Make no mistake, HP's latest ultrabook, the HP Spectre x360, is a direct attempt to compete with Apple's MacBook Pro line, as well as Lenovo's attractive Yoga Pro series of multimode laptops.
An HP representative basically said as much when he briefed us on the new device, and he spent the majority of our time extolling the virtues of the Spectre x360's precise, determined, and high-end design and build quality (take that, MacBook) as well as its expertly-engineered and -crafted hinge (how do you like them apples, Lenovo).
The 13.3-inch Spectre x360 has a CNC-machined aluminum chassis that HP said both enhances rigidity and allows it to precisely cut the metal such that a 56 WHr battery would fit inside with precision. The outside edge has a polished cut. The touch panel is optically bonded to the display, which HP claimed increases brightness by "pulling each pixel up to the surface of the display."
HP wanted this device to be as thin and light as possible, and the resulting product weighs as little as 3.17 lbs (anything under 3.5 lbs seemed "light" to customers, according to HP's research) and measures 0.63 inches at it thickest point.
The keyboard and touchpad got plenty of attention from the HP team. HP said that it felt strongly about delivering a full-size (well, tenkeyless) keyboard with nice key travel (this one offers 1.5 mm of travel), "good response on the bottom of key event," and satisfying feedback on the "dish" of the keyboard. The touchpad is an extra-wide Control Zone, which HP has used on its ultrabooks and purports to offer high palm rejection.
The Wi-Fi performance alleges to be superb. HP said that the CNC-machined chassis allowed it to place the antenna near the top of the display (with no cover to blemish the unibody look), and the company claims that its performance, at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, is specially tuned to work better than the competition in "noisy" networks and a variety of access points, with less signal degradation over distance.
HP hardly mentioned the Spectre x360's specs when we spoke, but they're quite solid on paper. Here is what’s inside the base model (Spectre x360 13t):
|Header Cell - Column 0||HP Spectre x360 13t|
|CPU:||5th generation Intel Core i5-5200U|
|GPU:||Intel HD graphics 5500|
|Memory:||8 GB 1600 MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD|
|Display:||13.3-inch Full HD(33) Infinity LED-backlit touchscreen|
|Keyboard:||Full-size island-style backlit keyboardHP Imagepad, multitouch|
|Ports:||-3 SuperSpeed USB 3.0-1 Mini DisplayPort-1 HDMI-1 Headphone-out/microphone-in combo jack-Multi-Format Digital Media Card Reader|
|Connectivity:||2x2 802.11ac WLAN and Bluetooth|
|Other:||-HD Audio with stereo speakers-Front-facing HP TrueVision Full HD WVA webcam with integrated dualdigital microphones|
|Dimensions:||12.79 in (W) x 8.6 in (D) x 0.6 in (min H)/0.63 in (max H)|
|Battery:||3-cell 56 WHr 4.96 Ah lithium-ion battery, 12.5 hrs|
Another SKU offers an Intel Core i7 chip and 8 GB of RAM along with the Full HD touchscreen display and 256 GB SSD ($1,149.99). From there, the highest-end device in the lineup brings a Quad HD IPS display and 512 GB of RAM to the table for $1,399.99. HP said that the Quad HD display's Panel Self Refresh (PSR) aids battery life, because it "holds images on the screen to allow portions of the PC to power down when nothing on-screen is moving."
HP told us that a fourth, high-end model would be coming in April, as well.
A notable aspect of some of the Spectre x360 laptops is the fact that they have full-size ports, including full-size HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 ports. There's also WiDi and three USB 3.0 ports, all three of which offer the ability to charge other devices even in sleep mode. The entry-level model appears to swap the full-size DisplayPort for a mini version.
Other features include HD Audio with stereo speakers, a media card reader and front-facing HP TrueVision Full HD webcam.
According to the specifications, the Spectre x360 devices purport to offer 12.5 hours of juice. At least, that was the case on a pre-production version of the entry-level model, which was tested with MobileMark 12 and had half the memory (4 GB LPDDR3 instead of 8 GB) and SSD capacity (128 GB instead of 256 GB). HP let slip that battery life might actually be closer to 10 hours.
Although the 2-in-1 form factor is attractive in some ways, HP did not want the Spectre x360 to be one. The team didn't want a keyboard that would slide off when it was bumping around inside your bag, nor an attachable, click-on keyboard that could be clunky. That's why the Spectre x360 is instead a multimode notebook. Of course with a multimode device, so much, er, hinges on the hinge.
This hinge is designed to be as thin in laptop mode as it is in clamshell mode, and it will be "out of the way" in tablet mode. It's a geared mechanism with a dual-cam hinge; it syncs the gears together so that the inner hinge folds onto itself.
Thus, the Spectre x360 should retain a sleek look whether you're using it as a laptop, as a tablet, in tent mode, or with the screen propped up and the keyboard folded under.
Availability begins today from HP, and you can find Spectre x360s at Best Buy stores starting tomorrow.