HP Spectre X360 15-inch (2017) Laptop Review
Can’t afford a MacBook Pro? Get this luxurious HP instead
Last year, we fell in love with HP's stunning Spectre X360. Its sleek design, metal finish, nice display, and competitive price made it one of the best laptop we used in 2016. HP has taken its successful formula and made it bigger and more powerful. If you looked at the 13-inch Spectre and thought it was too small or too slow, then the new HP Spectre X360 15-inch (MSRP $1,299.99, $1,499.99 as tested) is worth checking out.
With its brash, copper-and-ash color scheme, standard pen input, and sharp 4K display, the bigger HP Spectre convertible is another stunner. This Spectre has the right price and its 2-in-1 design gives it flexibility.
That said, for most the heavy 15-inch will be too big and heavy to be used as a tablet. Additionally, the Intel Core i7 you get is only a dual-core chip, and its built-in Nvidia graphics aren't the latest or fastest money can buy. But while this HP can't match the Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 15 for sheer horsepower, it just might be the best-priced premium 15-inch around.
About the HP Spectre X360 15-inch
Keeping things simple, HP has opted to make just two major versions of the 15-inch Spectre X360. No matter which you pick, you get the same 2-in-1 screen, 7th gen Core i7 processor, and Nvidia graphics chip standard. Our review unit is the top-of-the-line model, which sells for $1,499 and has the below specs:
•Intel Core i7-7500u dual-core processor
•16 GB RAM
•512 GB M.2 PCIe SSD
•15.6-inch UHD (3840 x 2160) touchscreen with thin side bezels
•Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics with 2 GB GDDR5 VRAM
•WiFi AC/Bluetooth 4.1
•Windows Hello-compatible IR webcam
The entry-level $1,249 version has all the same components, but it halves the SSD to 256 GB and gives you 8 GB RAM. Thankfully, HP's used standard RAM slots and an M.2-type SSD so you'll be able to upgrade it later on. If you want more storage, HP has a built-to-order option with a 1 TB PCIe solid state drive.
What We Like
The prettiest design with an alluring color scheme
When the redesigned 13-inch Spectre X360 dropped late last year, I thought it was easily one of the prettiest laptops I'd ever used. The 15-inch version is really just a bigger take on the same design and it still works. Its polished edges and slick futuristic HP logo help it pop in a sea of matte silver laptops.
For me, the two-tone copper and ash look that HP has been using lately strikes a stylish compromise between subtlety and sophistication. The Spectre doesn't scream for attention but instead uses its polished copper-colored accents to lead the eye around the design. It's not business-grade black and boxy like a ThinkPad, but it's certainly not a gaudy rose gold MacBook, either.
A great keyboard that provides a comfortable typing experience
While Apple has spent the past few years flattening its keyboards into barely-movable ergonomic nightmares, HP has struck a compromise on its latest laptops. The Spectre X360 has 1.5mm of key travel, and the keys aren't too wiggly or too squishy. This is a Goldilocks keyboard for me: it's not overly stiff, nor is it too flat...it's just right.
Ports that'll be useful now and into the future
The hot new port on the block is USB-C, which is reversible and can handle anything from normal USB accessories up to Thunderbolt 3 devices. The Spectre X360 15-inch has a similar port configuration to the smaller 13-inch, which means you get two USB-C ports onboard. More than that, one of these ports is wired for normal USB and the other is configured for full-speed Thunderbolt 3 devices. With the right adapters, these ports can let you power an external 4K display or even use an external graphics card.
Of course, there's also a good old-fashioned USB-A port so your trusty thumbdrives don't go to waste, along with a full-sized HDMI. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the port selection is the inclusion of an SD card slot. This fits full-sized SDs, and they even slide in all the way, flush with the edge of the Spectre.
Standard UHD display with a pen included
Even though most people can get by on a 1080p screen just fine, the Spectre X360 15-inch is a feast for the eyes. Its UHD (3840 x 2160) LCD touchscreen is stunning to behold, with pleasing contrast and vivid colors. It used to be that you'd pay a penalty for having such a display, but today's hardware can easily handle this many pixels without sucking your battery dry in a matter of hours.
Since the Spectre has 2-in-1 hinges that allow you to fold it into a tablet, it's an ideal canvas for artists and OneNote obsessives. HP includes an active pen in the box with each 15-inch Spectre, which is a very nice bonus. The way I see the 15-inch Spectre X360 is that it's a big laptop that enables great productivity, but for drawing enthusiasts, it can also double as a Wacom Cintiq-like sketch slate anywhere.
Decent battery life for a 15-inch
Since HP went with a dual-core i7 in the 15-inch Spectre, what you'll see is competitive battery life. In our PCMark 8 Home test, the 15-inch Spectre made it past 4 hours of strenuous work. In the real world, this will likely equate to a full days' worth of browsing using Google Chrome and working with Microsoft Office.
What We Don't Like
It's no iPad, even if the hinges are handy
As much as I appreciate the new 2-in-1 style designs for their versatility, there's no mistaking the big, heavy Spectre X360 with an iPad Pro. I think it's helpful to think of the HP as a laptop first, with some tablet functionality second. There's no doubt that you'll get really tired holding its full 4.42 lb chassis in your hands for long, and it's best when propped up against some other object.
Since you get an active pen with the 15-inch Spectre X360, you can easily fold the laptop into a flat surface for doodling and notetaking activities. I also really love the ability to deploy tent mode, which can let you fit the big, 15.6-inch screen onto an airplane tray table more easily for watching your favorite content. That convenience aside, its weight and size make it a poor replacement for a small, light media consumption device on the go.
Non-Precision trackpad isn't amazing out of the box
If I had one gripe about the 13-inch Spectre X360, it was that the trackpad just didn't feel as natural or well-tuned to me as others you can buy. Sure, HP's put great glass trackpads on these laptops for a while now, but the software behind the scenes falls short of the standard set by Microsoft's Precision Touchpad program.
HP has proven that it knows how to make a great laptop with this Spectre X360, but I want to see them push it that extra 5% by switching to the better, smoother trackpad solution. As it stands, the somewhat chunky-feeling of scrolling and having to dig into the archaic Synaptics control panel feels like a reminder of the bad ol' days of Windows.
Should You Buy It?
Yes! HP's bigger Spectre X360 is a unique premium PC experience
There's something that a lot of people forget when looking at laptops: the 15-inch screen size is a perpetual best-seller for most laptop brands. The problem is that there are few models that give you really nice materials and the latest technology in that size. In fact, many 15-inch models are like the popular Acer Aspire E15, which is a great value, but far from luxurious...and not exactly easy on the eyes.
Before this HP came along, you had two other premium 15-inch laptops to pick from. If you like macOS, you could buy the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, but unlike the two 13-inch versions, the 15-inch Pro starts at a whopping $2,400. If you just wanted a gorgeous metal laptop with a big screen, you immediately save over a grand by going with this HP Spectre X360.
The only other laptop that I'd recommend comparing the HP to is the Dell XPS 15. There's an entry-level i3 version that runs for only around $1,000 with an HD screen and a hybrid SSD/hard drive combo. Without a doubt, the all-PCIe flash solid state drive, along with the included pen and standard UHD screen will make the Spectre feel so much nicer to use than that XPS. Sure, you can spec out the XPS to have a nicer display, but it gets spendy fast.
Now, I'll acknowledge that both the Mac and Dell options have very fast internals that make them well-suited for professional users. But, I think that most people shopping for a laptop will be suitably impressed by the HP's dual-core 7th gen i7 chip. Save for the disappointing trackpad, HP's picked out top-shelf components and put them into a compelling package with the HP Spectre X350 15-inch.
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