For all the noise that LG’s garnered at CES 2019 for its rollable OLED TV, it’s not the only big OLED news at the show. Sure, HP has put OLED displays on laptops before, but it was a few years ago on its Spectre x360 and it didn’t really gain any traction. Could the Spectre x360 15, the first 15-inch laptop to come with an OLED display, turn things around in 2019?
The first signs are good. That’s because the design is based on the existing HP Spectre x360 15, which is itself a great looking laptop (well, as long as you like sharp edges and lines). The OLED display adds the expected deep blacks and more accurate colours and support for HDR, which will be a boon for Netflix bingers. The downside? We don’t know the price of the OLED version, or how that display will impact battery.
We’ve seen a lot of new gaming laptops at this year’s CES, mainly thanks to Nvidia’s RTX graphics tech being loaded into new laptops from Razer, MSI and Alienware. Contrastingly, the HP Spectre x360 15 looks very much like a serious, business laptop, with its subtle grey colouring and sharp angular corners. Those corners are well thought out, though, with a USB-C connection on one corner and the power button on the other.
The thinking, says our HP rep, is that putting them there will keep them out of the way and minimise the change you’ll press the power button accidentally, which you would if it were on the side. Elsewhere on the laptop is a HDMI out port, a standard USB input and a power input. There’s a large speaker grille between the display and the keyboard, with audio tech from Bang & Olufsen. The 15-inch size also allows for a large trackpad and a numpad, again emphasising the laptop’s business credentials.
Let’s jump straight to the star of the show: that 15-inch OLED display. We were able to compare the OLED to the LCD model side-by-side, and the contrast was marked, quite literally. The OLED display was brighter, the colours were more vibrant and the blacks truly black — and that was just on the desktop. HP claims that the OLED boasts double the colour spectrum of the standard model with a brightness of 400 nits. This accurate colour reproduction means HP is targeting creatives such as photographers, designers and video editors — HP says that it’s a Hollywood standard display for the latter group.
If you have a great display, you’re going to want to drive it with the best content you can, and that probably includes games. HP says it will offer both Nvidia MX150 (enough for very basic gaming) and GeForce 1050 Ti options (better, but still a budget choice). You can also choose between a quad core or six core Intel processor depending on your photo/video editing needs. You’ll need to head online for your HDR video content or buy a USB Blu-Ray drive, as there’s no disc drive included with the machine. HP is also mindful of privacy concerns, which means it has put a physical button on the laptop that allows you to cover up the webcam, which is a more elegant solution than putting Blu-Tac or a Post-It note over the hole.
Given the number of laptops coming out at CES with the latest Nvidia RTX graphics, and the growing number of HDR-compatible PC games, it’s a shame that the HP Spectre x360 15 OLED is found wanting in terms of graphics. However, if you don’t care about games and you’re more of a movie/TV lover, you’ll be able to enjoy loads of HDR content from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime on that beautiful screen.
As it’s going to boast the same specs as the existing HP Spectre x360 15 OLED, we expect it will boast 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD storage, which should be enough for most people. What we don’t know is how much the OLED screen is going to impact on battery life. The existing HP Spectre x360 15 can run up to 16 hours depending on usage, but we expect an OLED to bring that down somewhat. More importantly for a lot of people is what impact the OLED will have on the unit’s price, which is still TBC at CES.
HP Spectre x360 15 OLED initial verdict
Seeing the OLED and non-OLED versions of the HP Spectre x360 15 side-by-side brought to life just how much of an impact a great screen can have on your everyday computing. True, we don’t yet know the cost impact that such a premium display will have on the asking price, but if you’ve got to have one of the best displays on a laptop, it looks like the HP Spectre x360 15 OLED demands a place on your list.