It is not the finest in the market. And not the lightest either. Even so, the figures of this Specter x360 are attractive enough to attract the attention of those users who are looking for a stylized convertible that is not too lazy to wear for a good part of the day, when necessary. And it has a thickness of 1.36 cm in the thinnest end and weighs 1.26 Kg. As you can see, they are very interesting figures for those users who attach great importance to portability.
I have decided to start the analysis highlighting these features of this laptop because they are, without doubt, their most striking credentials. Exactly three years ago one of its precursors passed through our laboratory, the Specter x360 with a 13.3-inch screen that HP launched in 2015, and we liked that team a lot. However, the convertible that leads this analysis is very different from that Specter, despite the fact that both share the same design philosophy. Let’s see what it offers us and which users might be interested in having it in the “point of view”.
HP Specter X360: Technical Specifications
The heart of this convertible is an Intel Core i7-8550U microprocessor of eighth generation with some very interesting features. Its clock frequency base is a moderate 1.8 GHz, but when the workload requires it can be increased to reach a much more interesting 4 GHz. This working speed, coupled with the ability to simultaneously process a maximum of eight threads of execution thanks to Hyper-Threading technology, should allow this CPU to show a remarkable performance both in applications that do not take advantage of a high degree of parallelism and in those that do.
The graphic logic integrated in this chip is responsible for solving the graphics of the computer, which does not have a dedicated NVIDIA or AMD GPU. This feature, coupled with the compact and lightweight chassis that this laptop has, betrays its professional vocation. But we still have one more feature that points in this direction: The TDP (Thermal Design Power) of this Intel processor is a very moderate 15 watts. This parameter reflects how much power the CPU dissipates in the form of heat when all the cores are active and working at the base clock frequency.
Another component of this team that is worth paying attention, and which we will discuss in more detail a bit later, is its screen. The model we have had the opportunity to analyze has an IPS LCD panel with WLED backlighting and Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 points), but HP has also incorporated into its portfolio a version of this same convertible that integrates a panel with 4K resolution UHD (3840 x 2160 points). Of course, both screens have something important in common: they are multi-touch and support a maximum of 10 simultaneous contact points.
Two more features of this proposal that I find interesting to go “warming up engines” are its biometric fingerprint reader, a component that seems appropriate given the professional nature of this laptop (although, as we will see later, its location is when less peculiar), and its very limited connectivity. Fortunately, their lack of connectivity has a solution. We will investigate it throughout the article. Meanwhile, here is the table that collects your specifications in detail.
|HP SPECTER X360|
|SCREEN||Full HD 13.3-inch multi-touch IPS (10 points) IPS WLED LCD with Gorilla Glass NBT coverage|
|RESOLUTION||1920 x 1080 points|
|PROCESSOR||Intel Core i7-8550U at 1.8 GHz (up to 4 GHz, 14 nm, 4 cores / 8 threads and 8 MB L3 cache)|
|GRAPHICS||Intel UHD Graphics 620 (Kaby Lake) 1 GB|
|RAM||8 GB LPDDR3-2133|
|SSD||Toshiba 512 GB NVMe M.2|
|SOUND||Four speakers and audio calibrated by Bang & Olufsen|
|SO VERSION||Windows 10 Home|
|CONNECTIVITY||WiFi 802.11ac Dual Band / Bluetooth 4.2
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x slot for micro-SD cards and 1 x headphone / microphone jack
|MINIMUM DIMENSIONS||30.6 x 21.8 x 1.36 cm|
|BATTERY||Lithium ion 3 cells and 60 Wh|
|PRICE||1,484.31 dollars (with 256 GB SSD)|
Finishing and design with portability by flag
The chassis of this convertible computer has been machined from a single block of aluminum, so the only screws it uses are the two that hold the bottom panel fixed to the base of the chassis. The minimum diameter of the ventilation holes that HP has practiced in the lower panel reflects that advanced machining techniques have been used in its development. I have no doubt that the HP chassis has used numerical control cutting machinery, and I also suspect that ventilation holes, at least those of smaller diameter, have been made using laser machining.
In addition, the use of aluminum in the chassis (in this component there is not a single piece of plastic) carries an additional advantage. This material has a heat conductivity index much higher than the plastic used in the chassis of other laptops less opulent, which helps to dissipate more efficiently the heat generated by the CPU, which in this equipment is undoubtedly the component that dissipates more energy in the form of heat.
In the image that you have below this paragraph you can see the two hinges that allow to go from the work mode as a conventional laptop to the use mode as a tablet. These elements are not as robust as the hinge used by Lenovo in its Yoga 920, a convertible that I had the opportunity to analyze a few weeks ago, but, given the lightness of the chassis of this specter x360, I do not think in the long term the fact that its size is measured can be a problem.
As far as the design of this laptop is concerned, the photographs that illustrate this article, and, above all, the figures that reflect the fields “minimum dimensions” and “weight” of the table, speak for themselves. The thickness of this convertible at the thinnest end of the chassis is only 1.36 cm, so it is more or less the same as a folder that we usually use to transport documents. In addition, weighs only 1.26 Kg, which makes it possible to hold it with one hand without difficulty, and, above all, transport it effortlessly.
These characteristics leave no doubt about one of the main hallmarks of this proposal: its interesting portability. Of course, in this context it is essential that their autonomy be up to par because, if not, their availability would be compromised. We’ll check it a little later.
A screen at the height of the circumstances
As I anticipated at the beginning of the analysis, the version of this equipment that we have had the opportunity to analyze incorporates an IPS LCD panel with WLED backlight and Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 points), but a model equipped with a panel with resolution 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 points). To test its quality, I used the analysis tools offered by WhiteDisplay.com, and, above all, the Lagom LCD Monitor Test utility . And the IPS panel of this team has shown to perform at a good level.
The backlighting is homogeneous over the entire surface of the panel and the control of the attenuation is quite precise, so in the tests of black level and gradient (banding) has yielded a satisfactory result. Regarding the color, I have nothing to object because this panel restores the primary colors with a level of saturation and homogeneity typical of a fairly high quality monitor. And its viewing angle is closer to 180 degrees, as you would expect from an IPS type panel (in this area VA panels are the ones that usually appear worse off).
The only feature that I did not like about the screen of this Specter x360 is the ease with which it generates quite annoying reflections. HP engineers have not opted to use an anti-reflective cover, and this decision outdoors has consequences. If ambient light abounds, or, above all, if there is a source of light that directly affects the screen, reflections appear that can sometimes be annoying, forcing us to change our location. It has happened to me several times during the tests; In fact, in the photograph that you have below these lines you can see that the reflections are clearly present.
A note more derived from the design of this team: as you can see in the photographs, the side frames of the screen are quite thin (measure 6 mm), something that is appreciated from an aesthetic point of view. The lower frame is much wider, a feature that I have also observed in convertibles of other brands. But, even so, the visual impact of this equipment when the screen is exposed is positive.
Changing the third, the digital pen that HP offers as an accessory for this team I like. It is a little thinner than the pencils that convertibles from other manufacturers have, and this greater slenderness, in my opinion, gives a plus of ergonomics that is appreciated. In addition, it is very precise, so it is possible to use it in applications such as OneNote or PowerPoint with great convenience. The integration with Windows 10 of this element is very successful, which allows to use it also in the Windows maps, in the notebook, and, even, directly on our photographs.
Of course, as we have seen before, the chassis of the convertible is so thin that it can not pick up the digital pen inside, forcing us to be careful with it so as not to lose it. The pity is that it is a quite expensive accessory, which will probably cause some users to decide not to get it.
Sound tuned by Bang & Olufsen
Many of the manufacturers of laptops trust the tuning of the sound of their equipment of higher range to brands specialized in audio, like Harman Kardon or Dynaudio. HP has turned to Bang & Olufsen to tune the sound of this convertible, and the result is quite satisfactory. The audio of the videos, and, above all, the music, sound clearly, have a convincing detail and reach a fairly high sound pressure level (up to 83 dB). Of course, above 70 dB the distortion makes an appearance and the higher frequencies sound metallic, so the sound can come to disturb.
This equipment does not sound bad, and if we do not have good headphones the experience offered by the four speakers integrated in the chassis is quite satisfactory, provided that, yes, we do not go hand in hand with the volume control. It is evident that the reduced thickness of the chassis of this computer does not allow to make miracles with the sound, what leaves to the work that have done Bang & Olufsen and HP in this matter in good place. But if we want to enjoy the best possible sound quality, the best option is to bet on good headphones.
Keyboard and touchpad: The price to pay for such a thin chassis
The keyboard of this convertible has left me with a bittersweet taste. It does not have bad quality at all, and I am sure that, having analyzed it two or three years ago, I would have liked it more than it has done now. The “problem” is that many manufacturers have “put the batteries” with the quality of the keyboards of their laptops since then, fortunately, and during the last weeks I have had the opportunity to test keyboards of as much quality as the integrated ones in the Aero 15 of Gigabyte or the Yoga 920 of Lenovo. The latter, in addition, is a convertible that competes in the same market segment as this Specter x360, so the comparison is inevitable.
As expected, given the reduced thickness of this equipment, HP has integrated a chiclet type keyboard into it. The transverse oscillation of the keys is minimal, although not non-existent, but what does not convince me too much are their touch and their route. With the hours of use you end up getting used to it, but I would have appreciated that the path of the keys was slightly longer and the touch softer. Hence the bittersweet feeling of which I have spoken before. Probably the fact of reducing both the thickness of the chassis has played a crucial role in shortening the path of the keys, so this is an inevitable consequence of a positive design decision, but with implications that go beyond what evident.
As far as the touchpad of this convertible is concerned, I have almost nothing to object to. Its surface is quite generous, although I would have appreciated that it was a bit higher, and its accuracy and response are no problem, so the experience it offers is satisfactory.
Connectivity: Limited, but correctable with an accessory
Again we came across a limitation imposed by the reduced thickness of this equipment. And is that the range of connectors that incorporates is much less extensive than you would expect from a laptop today. It lacks an RJ-45 port and HDMI output, two links that in many use scenarios play an important role. And it only has three USB ports, an amount that some users may find scarce.
The right side profile of the chassis picks up two USB 3.1 Gen 2 C-type ports, a button to manipulate the volume of the sound (which, by the way, I do not find comfortable at all), and also the fingerprint reader. This last component can be seen in the following photograph, housed just between the USB 3.1 type C ports and the volume button. The location that HP engineers have chosen for this biometric sensor does not convince me. And it does not do so because it is not visible, and it is not perceived clearly to the touch, so we will often be forced to move the convertible to place our finger precisely on the reader, if we decide to use it to identify ourselves in front of Windows.
In the left side profile we have an additional USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, a minijack that allows us to connect both a microphone and headphones, and finally, a slot for micro-SD cards. This is all.
It is very likely that a good part of the users who are going to put their eyes on this convertible the connectivity that offers seems too small. In this scenario, the only option is to acquire the accessory with USB-C interface that you can see in the following image. With it the connectivity of this laptop itself is well resolved because it incorporates a USB 3.1 Gen 2 C-type additional port, an HDMI output, a D-Sub 15 link, a RJ-45 network socket and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports that, given the circumstances, they come great.
The model that HP has sent us next to the convertible, which is the HP Specter USB-C Travel Dock, costs 154.88 dollars at the official HP store. To me it seems a price too high. And this accessory also involves another handicap: it is another device that we have to carry. Even so, given the limited connectivity of the team, its usefulness is evident.
Our test bench
Finally, we come to one of the most interesting sections of this analysis: the one that helps us determine how this laptop has performed on our test bench. We will start with Cinebench R15 to check how it works with a highly parallel tool. As you can see in the following screenshot, the Intel Core i7-8550U microprocessor that fits this equipment has thrown in this test a very worthy brand, but, logically, lower than that achieved by other Core i7 chips that work at a base clock frequency superior and incorporate the same number of cores and are capable of handling the same number of execution threads.
In PCMark 10 this Specter x360 has proven to be more comfortable than in Cinebench R15. In fact, as you can see in the following graph, has passed with enough authority the brand thrown by the Yoga 920 of Lenovo, which leaves the HP proposal in good place (the Lenovo has the same amount of RAM but has a Intel Core i5-8250U microprocessor at 1.6 GHz). This result reflects that the convertible that is the focus of this analysis yields a very interesting performance in multi-tasking environments halfway between the office and multimedia playback scenarios.
The result obtained by this Specter x360 in the Home Conventional 3.0 scenario of PCMark 8 points towards the same address of PCMark 10. And, once again, this team has been very well positioned, surpassing several Lenovo Yoga models that, yes, they have older processors, and much closer to the performance of the Alienware 14, a machine and something old, but with a very interesting configuration.
Interestingly, in the PCMark 8 Creative Conventional 3.0 scenario, the Specter x360 has not been surpassed only by the Alienware 14, but also by the Lenovo 900 Yoga, which has emerged as the fastest machine in this test. Even so, the performance difference between these three laptops is small, which guarantees that any of them feels comfortable in a typical scenario of content creation and multimedia playback.
The performance of the Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphic logic implemented in the CPU of this convertible in 3DMark’s Cloud Gate test is not bad enough. The really interesting thing is that it reflects that it is capable of dealing with guarantees to a fairly demanding graphic engine. Even so, we should not have too many illusions: the graphic logic of Intel is enough to execute a wide range of applications that require a certain graphic power, and also to occasionally play titles that are not very demanding. But nothing more. It is preferable to have a dedicated NVIDIA or AMD GPU to play last-generation titles. And in this scenario of use there are more desirable equipment than this Specter x360.
The Ice Storm tool of 3DMark, which has been designed to test the graphic logic of smartphones and tablets, revalidates what we have observed in the previous test. And is that this convertible is not the ideal machine to run applications that carry a significant graphic load. With it you can play, of course, but titles that are not too demanding. To run relatively recent action games, it is preferable to opt for a gaming device that, at least, incorporates an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU.
The Toshiba SSD that HP has integrated into this computer has an NVMe M.2 interface. And this is clearly perceived in its performance. The sequential write speed that has been thrown in CrystalDiskMark exceeds 400 MB/s, a figure that is not bad. But where it stands out with rotundity is in the sequential reading test because it has reached a speed slightly higher than 1600 MB/s, which is a fantastic mark. At first I was surprised that there was so much difference between the read and write speeds of this SSD, so I decided to repeat the test several times. And he always gave an almost identical result in both tests, so we’ll take it for good.
The autonomy of this laptop in a real-use scenario that combines office applications, Internet browsing, multimedia playback and content creation, is about five and a half hours . However, it is likely that in less demanding conditions of use can clearly exceed six hours, a brand that is really good, and that, in slightly less stressful conditions that alternate loading moments with periods of inactivity, it could be enough to dilate during a whole day’s work.
Now we go with the working temperature of the CPU. With a load that ranges between 40 and 55% the microprocessor of this equipment works at a temperature that is between 40 and 45 degrees. When the workload increases to a value close to 100%, the CPU temperature does the same until 98 degrees. It is an important value, which, however, during the tests has not compromised the stability of the operating system, and that is quickly reduced when the workload reaches slightly less stressful conditions.
Finally, as regards the noise emitted by this equipment in typical working conditions, for example, when we use it for office tasks, it does not exceed 36 dB, which is a practically inaudible rumor. When the stress is intense the noise increases until reaching peaks of 46 dB, but even so, it is not a value, much less exaggerated.