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Hands-on with HP's Spectre x360 laptop, a veritable HP-Microsoft collaboration

Gordon Mah Ung | March 2, 2015
If you thought HP's impending corporate split would make it slink away from the PC game, you're wrong. If anything, the company's new Spectre x360 laptop, announced on the eve of Mobile World Congress, seems intent on proving HP will be as frisky as ever once its PC and printer division is pushed off the HP lifeboat this summer.

If you thought HP's impending corporate split would make it slink away from the PC game, you're wrong. If anything, the company's new Spectre x360 laptop, announced on the eve of Mobile World Congress, seems intent on proving HP will be as frisky as ever once its PC and printer division is pushed off the HP lifeboat this summer.

The Spectre x360 features an exquisite milled aluminum body. The edges of the lid and frame are polished to a near-mirror finish. And beneath the surface, the system was built practically in lockstep with advice from Microsoft. It's a tale of hardware-software nerd collaboration that we'll get to soon.

Inside the 15.9mm-thick Spectre x360, there are no component surprises. You can option Intel's latest Broadwell U Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, as well as M.2 SATA SSDs sized from 128GB to 512GB. For WiFi, 2x2 802.11AC is standard. The display is a 13.3-inch panel that comes in both "full HD" (aka 1080p) or QHD resolutions. Ten-point touch is standard.

Design decisions

If you're wondering why HP doesn't offer M.2 PCIe storage instead of M.2 SATA storage, it's because the cost, power and performance benefits don't add up, HP says. Most consumers, the company said, would rather have a slightly slower 256GB than a faster 128GB SSD.

HP also opted not to adopt an IGZO panel for its QHD panel version. HP believes Panel Self Refresh (PSR) technology equalizes any power advantages IGZO offers for high-resolution displays. PSR works by refreshing only pixels when they need to be refreshed.

HP again reaches for the Synaptics' wide trackpad that appeared in the previous Spectre 13. HP said it also spent an inordinate amount of time making sure it got the keyboard just right. Using it throughout my hands-on, I have to agree. The keys aren't too cramped like they are on the XPS13 2015, and travel is rated at 1.5mm. It's a pleasant keyboard for a thin laptop.

It's the little things that count

Convertibles don't always have the most durable or confidence-inspiring hinges, so HP says it designed a hinge for the Spectre x360 that doesn't compromise. Flip the lid open, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell you're working on a convertible.

A lot of super-light convertibles — such as Lenovo's Yoga 3 Pro with its watchband hinge — exhibit "monitor bounce" when you use your finger to tap the screen while in laptop mode. The Spectre x360's hinge is definitely more rigid than the Yoga 3 Pro, but still not as stiff as a standard laptop hinge. Part of that reduced monitor bounce also ties back to the weight of the Spectre x360. At 3.26 lbs. it's definitely no lightweight laptop. The base-model Dell XPS 13 2015, for example, is 2.6 lbs without touch and 2.8 with touch. 

 

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