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Hands-on review: The HP Spectre X 360 convertible
Thu, 28th Feb 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

HP caught my attention some time ago, with their ongoing emphasis on styling, ergonomics and performance. With its variety of user modes and solid processing power, this latest Spectre iteration is bound to attract the attention of an assortment of users.

Ergonomics: The Spectre packs a myriad of features into a 1.32kg, 13.3” package with its thickness of 1.45cm.  The switch from laptop to tablet mode is swift and easy, with the user only required to confirm the change on the touch screen. That may sound a tiny thing, but I happily admit to frequently forgetting which icon represents what. I'm ecstatic that the Spectre does the remembering for me.

The full-sized keyboard is an absolute joy to use, and I'm happily looking out the window as I type this sentence, secure in the knowledge that my fingers are being precisely directed to the correct keys. Keys are neatly labelled and easy on my myopic vision. The keyboard is also back-lit, which comes in handy in low lighting. The touchpad is a decent size, which is logical considering it's one of the ways you can use the touch gestures.  The Spectre continues its reputation as a lightweight with the delivery of a heavyweight.

Performance: The 13.3” High Definition screen is touch sensitive, with a crystal-clear sharpness that will make you forget about your telly. The Bang - Olufsen quad speakers are just as impressive, with clear tones in the higher register and great delivery of bass. During the painfully short time I've had to put the Spectre through its paces, I've felt as if the Spectre and I are in symbiosis.

The touchscreen, keyboard and touchpad are extensions of my fingers. The fan has only rarely switched on, and usually for a few short minutes. The quiet operation is great for those of us who practice mindfulness and crave a tranquil workspace. It enables us to focus on the clear sounds emanating from the Bang and Olufsen quad speakers as Locomotive Breath wafts gently through the house. Just think of the productivity gains! Intel's 8th Generation Core i7 CPU ensures you have plenty of power to get your work done, along with the ample workbench space allowed by the generous 14GB of DDR4 RAM.

Specs: The review model arrived with 16GB of DDR4 RAM coupled to an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU @1.80 Ghz. At this stage in the review I can report that in the interests of authenticity, I spent the bulk of yesterday watching videos and listening to a range of music. Where did the hours go? The display is stunning, and if you are a multimedia nut, you won't be disappointed. The Spectre must be one of the quietest laptop/tablets I've used. Even when the fan is running, the quiet operation will scarcely be noticed.

Functionality and Portability:  HP report on their website that there are four main modes in which you can use the Spectre.

  • Laptop to Multitask: Power through projects, e-mail and spreadsheets with a backlit keyboard and extra-wide trackpad.
  • Tablet to Write: Note-taking and drawing that feels as natural as pen on paper.
  • Stand to Watch: Bring your display to the forefront — perfect for streaming content and video.
  • Tent to Present: Perfect for giving presentations and sharing photos.

This lightweight could easily become an asset for the travelling business person, or even that on-the-go photojournalist who needs to get that shot of the winning goal back to the news desk.  I'm particularly drawn to the combo Nano Sim/Micro SD/ card reader, the regular USB port and the two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports.

The neoprene sleeve that came with the Spectre will mean you can easily transport your Spectre in your briefcase or with your photo gear.  Those of us with media in the cloud will rest easy knowing that wherever you have cell coverage you will have access to your media accounts. Photoshop and Lightroom users will know what I'm talking about, as will those of you who have busy days delivering presentations to clients.

A brief mention about the power adapter: If you're like me and paranoid about being stranded with a low battery, the Spectre's adapter is nice and compact. Throw it in your gear bag or briefcase and cease your worrying. Having said that, I suspect the paranoia won't last too long. HP specifications say that you will get up to 16 hours of battery life, meaning that you and I can happily leave the adapter back in the office. As always, battery use is dependent on the load of the work being done.

The Spectre gives you the option of using the touchpad and touchscreen, eschewing the need for a mouse. Using two, three or four-fingered pinch and gestures, you can navigate, highlight, zoom, access the Search menu and access the edit palette. The two-fingered tap is saving me a lot of time, allowing me to edit on the fly. It's also wonderful to be able to choose between the touch-screen or the pad. I have now switched to tablet mode and I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

I found that the predictive text function compensates for my slower typing speed. You can even use the touch pen to write, illustrate and annotate. An example is planning out a route on Windows Maps and drawing it. I liked their little slogan, “Windows Ink: If you can think it, you can ink it.

Not only does the Spectre provide the diversity of a tablet and a notebook; it's a multimedia workhorse, a photographer's portable office, and an entrepreneur's portable thinking tool. There are plenty of apps available to ensure you make full use of the stylus and tablet functions. Whether you're working or playing, I suspect that you and your Spectre are destined to become inseparable. In the scheme of things, the Spectre is well-priced for a laptop/tablet with an abundance of power and functionality at your fingertips.