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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.

I got down to business, screen-tapping and typing — and too often re-tapping and -typing. The screen sometimes responded very nimbly to my touch; at other times, it went maddeningly numb. I tried using the trackpad and found that it would also intermittently become numb to taps, forcing me to push the trackpad buttons. The keyboard provided adequate tactile feedback, but I found I dropped characters anyway. When I increased my typing force to try to minimize that problem, the keyboard began clattering loudly.

What about using the Spectre as a tablet? The spacious touchscreen, with a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, delivers crisp, sharp images with rich colors, but it's highly reflective. Its size makes the panel heavy and a little awkward to hold for more than a few minutes. As with most Windows tablets, you must wait a second or two for the display to catch up when you rotate or flip it. That's a pain when you shift your arm a lot, which can cause the image to rotate unexpectedly. And you'll find yourself shifting this mass frequently just to rest and flex your muscles.


The Spectre 13 x2 consists mostly of notebook-class parts, including a 128GB SSD and 4GB of DDR3/1600 memory. But you can't put a typical notebook CPU into a tablet, because you'd need a fan to cool it. That's why HP chose Intel's current-sipping Core i5-4202Y for the job. This chip has a thermal design profile of 11.5 watts (compared to a TDP of 15 watts for the Core i5-4200U used in many 13-inch notebooks), but Intel claims the Core i5-4202Y has a scenario design power of just 4.5 watts.

TDP indicates the maximum amount of electrical power a computer must be able to dissipate while the CPU is running full bore for a sustained period. SDP — an Intel-only spec — indicates the maximum amount of electrical power the computer must be able to dissipate while the CPU for media consumption (applications such as music and video streaming) and light content creation (simple photo- and video-editing tasks that don't require a lot of horsepower).

You'll need to rely on the keyboard dock for HDMI output and USB connectivity (it has two USB 3.0 ports). There are headset jacks on both the keyboard and the tablet. Our eval unit was equipped with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 adapter that supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. There's Bluetooth support, too, but HP ditched hardwired ethernet.


Nearly any new notebook can juggle basic day-to-day tasks such as web browsing and email, word processing, editing and presenting slideshows, and even cranking through light spreadsheet work. But the Spectre 13 x2 bogged down under the load of our benchmark suite, which includes these tasks (as measured by PCMark 8: Office) as well as Photoshop editing, Cinebench (to evaluate a machine's prowess at 3D content creation), video encoding, and other CPU- and GPU-intensive applications.


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