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HP Spectre x360 (review)
4.4Overall Score

Price (RRP): $from 2198
Manufacturer: HP

The HP Spectre x360 2018 is part of its premium range – prosumers love it. It sits above the Envy and Pavilion and just below the enterprise Elitebook and ZBook ranges.

What is an HP Spectre x360 2018?

HP Spectre x360 has inherited many of the Elitebook x360 features – that is great.

The technology that flows down from its Elitebook sibling includes fast battery charge, a robust x360 hinge and chassis, and B&O speakers. I suspect the only thing it does not have is MIL-SPEC durability. You can even upgrade to 3-year Care Pack warranty.

It is a 13.3”, (FHD, Sure View FHD or 4K) touchscreen, ultrathin, ultralight, x360° hinge, Intel 8th generation Core, Thunderbolt 3 enabled laptop.

HP is well known for a plethora of models so don’t be surprised to see slightly different ones (model numbers 13-ae000 through 13-ae099) exclusive to certain retailers.

HP lists only two new Spectre x360 8th generation models with Thunderbolt 3 on its website – imaginatively named

  • 13-ae045tu – i5-8250U, 8/360GB, 13.3” FHD touch at $2,499
  • 13-ae055tu – i7-8550U, 16/512GB, 13.3” FHD touch at $3,099

HP is offering a $150 prepaid VISA card bonus for online orders.

Spectre 360

But there are so many HP Spectre x360 models

A quick web search shows many 13.3″ touch screen ‘13-aeXXX’ models at JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, selected retailers and online

  • 13-ae009tu – i5-8250U, 8/360GB, FHD at $2,198
  • 13-ae021tu – i5-8250U, 8/360GB, FHD at $2,399 (Harvey Norman only)
  • 13-ae024tu -i7-8550U, 16/512GB, FHD at $2,997 (Harvey Norman only)
  • 13-ae023tu – i7-8550U, 16GB/1TB, 4K at $3,699 (Harvey Norman only)
  • 13-af090T – i5-8250U, 8/360GB, FHD, Ceramic White at $2,499 (Harvey Norman only)
  • 13-af010T – i7-8550U, 8/512GB, FHD, Ceramic White at $2,999 (Harvey Norman only)
  • 13-ae010tu – i7-8550U, 16/512GB, FHD at $2,698
  • 13-ae054tu – i7-8550U, 16/360GB, FHD at $2,197
  • 13-ae509tu – i7-8550U, 16/512GB, 4K at $2,450.74 (I suspect this is a parallel import but an amazing price)

There are so many variations on the base model that it pays to shop around. You can often drive a bargain on retail models – look for discounts of around 5-10%, if not more.

Unless you are Hardly Normal and want the Ceramic White, then you have no choice. The Ceramic White is a slightly different design with similar specifications.

Who is it for?

Spectre is HP’s aspirational brand aimed at those prepared to pay a little more for something that looks good and works equally well.

Having used this for a week, the main issue was keeping my wife’s hands off it. She has an earlier model Spectre x360 in Dark Ash (mocha) and Copper Lux highlights (rose gold). The Natural Silver is more male-oriented.

However when she saw that the new one did not have an HDMI or copious USB-A expansion ports she cooled a little. Thunderbolt 3 expansion options are later in the review.

Other products in the HP Spectre range

Spectre is a range comprising x360, a traditional laptop, and an x2 detachable tablet (Surface-like).

The 8th generation Intel Core processors are slowly flowing throughout the range. There is nothing wrong at all with the 7th generation models – the new CPUs are more a refresh than a huge leap forward.

Spectre 360

Review – HP Spectre x360 Model 13-ae010tu – i7-8550U, 16/512GB, 13.3″ FHD touchscreen

HP Australian Website: There is none as this is a retail model. JB Hi-Fi site here.

As tested

  • Intel Core i7-8550U, 1.8G/4GHz and UHD Graphics 620
  • 16GB RAM and 512GB PCI NVMe SSD
  • 13.3” 1920 x 1080, IPS, Gorilla Glass NBT
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Fingerprint reader
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Full-sized USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 with sleep charge
  • Micro-SD slot
  • 3.5mm combo audio
  • Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth, Wi-Di
  • A$2,698

Out of the box

  • Notebook
  • Charger – 65W USB-C delivers 5V, 9V, 10V, 12V, 15V, or 20V of power. Wall plug and separate power cord supplied. Weighs 242g.
  • An HP Active Pen 905512-001. It appears to be an older two-button model – not the 1FH0AA model supplied with the Elitebook. I am unsure if it is part of all retail packages
  • Black leather carry sleeve

First impressions – light and lovely

Light at 1.26kg and 13.6mm thin. I was also impressed with HP’s claim of 16 hours and 45 minutes battery life in general Windows 10 use. HP also claims  12 hours and 15 minutes for 1080p video playback. Our tests could not quite achieve that but battery life was better than most.

It is a premium product with high-end, natural silver finishes. Slightly polished edges and the fit and finish are top-drawer.

Spectre x360

It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side and a full-sized USB-A 3.1 and Micro-SD on the left.

Build quality – Spectre x360 sets a high standard

Spectre is prosumer (professional consumer) quality. While it does not have MIL-STD certification, it follows the Elitebook design using a single milled block of aluminium. Gorilla Glass NBT protects the screen. It is a keeper.

It is quite repairable with a full-service manual here.

Setup – typical Windows

A 360° hinge overcomes the limitations of traditional clamshell notebooks – open or shut. There are times you need tent style, presentation mode, flat or tablet mode and this does it all.

Spectre x360

I travel a lot and tent mode is fantastic as a video player on small aircraft seat-back tables. Tablet mode is excellent for reading.

Setup is typical Windows 10. A reminder that you can turn off all the ‘anti-privacy’ defaults without consequence.

What I do like is the HP Assistant that keeps HP firmware and software up to date. This is in addition to Windows 10 Update.

The screen is good but not great

It is a 13.3”, 1920 x 1080, 16:9, 166ppi, 300 nits, 72% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB. The IPS display offers good viewing angles, accurate colour and even colour distribution.

sRGB means it offers a viewing environment designed to match typical home and office viewing conditions. Artists and photographers would look at the Adobe RGB rating.

300 nits mean it is less readable under direct sunlight, but it is perfect for the office.  It is in the same screen league as the Dell XPS 13, Asus ZenBook etc.

Processor/RAM

The Intel 8th generation Core i7-8550U, 1.8/4GHz is a 4-core, 8-thread, low power use notebook processor.

Passmark is 8256.The i5-8250U is no slouch either at 7601. These processors shine in multi-core use.

The 16GB RAM (maximum capacity soldered onto the motherboard – not user upgradable) is far more than you need for everyday use.

It heaps of memory headroom for Office 365, web browsing, video/audio playback etc. In fact, 8GB does everything that the i5 processor can handle.

Fan noise is negligible (<30db) under typical loads and up to 33dB under full-load. Temperatures on the back ranged from 30° when idle and to 50° under full-load. The keyboard/trackpad maxed out at 46°. This is a little higher than I expected but still within comfort levels.

Graphics

Intel UHD graphics 620 has a Passmark G3D of 1003 – equivalent to an NVIDIA GeForce 930M. So, it is no powerhouse, but it supports H.265/HEVC hardware decoding for Netflix 4K video playback.

SSD – blisteringly fast

It uses a Samsung 512GB, PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD. CrystalDiskMark 6.0.0 x64 shows

Main Header 1 Main Header 2
Sequential Read 2545 MB/s
Sequential Write 1455 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB 1290 MB/s
Random Write 4KiB 652 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB 416 MB/s
Random Write 4KiB 310 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB 61 MB/s
Text 1Random Write 4KiB 151 MB/s

These figures reflect the latest SSD technology and are as fast the class-leading Microsoft Surface Book 2.

Ports and expansion

It has a two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side. You can use one for upstream data/power and the other for attaching to various devices via dongles etc. They are perhaps a little to close together, and ideally one should have been on each side.

We tested this with the Kensington SD5200DT Thunderbolt 3 Dock that has GadgetGuy’s ‘Best for Windows’ approval.

It performed flawlessly supporting one 4K screen via the dock’s DisplayPort. We also tried a second 4k screen with a USB-A to 4K converter running off the Spectre’s USB-A port.

We also tested a range of USB-C unpowered dongles and docks, and these worked well including those with an HDMI output.

Spectre x360

Spectre x360

Keyboard/touchpad/pen

The Spectre x360 has full-size backlit (on/off) keyboard that is great for speed, comfort and accuracy.

Keys are 16mm square, the throw is 1.3mm (1.5mm is ideal), and actuation is 80g (70g is ideal).

I averaged 83% of my typical speed/accuracy.

The oversized 12 x 6cm metal trackpad supports up to four finger gestures. It is accurate and fast and covers the whole screen in one swipe.

The Active Pen (supplied but not tested) has 1,024 degrees of pressure sensitivity. It is Windows Ink certified.

Camera

The 1080p front camera supports Windows Hello and Skype. The quality is commensurate with the resolution. Hello login was fast and reliable.

Sound

The cross-hatch speaker grill in front of the screen houses two speakers powered by separate left and right amplifiers. There are a further two down-firing speakers in the base. Stereo separation was good.

Volume was good at 79dB. Frequency response was 100Hz to 16,000kHz – very respectable. Bass was adequate from 100Hz, mids boosted, and treble recessed giving it a Mid sound signature.

This was surprisingly good at movies giving just enough bass and treble to be respectable.

Bang & Olufsen’s app pre-sets do little apart from extending the bass and treble slightly. They do however work well for Bluetooth.

Bluetooth 4.2 output to headphones/speakers and the 3.5mm audio output was 20-20kHz.

Dual array mics on the top bezel are perfect Skype.

Battery – a strong performer

It is a 3-cell, 60Wh Li-ion with a 65W USB charger. HP claims 16 hours use, but we were not quite able to achieve that.

  • Office use – Word, Excel, Outlook and some web browsing expect around 9 hours.
  • A 1080P Video loop at 50% brightness with Wi-Fi off was 14 hours
  • HP 65W charger takes 2 hours from 0-100%.
  • Belkin 45W quick charger took 4 hours.
  • A 5V/3A charger took 6 hours.

The HP 65W charger is interesting and uses USB-C Power Delivery smarts to deliver fast charge and voltages as required.

  • 5V/3A
  • 9V/3A
  • 10V/5A
  • 12V/5 A
  • 15V/4.33 A
  • 20V/3.25A

It delivers 0-50% charge in 30 minutes. You may find HP flashes up an error message when using a non-HP charger. As long as you have a minimum of 5V/3A, it will charge.

Wi-Fi/Comms etc

Using our D-Link AC3400 tri-band router the HP with Intel AC8265 chips achieved 866Mb/s maximum connection speeds at up to five metres and 730Mb/s at 10 metres. Upload speeds were between 450-500Mb/s.

It supports Wi-Di/Miracast.

It does not support NFC.

Security

A fingerprint reader is standard. It also supports Windows Hello password and pin. There are no enterprise management options.

Warranty

One 1-year standard parts and labour (1-1-0) limited return to base warranty. Analysis and remote diagnostics now use web Chat.

Optional three-year, next business day, Care Pack (3-3-3) on-site warranty costs $289.

GadgetGuy’s take

You buy Spectre if you want something a little special and can’t justify an Elitebook.

The Spectre x360 is the most useful laptop format. It gets our current ‘best 5-in-1 prosumer class’ award ahead of the excellent Asus Zen Book Flip 2 – and that is saying something!

The 2018 Intel 8th generation processors are an evolution; not a revolution so don’t ignore a bargain on the 2017 models.

Thunderbolt 3 may be the connectivity of the future and enable thinner form factors, but I miss the integrated HDMI and USB-A ports of previous models.

Pros

  • HP Spectre quality build
  • Stunning looks, thin and light
  • x360 is the most useful form factor
  • Great keyboard/trackpad
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports for charge and data
  • Full-sized SUB-A 3.1 port with sleep charging
  • Excellent battery life and fast charge
  • Good but not outstanding screen

Cons

  • Would have liked a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port on either side
  • Audio does not quite deliver what I expect of B&O tuning

Ratings – HP Spectre x360 2018

We are rating this as a mid/upper level notebook where you expect few compromises.

  • Overall: 4.4 out of 5
  • Features: 4 out of 5 – would have loved one HDMI port as well
  • Value for money: 4 out of 5 – Shop around and bag that bargain
  • Performance: 4 out of 5 – The i5 has plenty of grunt. The screen is good, not great
  • Ease of Use: 5 out of 5 – Its Windows and x360
  • Design: 5 out of 5 – elegant

Price

From $2,198

Specifications – HP Spectre x360 13 Convertible PC (model numbers 13-ae000 through 13-ae099

Item Specification Comment
Processor Intel i7-8550U four-cores, eight threads, 1.8/4 GHz

(i5-8250U 1.6/3.4GHz available)

The performance difference between i5 and i7 is negligible for office work. Battery life is longer with i5.
Graphics Integrated Intel UHD graphics 620 Fine for business needs. Not for gamers
Screen 13.3” 1920 x 1080, IPS, 300 nits, 72% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, touch, IPS screen with Corning Gorilla Glass NBT Als available 4K, 340 nits, 72% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB
Pen HP 2 button Active pen may be supplied Supports Wacom standard pen
Drive 512GB PCIe M.2 PCI NVMe SATA 3 TLC SSD.

Micro-SD slot to 2TB

Very fast. Can be ordered up to 2TB capacity.
Memory 16GB LPDDR3 – 1866 8GB on i5 model.
Non-upgradable
Comms Intel AC 8265 dual-band (2×2) MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Di/Miracast
866/450Mbps down/up in Wi-Fi tests. Good as it gets.
Ports 2 x USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 and 65W/15 power upstream/downstream
USB-A 3.1
3.5mm combo jack
Micro-SD slot
You will need a dongle (USB-C) or Thunderbolt 3 Dock for HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 4K output
Audio/video 4 x B&O tuned speakers (two up-firing firing on the front panel and two down-firing under the keyboard.
2 x ANC mics e beam-forming, echo-cancellation, noise-suppression software
FHD infrared camera with indicator light, 2 infrared lights, USB 2.0, FHD Hybrid BSI sensor, f2.0, wide dynamic range (WDR), 88° WFOV, [email protected]
Quite loud at 79dB and B&O app can add more bass and treble.
Camera and mic are Skype approved but need even office lighting for best results.Works with Windows Hello
Keyboard

Trackpad

Chiclet-style with on/off backlight. 16 x 16mm, 1.3mm throw. 80g force.
12 x 6cm trackpad. Microsoft Precision certified
Achieves about 83% of speed in a typing test. No flex when typing – great.
Trackpad covers the full-screen movement
Security Fingerprint reader on the side
TPM 2.0
Windows Hello
Pin and Password
Flawless

Fast and reliable

Battery and charger 60WHr Li-ion
65 W Smart USB Type-C AC fast charger
Can use 15W to 45W USB-C chargers as well
Size/weight 30.6 x 21.8 x 1.36 cm x 1.26kg Made from a single aluminium block and CNC milled – very strong.
OS Windows 10 Home
Warranty One-year standard parts, labour return to based (1-1-0)
Upgrade to 3-3-3 HP Care Pack for $289
Price A$2,698

 

 

HP Spectre x360 (review)
Price (RRP): $from 2198 Manufacturer: HP
Current ‘best 5-in-1 prosumer class’ award
Screen is good - not great
Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.4Overall Score
Reader Rating 0 Votes