I hate reviewing HP’s Spectres. The HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 is no exception. Why? It is so damned hard to give them back.
The HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 is the embodiment of perfection, albeit that comes at a cost – one that any discerning user is willing to pay. For the price you get the latest tech, blazingly fast 10th gen Intel Core i7, Iris Plus graphics and Optane enhanced SSD and new almost bezel-less construction that defies physics fitting an amazing 13.3-inch 4K AMOLED touch screen in a 12” body – it is 23.4mm smaller and 100g lighter than the last model!
Throw in B&O tuned stereo speakers, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C
3.1 gen 2 ports and more – the HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 is a premium device with
Let’s explore the HP x360 Spectre 13 2020
I have named it ‘2020’ (OK late 2019!) to differentiate it from the 8th Generation equipped Intel Core versions. This series has models numbers 13-AW0001-0999. It has a complete chassis re-design although it may look similar to the 13-AP versions with diamond-cut edges and the corner power key.
Warranty: 1-year with additional time/types at extra cost
Part manual and service manual – Spectre is 100% field serviceable.
Note: HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 comes in various configurations
including i5-1035G4 (1.1/3.7Ghz 4-core) and i7-1065G7 (1.3/3.9Ghz), 1080p to 4K
screens and different ram and storage. I suspect this SKU is exclusive to
Harvey Norman If you are looking elsewhere, it is very similar to 13-AW0028TU.
In the interests of brevity, we use FAIL, PASS, EXCEED
against all test parameters.
Screen – glorious 4K AMOLED – EXCEED
What more can we say than 4K (3840 x 2160) AMOLED is the way?
This is 400 nits, 100% DCI-P3 with a 90% STBR (almost no bezels) so it is ideal
for movies and creatives that want realistic colours. It supports Windows HDR (VESA
Certified HDR400 is not quite the same as movie HDR).
Our tests confirm the brightness, and infinite contrast (claimed
100,000:1) at a colour temperature of 6500K and a Delta E of 2.2 (very good).
While AMOLED is power efficient, 4K draws more power than 1080p. BUT!
It comes with HP Display Control (do not use Windows controls)
that offers five modes
Default – set for oversaturated vibrant colours –
not remotely real but colours do pop!
Web – 100% (or more) sRGB
Photo – close to 90% Adobe RGB
Movie – 100% DCI-P3 with HDR
Native – no optimisation
I had heard comments that the 4K screen is not as crisp due
to the so-called ‘digitiser’ layer and has a yellow cast. But in our tests, it
stacks up fine – this screen ID is SDC4142 (Samsung display- use AIDA 64 to
identify) manufactured Week 19/2019. I note that some earlier units had an AU Optronics
or BOE display.
And yes, In DCI-P3 there is a slight yellow cast (warmer for
movies) as against Adobe RGB (cooler and most accurate).
Advice: Have a look before you buy. And because AMOLED is self-emissive
400nits won’t seem as bright as say a 400nit WLED IPS panel – but it is.
I understand that the 1080p, 400nit, WLED, 72% NTSC, 1W low
power, IPS screen is pretty good as well but a little too reflective for outdoor
There is also a
privacy screen version (not tested).
Processor – EXCEED
This is a new 10nm, four-core/eight-thread processor with a
maximum TDP of 25W. PassMark is 10,480 – over 30% faster than an equivalent AMD
Ryzen 7 3700U. The i5-1035G4 is no slouch either at 8,977, again ahead of the Ryzen
The Iris Plus Graphics are faster than the Intel UHD
Graphics but nowhere near enough for serious gaming – it can support most 1080p
PC games to 24FPS.
CPU throttling test (15 minutes full load)
HP Command Centre app gives the option of Recommended,
Performance, Comfort or Quite modes.
We tested on ‘Performance’ and mains power. It maintained a
full 100% CPU capacity. The fan noise varied from 37dB (normal) to 47dB (the
later brings the temperature back to about 80°).
We reran the test on ‘Recommended’ and battery power. It
immediately throttled to about 80% and stayed there.
Memory is soldered to the motherboard, so make sure you get
enough for your needs.
SSD – PASS – could be faster
The review unit has an Intel Optane H10 that has 32GB of fast Optane memory on a 512GB QLC PCIe NVMe 2-lane SSD. You can read our review here. There is nothing wrong with this – to the contrary its fine for most users but you can get much faster SSDs if you want.
The issue is what you want to do with it. If you want to edit
and render videos, then the 32GB cache soon fills and reverts to 2-lane PCI speeds
of around 140-2000MBps sequential read. Samsung and WD both have TLC M2.2280
PCIe NVMe 34-lane that crack the 3500MBps mark with no cache issues.
Comms – EXCEED
It has Wi-Fi AX 2×2 which means Gigabit speeds with AX
routers. It held 1Gbps out to 8 metres before dropping to 866Mbps – very good.
The unit is soldered in – not an M2 style as we are used to.
BT 5.0 means a greater transmission distance and speed – we were
able to connect at over 20m with BT 5.0 Sennheiser PXC 550 II headphones.
The IR webcam is quite fast at Windows Hello Sign in and
fine for 720p Skype use. There is a convenient kill switch, as well.
Keyboard, Trackpad and Pen – PASS
The backlit keyboard has full-sized, well space keys. But it has 1.3mm throw – a feels a little shallower than previous models. It compensates by a 40g actuation force (also light). It did not affect my typing speed or accuracy.
The Precision touchpad is wide (11cm) but not deep (5.5cm) meaning
you cannot mouse from the top right to bottom left screen corners in one stroke
– you could on previous Spectres.
The Pen (not tested, not provided). It appears this model requires the single button $150 HP USB-C rechargeable Easy Tilt Pen. From what I can tell this is superior to previous HP Pens and you can read more here. It should also work with Wacom Pens.
Sound – PASS
Volume 76B – not as loud as some, still it is fine for
Down-firing speakers (instead of front-firing) do impact
bass. It starts very late (high bass) and then mid and treble are quite flat
(good). This is more ‘bright vocal’ and can be harsh at volume. You can read
all about sound signatures here.
We tested with the B&O Audio control
set to off.
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – building
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – low but flat
Low-mids: 200-400Hz – flat
Mids: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mids: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble:4-6kHz – flat
High Treble: 6-10kHz – decline
Dog whistle: 10-20 – flat to 16kHz
The B&O control offers lots of pre-sets and a custom EQ with +/- 12dB. It does not do much to bass but can remove a little upper harshness.
Our tests over BT revealed 24-bit,48kHz sound using the standard Windows codec – not very good sound at all. Hint: If you select headphone instead of Handsfree (speaker and mic) device it uses aptX – problem solved and all sounds great.
Ports – EXCEED
It is handy to have two Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) ports (on the
right side) meaning you can use on a Thunderbolt 3 dock with power passthrough and
the other for USB-C devices like 4 or 5K screens. If you use these ports with
standard USB-C, they revert to USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps with ALT DP and PD. The
only criticism is that it would have been nice to have one on each side.
But you know what I found really handy – the USB-A port (albeit
hidden under a flap on the other side).
It has a 3.5mm audio and a microSD slot. Some models have an
LTE sim slot.
We tested with Kensington 85W and ATEN 85W Thunderbolt 3 docks as well as a range of USB-C docks. It supported dual 4K@60Hz monitors (one via the Dock and the other via USB-C) and a single 5K@60Hz.
Battery – EXCEED
Project Athena certified notebooks are supposed to have 20+
hour battery life and fast charge (50% in 30 minutes) – in lab conditions. Our
tests could not reach those numbers but were pretty impressive.
4K AMOLED takes a little more power, so while it does get to 16 hours in general office use it drops when playing 4K content. Note the 1080p LED/LCD gets about 3 hours more battery life
Light use – Office 365 and some web – 16 hours
4K movie loop 8.3 hours
1080p movie loop – 14 hours
100% load – 2.6 hours
50% charge in 40 minutes
100% charge in under 1.5 hours
GadgetGuy’s take – the HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 is close to perfect.
No device is perfect, but the HP x360 Spectre started life a
few years ago as pretty perfect anyway.
Given is it one of the smallest and lightest it gets our recommendation.
Specifications – HP x360 Spectre 13 2020 (13-aw0059tu)
HP Spectre 13 AW-series
Intel Project Athena compatible
Windows 10 Home 64 – Pro is an option
16 GB LPDDR4-1800 (called 3200 as it is 2-lane) soldered
to the motherboard
8GB is an option
Intel Optane Memory H10 32GB + QLC 512GB HBRPEKNX0202AH
also called 3D XPoint
Options up to 2TB M2 2280 PCIe NVMe SSD
Intel Core i7-1065G7 (1.3 GHz base frequency, up to 3.9
GHz) and Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Option i5-1035G4 (1.1/3.7Ghz 4-core
3 heat pipe/2 fan cooling