HP Specter x360 (2019) detailed review
Since its humble beginnings as the name of an Intel Haswell-powered detachable hybrid Ultrabook about half a decade ago, the “Spectre” brand name has come a long way in the history of HP mobile computing devices. Today, Specter continues to represent HP’s thinnest, lightest and most premium laptops. This even applies to the laptop in question at the moment: the HP Specter x360. Let’s take a closer look at that.
HP announced the 2019 version of the Specter x360 in late 2018 and launched it in India earlier this year in February. The updated model isn’t powered by Intel’s 9th-generation Core-series CPUs, but the “Whiskey Lake R” refresh of its 8th-generation chips. In addition, HP seems to have given the body of the convertible a considerable facelift. The edges of the Specter x360 are now gem-cut, giving the laptop more character.
In addition, the new Specter x360 is available in a new color called Poseidon Blue. According to the American technology company, the Specter x360 is available in two variants. The first has an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid-state storage. The second has an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of solid-state storage. While the Core i5 variant costs a steep Rs 1,39,990, the Core i7 variant costs a whopping Rs 1,69.990. Yes, our review unit is the latest variant and we’re about to find out if the 2019 HP Specter x360 is worth its hefty price tag.
Build and design
HP has generally gone to great lengths to make its Specter devices look sleek and sharp. It seems to me that the Specter series has gradually evolved to become to HP what the RAZR series of mobile phones was to Motorola. With the new Specter, it only takes a few seconds to see the 2019 version spice up the convertible’s design even more. For starters, HP has blessed it with a new color called Poseidon Blue, which is essentially a shade very close to navy blue. Against the brushed gold accents on the hinges and edges, the new color makes the Specter look arguably attractive.
According to HP, the Specter’s chassis has an all-aluminum double-beveled finish with a “gem cut” design. That’s HP speaking for the trimmed edges on either side of the display hinge. While one of the two edges (or facets) gets a USB-C port, the other contains the power button. The new Specter x360 feels reasonably firm and grippy in the hands. At 1.32 kilograms, it also feels quite light. In other words, the new Specter x360 is very similar in feel to the new Apple MacBook Air. At the same time, the new Specter looks cool and understated. It’s easy to imagine someone in business formalities holding the Specter x360 while walking out of a business class lounge at an airport.
Screen, audio and IO
The HP Specter x360 comes with a 13.3-inch touchscreen display with a Full HD resolution. The IPS WLED-backlit panel is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass NBT. According to HP, the display has a maximum brightness of 300 nits and a pixel count of 166 pixels per inch. The laptop comes with an HP Pen stylus. Pressing F1 on the keyboard toggles HP Sure View on and off, a privacy monitoring feature for when you don’t want others around you to see your work. It makes the screen bluer, but works effectively.
The colors on the review unit’s display seemed full and rich while browsing the web and watching videos. At no point did they seem washed out or oversaturated. The brightness was also sufficient for most indoor places, such as conference rooms. According to our test kit, the panel is capable of displaying 95 percent of the colors in the sRGB color space and 74 percent of the colors in the Adobe RGB color space, which is plenty.
The Specter’s display responds positively to touch. There is minimal latency during input, and the palm rejection feature works well when scribbling notes and drawing figures. The screen shows some signs of flex when using the device in tablet mode, but it’s not a major hindrance. If anything, the glossy finish of the screen becomes distracting when used in bright areas. Skylights in, for example, an office or clinic can be a source of distraction due to the reflection of the screen.
The sound from the laptop’s speakers is disappointing, although the speaker strip above the keyboard bears an etched Bang & Olufsen logo. Popular songs like Starboy by The Weeknd and One Minute to Midnight by ZHU sound tinny and unrefined. Bass cannot be heard or felt through the unit. On the plus side, they are quite loud. These speakers are best reserved for vocals. By comparison, the speakers on the MacBook Air offer a more balanced output, something any average user would expect from a laptop well above Rs 1.5 million.
Despite being a thin and light convertible device, the Specter x360 comes with a few usable ports. On the left side of its body, it has a single USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 port and that’s it. On the right side, it has two USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one on the “gem cut” facet), a 3.5mm audio jack for headsets and a microSD card slot. In addition, there is a physical switch to turn off the webcam. When enabled, no application can access the device’s webcam, including Windows Hello (for face unlock). Those who prefer fingerprint authentication instead can use the fingerprint scanner just below the keyboard, which takes some time to authenticate but works without fail.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard is one of the many elements on the Specter x360 that remains unchanged from last year’s model. While some may find the two-stage backlit unit comfortable to type on, I’m personally not a big fan of it. The keycaps feel too small and oddly spaced. They also feel they could have used a shallow dimple on the top surface to make identification easier. On the plus side, the feedback from the keys isn’t bad. The keyboard also gets special keys for the Home, End, Page Up and Page Down functions.
The touchpad was and still is the bête noire of HP laptops, mainly because the company refuses to use Windows 10’s native precision drivers for its touchpads. This means that the Synaptics-powered touchpad on the Specter x360 doesn’t support all multi-finger taps and swipes. For example, a four-finger swipe won’t let you jump to the next virtual desktop, and a three-finger click can’t be reprogrammed to do anything but invoke Windows Search. HP should honestly keep up with the times in the touchpad department.
Unfortunately, we don’t see an Intel 9th Gen chip on the Specter x360. Instead, we see a “Whiskey Lake R” refresh of the good old 8th Gen Core series CPUs. The test model, the top variant, was powered by an Intel i7-8565U Quad-core CPU with a base clock speed of 1.8 GHz. The 14 nanometer chip was introduced in the third quarter of last year, so HP quickly integrated it into its Specter facelift. The RAM on the test unit was 16 GB as standard and the solid-state storage 512 GB. The biggest change since last year is just the CPU.
The review unit fared well in our benchmark tests. On the Accelerated Creative test of PCMark 8, the Specter scored 3702 points. In comparison, last year’s model passed 5001 in the same test. In CrystalDiskMark’s storage speed test, the test device scored a sequential read speed of 3124.9 MB/s and a sequential write speed of 531 MB/s, which is astonishingly fast. In comparison, the cheaper ENVY x360 registered a slightly higher sequential read speed of 3237.3 MB/s and a much higher sequential write speed of 1438 MB/s.
In everyday usage scenarios, the rating unit worked great. The Specter managed multitasking on applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WhatsApp for PC, Steam, File Explorer, and Chrome quite well. The laptop ran multiple instances of some of these apps on many virtual desktops without breaking a sweat. The laptop even handled simultaneous background downloads and app installations without any hiccups. For the average employee of a company, processing numbers, browsing, watching videos and editing text documents should be no problem on the new Specter.
The HP Specter x360 comes with a built-in quad-cell 61Wh lithium-ion polymer battery that is not user-replaceable. In our standard battery benchmark test, the review unit lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes, which is good but not a significant jump from last year’s model. In everyday usage scenarios, the test device’s battery dropped from fully charged to 54 percent in just under three hours. During testing, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were left on and the laptop was used for writing, playing music through the speakers, background app installations, and video playback. Expect the new Specter x360 to last just over six hours on a single charge with average use.
In summary, the Specter x360 stays true to its character, which is that of a sleek and mean business machine designed for portability and show. The new Intel Core i7 CPU keeps the Specter up to date and helps extend battery life by a few minutes. At the same time, the already attractive packaging gets a significant styling and paint job from HP, including aluminum panels and “gem” bezels for added character.
There’s only one fly in the ointment, though: aside from the easily discernible upgrade in the CPU and aesthetics department, there’s little new to the Specter x360. It’s a routine annual refresh that HP had to perform to keep its flagship convertible looking fresh in the eyes of customers who pay more than rupees one and a half for the latest Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB solid-state storage, and oodles. of style.