HP Spectre x360 15 (2018)

HP has been at the 2-in-1 laptop game practically since its inception with the dawn of Windows 8, so it has this whole thing down pat pretty well. Regardless, there is always room for improvement and, for CES 2018, HP appears to have found every nook and cranny.

This is the 2018 HP Spectre x360 15: not a reimagining in any sense, but rather a refinement of last year’s rendition. Now, the laptop features two relatively high-power graphics options from AMD and Nvidia paired with the very latest Intel processors and a newly designed chassis that makes far better use of the 15-inch chassis.

With the Spectre x360 15, HP appears to have done an impressive job of striking a balance between contemporary design and hardware with respect for legacy.

Price and availability

HP hasn’t completely disclosed its pricing scheme for the Spectre x360 15, as it’s offering two different models of the device that differ only in graphics and processor options. But, we do know that it will launch on March 18 in the US through its own website and Best Buy for $1,369 (about £1,009, AU$1,742) to start.

Both models of the laptop come sporting a 15.6-inch 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) touchscreen with IPS technology for wide viewing angles. Likewise, either version supports up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM. This is where the differences begin to show up.

One version comes housing an Intel Core i7-8550U processor paired with an Nvidia MX150 discrete graphics chip and an NVMe M.2 solid state drive (SSD) with up to 512GB of space.

The other includes Intel’s (and AMD's) very latest hardware: an Intel Core i7-8705G with Radeon RX Vega M discrete graphics that are embedded in the chip housing and up to 2TB of NVMe M.2 SSD storage.

Naturally, HP has yet to disclose pricing for these higher-end hardware options, but has said that all prices include an HP stylus pen in the box. That’s more than most rivals offer.

HP Spectre x360 15

Design and feel

The latest Spectre x360 15 model adopts the more sophisticated and subtle design improvements that were brought to bear in the smaller Spectre x360. So, you’re looking at similarly muted, champagne gold-colored aluminum accents on the laptop’s edges and sides that beset a deep black aluminum lid and base.

That said, HP was forced to make this year’s Spectre x360 15 slightly thicker at 0.76 inches (19.3mm) so as to give more room for cooling these quad-core Intel processors. Granted, it’s not something you would notice without sitting both laptops beside each other.

However, at 4.61 pounds (2.09kg) for the Nvidia version and 4.72 pounds (2.14kg) for the AMD model, this is a laptop you might well feel in that backpack.

On the bright side, HP has made far better use of the space afforded it with a new number pad on the keyboard deck. Though, we wish HP wouldn’t have repositioned the touchpad to the left of the keyboard deck, and it feels a little on the small side to boot.

If you’re familiar with the Spectre x360’s keyboard, expect a similar experience here: punchy feedback and relatively deep travel. As for the touchpad, it seems to operate just fine – it’s just on the small side for a laptop of its size.

For more evidence of HP using the space afforded it smartly, the firm placed a top-firing speaker just beneath the display for far better volume – up to 60% louder, by HP’s measure. Further to that point, both models include a fingerprint reader for secure Windows Hello login as well as a Full HD webcam with an infrared sensor for the same purpose.

With these laptops, it’s clear that HP is looking to reach a happy medium between choice and simplicity as well as between modernity and legacy support. Nowhere does that become clearer than in the Spectre x360 15 port selection.

In the Intel-and-AMD model, HP has embedded two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 port, one HDMI port and one headset jack. On the other hand, the Intel-and-Nvidia model houses just one Thunderbolt 3 port, but a USB-C 3.1 port in addition to the one USB 3.1 port, one HDMI port and one headset jack.

Rounding out connectivity for both models are 802.11ac (2 x 2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.

HP Spectre x360 15

Performance

With such limited time with either version of the new HP Spectre x360 15, it’s difficult to discuss performance before a full review.

That said, considering Intel and AMD claim to offer Nvidia GTX 1050-level performance from their collaborative graphics solution, we can expect the model with AMD Vega graphics inside to outperform the one rocking Nvidia MX150 graphics.

As for longevity, HP promises up to 13.5 hours of use on a charge, which we’ll put to the test, of course. Better yet, HP integrated fast charging capabilities into the Spectre x360 15, giving it 50% charge in just 45 minutes. That will take a lot of the sting out of our real-world battery results likely falling short of HP’s claims, as they do with all laptops.

HP Spectre x360 15

Early verdict

This year’s HP Spectre x360 15 isn’t any wild reimagining of the firm’s 15-inch 2-in-1 laptop, but rather a major refinement. However, more was done here than just adopting sensible design elements; HP made truly smart use of the space afforded by the 15.6-inch chassis.

From new login options to the inclusion of your choice of higher-power graphics solutions mixed with long-standing connectivity offerings, HP is straddling the line between modernity and legacy. And, judging by our brief time with the device, HP is doing a fine job of it.

Unlike most 2-in-1 laptop or Windows tablet manufacturers, HP even sweetens the deal with an included stylus, making a strong case for the Spectre x360 15 being a better value than most. To see whether that checks out in practice, stay tuned for a full review later this year.

Joe Osborne
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