HP Spectre x360 13: Full, in-depth, Australian review
The Neoclassical Laptop returns
Should I buy the HP Spectre x360 13 (2019)?
The HP Spectre x360 could be fairly branded as a neoclassical laptop. It’s more concerned with living up to modern standards than setting fresh new ones for itself to live up to. That’s not to say what HP has assembled here isn’t impressive. It is. However, it rarely strays far from the formula - which works both for and against it.
Glitzy OLED display aside, only a handful of details set HP’s latest apart from its immediate predecessors. The new Spectre x360 13 is a laptop that does what it does very well but it doesn’t do all that much to distinguish itself. It might not surprise but it certainly gets the job done.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, recommended retail pricing for the HP Spectre x360 starts at AU$1999.
HP Spectre x360 13 (2019) full review
In Australia, you can buy the HP Spectre x360 13 for an RRP of AU$1999. You can find it through the following:
Design - Look, Feel and Features
It’s been five years since HP unveiled their first Spectre x360 and while things have changed since then, the broad strokes for what this particular breed of 2-in-1 tries to offer has remained largely the same.
Like the name suggests, HP are trying to marry a flexible form-factor with premium flourish here. It’s a business-minded productivity machine for those who want something shiny. It’s slim and sleek in all the ways a modern laptop ought to be and plenty else besides.
And where earlier iterations could be considered chunkier and curved, the OEM’s latest Spectre x360 is almost-excessively angular. It takes what previous models tried to achieve and gets right to the point.
To be clear, that’s not to say that the HP Spectre x360 13 is the laptop for everyone. If you’re after a portable powerhouse or the lightest laptop ever, you can do better than this. However, if the branded expense, lack of flexibility or change-of-operating-system has deterred you from pulling the trigger on a new Macbook, HP’s Spectre x360 makes a reasonable case as a worthy substitute.
It wouldn’t be fair to call HP’s latest a Macbook-clone but it would be fair to say that it tries to capture a lot of what people like about the Macbook. At least, when it comes to looks. The Spectre x360 differentiates itself in ways that matter but, all the same, it’s hard to see past what the two products have in common. Specifically, the metallic exterior, clean design and slim profile.
Built around a 13-inch 4K OLED screen with thin bezels, the new HP Spectre x360 is primarily distinguished through its angled corners. One of these houses the power button. The other contains a USB Type-C port that’s used to charge the device. Compared to last year’s model, there's a 13% decrease in physically and, should you be lucky enough to encounter the two units side-by-side, you can immediately spot that difference.
It’s to the credit of the display on the Spectre x360 that it never feels small even if the form-factor of the laptop is. Less so can be said for the weight of the unit. I’ve used heavier lighter PCs but the materials involved mean that the HP’s latest can only ever be “sort-of light for what it is” as opposed to truly compact with caveat.
As with previous x360 models, the other big draw comes in the form of the 360-degree hinge that lets you fold the screen backwards and use the device as a tablet when needed. In my daily workflow, this situation doesn’t come up especially often - so this proved a little superfluous. Still, on paper, it’s nicer to have a laptop with this kind of flexibility than one that lacks it.
The same goes for the physical kill switch for the webcam on the x360. HP has included a physical kill switch. Personally, I don’t consider this a major advantage but, if you are security-conscious, it’s a neat inclusion.
For better or worse, one of the defining traits for the brand of minimalism that the HP Spectre x360 brings to bear is the absence of ports. Though this does make for a pretty stark and stylish-looking PC, it also inevitably takes a toll on the utility. It’s easy to look at the sides of this thing and wonder if it really would have hurt HP that much to stick a full-sized SD card reader or a second USB port somewhere.
For the record, the HP Spectre x360 13 (2019) features a total of five ports:
1x USB Type-A Gen 3.1
2x USB Type-C Gen 3.1
1x Combo Audio Jack
Performance - Specs, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Processor: Intel i7-1065G7
Operating System: Windows 10 Home
Storage: 512GB SSD
Graphics: Intel IrisPlus Graphics
MicroSD slot: Yes
Display: 13.3-inch 4K OLED display
Battery: 4-cell, 60 Wh Li-ion polymer
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11ax) + Bluetooth 5
Front-Facing Camera: HP TrueVision FHD IR webcam
Dimensions: 12.08 x 7.66 x 0.67 in
In terms of benchmarks, the HP Spectre x360 13 compared unfavorably against its natural nemesis: Dell’s latest XPS 13. That’s partially down to the difference in the specs between the two models. Our Dell XPS unit had less RAM. Our HP Spectre x360 had a lower-spec processor.
Of course, that’s not to say it performed poorly. In truth, there’s a bit of give and take here - with both machines ultimately losing out to Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3.
PC Mark (Work 2.0): 4085
GeekBench 5 CPU-Multi Core: 3371
Geekbench 5 CPU-Single Core: 951
Geekbench 5 Compute: 7484
When subjected to the usual Battery Eater testing tool, which gauges the minimum battery life of a given notebook PC, the HP Spectre x360 took 2 hours and 38 minutes to run out. This is a better effort than both Dell’s XPS 13 and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 offered under the same conditions - though not wildly so.
Anecdotally, I found that the X360’s battery held up well when I took the machine with me to this year’s CES in Las Vegas. Although the boot-up times involved sometimes felt a little sluggish for what is, really, one of the most premium thin and light PCs that HP makes, the battery life failed to disappoint.
The fast-charging is another nice addition to the formula. Still, I wish that one of the unit’s two USB type-C ports was on the other side of the machine - rather than have them both located on the Spectre x360’s right-most side.
The Bottom Line
If nothing else, the new HP Spectre x360 is a good showing for where HP is at. It’s more refined than revelation but it hits all the notes that a modern Project Athena laptop should. It doesn’t reinvent that formula but it does excel at it.
The HP Spectre x360 doesn’t quite have the spark of innovation it takes to sell itself as a truly great laptop but it’s more than good enough to recommend regardless.
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