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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.

The Spectre 13 x2 produced a WorldBench 9.0 score of just 50 — that's 28 percent lower than Dell's XPS 13 and 30 percent lower than Sony's VAIO Pro 13, both of which are powered by Intel's Core i5-4200U. Gaming performance was similarly poor, with the Spectre producing BioShock Infinite at just 21 frames per second (with resolution set to 1024-by-768 and low image quality), but the Dell and Sony machines aren't strong on that front, either. And while neither of those machines are 2-in-1s, the touchscreen XPS 13 is about a pound lighter than HP's machine, and the VAIO Pro is nearly two pounds lighter.

HP tucked two battery packs in the Spectre 13 x2, one in the keyboard and a second behind the display panel. When you use the machine as a notebook, you draw power from both. The Lab recorded slightly more than five hours of battery life from the combo. They didn't formally test the tablet's battery life, but I got less than four hours in my day-to-day use. You won't want to stray too far from an AC outlet in either mode.

Final thoughts

In my view, 2-in-1s as large as HP's Spectre 13 x2 fall short of the goal of delivering tablet and notebook functionality in a single device. They're bulky, they don't deliver enough battery life, and this particular model gets too hot when you take full advantage of its beefier processor (which is weaker than what you'd get in a conventional notebook).

And then there's the value proposition to consider. Sure, you can save $300 or more by buying a 2-in-1 instead of a notebook and a tablet. But what if your dog decides to gnaw on your display, or you forget the keyboard dock at your hotel and can't recover it? You can't buy either component separately, so you'll need to shell out for a whole new system. Keyboard-optional tablets aren't as powerful, but they're smaller, lighter, and deliver longer battery life. And since the accessories are optional, you can buy replacements should the need arise.

I'm not saying the detachable 2-in-1 concept is completely without merit. The architect scenario I described above is a compelling use case, and I'm sure HP can list others. I just think most people will be happier with separate devices, or a smaller tablet with optional accessories.


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