below the keyboard is a wide glass trackpad with multi-gesture support. There is a lot of room to work with, and it does a great job at ignoring palms when ferociously typing on the keyboard. It is not quite as good at detecting hurried gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, though you can solve this by being more deliberate.

Finally, there are speaker grills on both sides of the keyboard. Although Best Buy indicates a quad-speaker configuration, underneath the hood is actually a two-speaker system tuned by Bang & Olufsen (the speakers are bigger than the ones in the 13-inch model). Audio is surprisingly good here with noticeably (and significant) improvement in quality byenabling Bang & Olufsen's amplification. The drawback, as always seems to be the case with laptops, is bass response. However, it's not completely absent, You don't get the deep rumbles that desktop speakers and headphones provide, but you do hear bumps similar in effect to tapping your finger on a hard surface. We'll take that over tinny sounding speakers.

HP Spectre x360 15 Ports Left
HP Spectre x360 15 Ports (Left)
HP Spectre x360 15 Ports Right
HP Spectre x360 15 Ports (Right)

The bulk of gold accenting is found on the sides and lip of the Spectre x360 15. This is also where the selection of ports are located. On the left users have access to a full-size USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, headphone/microphone combo jack, power button, and an SD memory card reader. Over on the right is a Thunderbolt 3 port (supports data transfers up to 40GB/s, power delivery, DisplayPort 1.2, and Sleep and Charge), USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port, HDMI output, and a physical volume rocker.

If you need more full-size USB ports or Gigabit LAN connectivity, HP sells a variety of USB-C adapters.

Spectre x360 15 Versatility

HP Spectre x360 15 Tent

As is becoming popular on today's laptops, the Spectre x360 15 is a multi-mode system that can bend back on itself like a contortionist. Shown above is tent mode, which can be useful for sharing photos or presentations.

HP Spectre x360 15 Stand
HP Spectre x360 15 Tablet

Armed with 360-degree geared hinges, the Spectre x360 can also flip back and prop up the display for watching movies, or fold all the way back on itself to become a Windows 10 tablet. A 15.6-inch display is a bit large for a tablet, but with Windows Ink support and an included stylus, this is not a useless feature.

HP Spectre x360 15 Desktop

This is what we like to see when booting a new system, a clean desktop. Digging beneath the surface, you will not find much in the way of bloat—there are some pre-installed HP utilities for updating drivers and system maintenance, a GUI for Bang & Olufsen's audio controls, and a trial for McAfee LiveSafe.

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