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HP Spectre 13 x2: This hybrid falls short of the hype

W. Bryan Hastings | March 27, 2014
HP's latest 2-in-1 detachable hybrid breaks some new ground: It's a notebook PC with a spacious, high-res 13.3-inch screen you can pull off its keyboard base. Once separated, the Spectre x2 becomes a thin and light tablet--at least for its size. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

HP's latest 2-in-1 detachable hybrid breaks some new ground: It's a notebook PC with a spacious, high-res 13.3-inch screen you can pull off its keyboard base. Once separated, the Spectre x2 becomes a thin and light tablet — at least for its size. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

The Spectre x2's dark, matte-gray and brushed-aluminum case, minimal buttons, and gently rounded edges lend this convertible a quiet elegance. It'll slip easily into any bag, and it's built tough enough to survive the rigors of travel. Unlike Dell's Atom-powered Venue 11 Pro, this machine has a fourth-generation Core processor under the hood. More on that in a bit.

But don't toss your iPad on Craigslist just yet. Both elements of the Spectre x2 are heavy, and it underperforms compared to straight-ahead notebooks in the same price range. Add intermittent input problems (its trackpad and touchscreen sometimes respond slowly) and a fan-less design that can leave its chassis seriously warm, and you're left with a very imperfect computer.

The Spectre x2 delivers a tablet that's much bigger than any iPad, and it runs all the same software as any other Windows PC. Since HP designed this machine for consumers and small businesses, they omitted enterprise options such as a fingerprint reader or remote-management options. But I can see this machine fitting very well in certain workplace environments.

For example, an architect working on a design wants to show it to his team leader a few doors down the hall. With this hybrid, he can pop the big 13.3-inch screen off the keyboard deck — voilà, instant tablet! — and trot down to his colleague's office. The slate element is heavy at 2.2 pounds, and its battery conks out all too soon, but you won't feel much pain during quick interoffice visits.

Hybrid hypesters drone on about flexibility and ease of use. My hands-on experience with this relatively large model indicates otherwise. The moment the PCWorld Lab analyst handed me the 4.3-pound Spectre x2 to take home, my arm dropped a bit. The good news is that it feels very solid and hardly flexed at all when I gripped it by its sides and tried to give it a little twist. Even the screen panel feels solid, with little flex. The bad news is this is a small device to weigh so much.

Hands on

Once I settled into my seat for the train ride home, I pulled out the slab to get down to work. This being a hybrid, HP sensibly moved the power button from its usual spot on the keyboard deck onto the upper back-right corner of the screen panel. HP designed this button well: It's easy to reach, but you need to hold the button for a few moments until you feel a quick vibration that informs you the machine is firing up. This thoughtful bit of engineering keeps you from booting up your Spectre while it's bumping around in your briefcase, so you don't waste precious battery life.

 

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