Price (RRP): $from 1999 - 2988 as tested
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 no downsides.
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.
Price: $2988 as tested
Warranty: 1-year with additional time/types at extra cost
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 use.
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 7.
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 personal us.
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 [email protected] monitors (one via the Dock and the other via USB-C) and a single [email protected]
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
|OS||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
|Weight||Starting at 1.27 kg|
13.3″, 4K UWVA, 16:9 AMOLED multitouch with
anti-reflection Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, 400 nits, 322ppi, 100% DCI-P3, 96%
NTSC and HDR support |
Option 1W low-power IPS WLED panel, 400 nits, 1920×1080
Option: Security screen
4-cell, 60Wh |
65 W USB-C|
5-9V/3A, 10-12V/5A, 15V/4.33A, 20V/3.25 A – 65 W USB-C
You can use any 65W (or larger) USB-C PD 2.0 or 3.0 supply
|Size||30.1 (W) x 19.1 (D) x 1.7 (H) cm x from 1.27-1.32kg|
|Webcam||720p IR (Windows Hello) Camera with integrated dual array far-field digital microphone|
|Sound||BANG & OLUFSEN, down-firing dual speakers, B&O Audio control|
2 x Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gb/s, PD 3.0, DisplayPort 1.4, HP
Sleep and Charge) – also acts as USB-C 3.1 Gen 2|
USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 (HP Sleep and Charge)
MicroSD media card reader
Wi-Fi 6 AX 201 (2×2 MU-MIMO)|
Mic Mute key, Webcam kill switch|
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) support
Windows Hello IR camera
Camera privacy switch
|Warranty||1-year plus options at extra cost|