You might not realise it, but HP is currently one of the market’s biggest laptop makers. According to a report by market analysists TrendForce earlier this year, the US firm was the best computer seller of out of all the big brands in the first quarter, enjoying a PC growth of 2.6 per cent.
While that doesn’t sound like much - anything that isn’t a loss is quite the achievement for the more traditional devices in an age of the all-encompassing smartphone. PC sales have been dwindling for the last decade.
So what is HP offering us now in the run-up to the busy holiday period? Well, it just announced the Spectre x360, this year’s version of the premium laptop that’s seen pretty positive reviews since it hit the market back in 2016.
We’ve had three versions since then, and it hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s still a 2-in-1 convertible with a 360-degree hinge that allows the display to be flipped behind the keyboard, turning it into a tablet. However, this time around it promises a similarly futuristic and angular design, but with even better performance and a more compact and travel-friendly form.
We got a hands-on with the Spectre x360 at an event in New York ahead of its launch. Here’s what it’s like in the flesh.
DESIGN: ANGULAR AND ALLURING
Referring to the Spectre x360’s design as having 'a jeweller’s touch', HP are really flogging this laptop as one with premium features and serious attention to detail. And we can see why; it’s certainly a very thought-through and beautifully-crafted machine.
It sports some super sexy, sharp angular corners on the chassis where the keyboard and display meet, which we are massive fans of. It’s definitely not conventional and that’s exactly why we like it. It lends it a futuristic feel, which not everyone will be into. But at least it’s different, eh?
As for the size and weight and stuff, the new HP Spectre x360 is 13% smaller than it’s 2018 counterpart, which ensures there’s a much tighter bezel around the screen than on the previous model. We don’t have the specs on exact weight just yet, however, but in the hands, it definitely didn’t feel noticeably heavy or anything. It also switches effortlessly from clamshell mode to tablet thanks to its 360-degree hinge. Although what laptop doesn’t nowadays?
DISPLAY: A SNUG 13 INCHES
As you can probably tell from the name, the Spectre x360 13 has a 13.3in touchscreen display. Depending on which model you go for, and how much you’re willing to splash out on it, this can vary from a Full HD WLED offering right up to a top-spec 4K AMOLED option with Corning Gorilla Glass and “True Black HDR”.
The model we had some hands-on time with was the latter and looked nothing short of stunning. Although for a screen of this size, is 4K really necessary? Probably not, but it will earn you some bragging rights at least.
HP has also made efforts in improving viewing in brightly-lit conditions by reducing glare with an anti-reflection glass which reduces the refraction of incoming light. In our experience with it, this seemed to work well. As you can see from the hands-on photos, the Spectre’s display is still reflecting light from the light source in the demo room as most devices would, but the difference here with cheaper laptop displays is that you can still clearly see everything on the screen.
As mentioned earlier, the bezel around the display has been greatly reduced since last year’s model, especially at the top and bottom. This was the most disappointing thing about the 2018 edition, as the big black borders made it look somewhat dated when compared to Dell’s XPS 13, for example. This reduction in bezel has meant the laptop is also 23mm shorter along the sides, too, making it more compact and slightly better for shoving in your bag and taking to the coffee shop with you.
KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD: TAP HAPPY
The all-silver keyboard is lovely to type on mainly thanks to its springy travel, which makes typing a breeze. And that’s not the end of the positives here. Behind the keys, there’s a backlight for those times when you’re working in the dark.
As for the touchpad, it’s the same finish as the rest of the chassis, giving a premium look. It’s also nice and smooth and responsive, making it easy control, so no complaints there, either.
PERFORMANCE: NICE AND NIPPY
HP promises the 2019 version of the Spectre x360 will offer double the performance of that seen on its forerunner thanks to an upgrade in processor chips and RAM capacity. You can opt for a cheaper Intel Core i5-powered machine with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD drive, or if you’ve got money to burn, you could go for the cream of the crop: an Intel Core i7 chip with 16GB of RAM and a massive 1TB of SSD storage.
The device we played around on proved super nippy, but - as always with demo devices - this is before it’s been loaded to the brim with apps and data, so you can never really tell the true performance of a machine until it’s being used in real life.
Nevertheless, it’s not only the internal specs that have been updated in the Spectre x360 to reflect an improvement over its predecessor, but HP has also overhauled how the device manages its power supply to ensure its more efficient than ever, which in turn should help extend battery life.
For starters, the firm has added a graphite sheet on the bottom to better disperse heat, as well as some inlet holes under the keyboard for improved circulation of air. It’s also increased heat pipes from one to three over the previous model for the same reason. You don’t really notice this when you’re using it, but we trust it does some good.
When the 2018 model was released last year, it was recognised for its amazing battery life. And this year it looks to get even better. HP says the Spectre x360 13 should offer 22 hours of juice on a single charge; an achievement that it claims makes it the “world’s longest battery life in a 13-inch quad-core convertible”. We’ll have to wait to do a full review to confirm this, however, so check back soon for that.
HP Spectre x360 13 (2019) initial verdict
On first impressions, the Spectre x360 13 strikes us as a very impressive bit of kit. The design is top-notch and we think it will really help it sell to those looking for a powerful machine, even if it does cost the earth. But the performance improvements remain to be seen if it would really worth the upgrade or not.
W'e're not sure as of yet what price HP will be charging for this glorious device, but the 2018 version went on sale last year at a starting price of £1,199, so we assume it will be something similar. We don’t have an exact release date for the UK yet either, but we’ve been told it’ll come “sometime in October”. Keep your eyes peeled.