Phenomenal OLED display
Slim, stylish, 360-degree design
Disappointing battery life
Slightly cramped trackpad
Gets hot and loud
15-inch laptops may not be ideal for cramped airplane seats, but their extra size allows for a bigger display, more ports, and better graphics performance from dedicated chips. But while some 15-inch laptops feel like bulking behemoths, the HP Spectre x360 15 aims to be as thin and light as possible, without skimping on features. It looks and feels like one of the nicest convertibles you can get today, albeit with a few downsides that come with other high-performing thin-and-lights.
We spent several days testing HP's 2020 version of the Spectre x360 15, both in the lab and in the real world, to see exactly how it held up under different workloads—and whether it comes close to the current 15-inch kings from companies like Dell and Apple.
About the HP Spectre x360 15
The latest Spectre x360 15 is available in many different configurations to match your budget and power needs. We tested one of the higher-end models with the following specs:
Processor: Intel Core i7-10750H (2.6GHz 6-core with up to 5GHz Turbo Boost and 12mb L3 cache)
Storage: 1TB Intel Solid State Drive + 32GB Intel Optane Memory
Memory: 16GB RAM
Display: 15.6-inch 4K UHD (3840x2160) AMOLED touch screen
Battery: 72.9Wh 6-cell battery with 135W power adapter
Ports: USB Type-C (1x Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB 3.2 gen 2 with DisplayPort), USB Type-A (USB 3.2 gen 2), HDMI 2.0b, microSD card, headphone/microphone jack, A/C power
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with 4GB DDR6 VRAM and Max-Q design
Connectivity: Intel WiFi 6 AX 201 (2x2) and Bluetooth 5 combo (Supporting Gigabit file transfer speeds)
Weight: 4.23 lbs
Dimensions: 14.17 x 8.91 x 0.79 in
If you'd like to step down in price, you can downgrade to 8GB of RAM, a 4K IPS display, or varying amounts of storage (bottoming out at 256GB without the Optane memory). There are also builds with lower-end NVIDIA graphics as well as Intel integrated graphics, either through the 10th-gen i7 (present on our review model) or the 11th-gen i7 on other models. As a result, there are plenty of models to fit different needs and budgets.
What we like
The OLED touch screen is top of its class
Most laptops use IPS displays, which have come a long way in recent years, but still don't have particularly great contrast. That means blacks will look more like dark greys and the image will wash out. The 4K OLED display available on the Spectre x360 15 does not have this problem: since OLED pixels can turn off individually, this display can reach perfect black levels for a practically infinite contrast ratio, making for a gorgeous image few other laptops can match. Whether you're editing photos and video or just watching a movie in bed, this display will wow you, guaranteed.
It's also HDR-capable, for better contrast and color reproduction. While it isn't going to hit mastering display levels of brightness, we measured around 485 nits on our DisplayCal test window, though went down to 330 nits brightness for a full white screen. It also covers 97.2% of the DCI-P3 color space, which means you'll get vibrant, rich colors from your movies, games, and web browsing. There aren't many laptops that can provide a picture this gorgeous.
The chassis design is unique, beautiful, and functional
HP isn't content to emulate other laptops and call it a day: the Spectre x360 15 has a striking, unique design that doesn't look like much else on the market. The bronze color scheme is beautiful, with chamfered edges and cut-off corners that give the laptop a slightly trapezoidal shape. It isn't just about looks, though: those cut-off edges hold the power button and a USB Type-C port, respectively, making them easy to find by touch.
Fingerprint and face unlock are snappy and convenient, as always. The display flips all the way around for tablet usage, and while it isn't anywhere near as lithe as an iPad, it offers a more pleasant tablet experience than many thicker laptops.
It's clear that a lot of care went into the design, both in terms of looks and usability. HP left one USB Type-A port on the laptop for those with legacy devices, as well as a full-size HDMI port for easy connectivity to TVs and other external displays. The Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers get pretty loud, and sound decent—which is about as much as you can ask from laptop speakers—and the backlit keyboard offers deep enough travel for longer typing sessions, along with a number pad for Excel wizards. You'll even find a dedicated hardware button to shut off the mic and webcam, which is always appreciated in the age of always-listening devices.
High-end performance can handle heavy workloads
With a 10th-gen Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti, the HP Spectre x360 15 is ready to handle just about any on-the-go workload you might want to throw at it. CPU performance is great, but nothing out of the ordinary when compared to other top-tier 13-inch laptops we've tested. When you combine it with the added graphical prowess of the dedicated GPU, though—which you tend to only see on larger notebooks—it blows past its more portable brethren.
Our Metro 2033 benchmark reached a comfortable 50 frames per second, and I was able to keep the framerate in the high 50s in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p with low settings. That's slightly below the ideal 60 frames per second, but pretty good for a non-gaming laptop, and you'd easily be able to run casual gaming sessions on this machine. (And hey, with that OLED display, your gaming sessions will look gorgeous no matter your framerate.) For the productivity crowd, that extra graphics power comes in handy for video editing and encoding, where it can take some of the load off the CPU.
Overall, it's not the best-performing 15-inch we've tested—the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 had much higher GeekBench scores thanks to its 2 extra CPU cores—but overall, it performs well for the price. Just know that it's not very upgradeable. While the Spectre x360 15 does allow enterprising users with a torx driver to swap in more storage, the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard, which means you'll want to buy as much as you think you'll need for the life of the laptop up front.
What We Didn't Like
Five-hour battery life is disappointing
Unfortunately, with high performance comes with lower battery life. Even with the extra size afforded by its 15-inch form factor, the HP Spectre x360 15's battery can't hit all-day usage. To test battery life, we set the laptop's brightness to 200 nits (a typical brightness setting for indoor work) and let the laptop automatically cycle through websites in Google Chrome, mimicking the average workload of everyday users.
The Spectre only lasted 5 hours and 8 minutes in this test, which is far less than the 7 to 8 hours we'd require to call a laptop "full workday" ready. You won't necessarily be rushing to find a charger everywhere you go, but you will need to keep an eye on your power level more than other battery-friendly models.
The trackpad is a bit small
While most of HP's build hits the mark, the trackpad was my only design complaint, erring just a touch on the small side. It's plenty wide, but due to the depth of the speaker module along the top, the Spectre's trackpad isn't quite tall enough to comfortably rest your thumb and forefinger at the same time.
That means things may be a bit cramped if you rest your thumb on the trackpad at all times like I do—and it presents issues when you try to click and drag at the same time. It's not as cramped as this year's 13-inch Spectre, and most people may not care, but if you're picky about trackpads, know that you may have to be a bit more conscious about how you rest your hand on the machine.
Like many modern laptops, it gets hot and loud
Finally, the Spectre x360 15 suffers from the same issues as all thin-and-light laptops with Intel's latest processors: it gets very, very hot, even when not under particularly tremendous load. It's actually uncomfortable to rest on your lap, but even when on a flat surface, the processor climbed well above 95° C and regularly thermal throttled during our high-load benchmarks.
That means you aren't getting the full performance out of that 10th-gen i7, and the fans will be running at full speed when playing games or running those video encodes—leaving you with lots of noise to contend with. This isn't uncommon with laptops of this type (the near-silent M1-equipped MacBooks being very notable exceptions), but it's something to know going in.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, particularly if you want a top-tier display and hate dongles
The HP Spectre x360 15 is a very good laptop that, in most respects, falls just behind its top-tier competitors. It's powerful, slim, and beautifully designed.
As a comparison, this year's Dell XPS 15 Touch has a bigger trackpad, a more powerful CPU, a bigger battery, and better longevity due to the upgradeable RAM. It does, however, come at a higher price for a comparable build.
If you want the best screen you can possibly get on a laptop, the Spectre absolutely stands out thanks to the OLED display. That (plus the more affordable price tag) may push the Spectre over the edge for you, even given the minor sacrifices in other areas. Its port selection is also better than the USB-C-only competition from Dell and Apple, which means it's ideal if you don't want to deal with dongles for your HDMI and USB-A devices. For some people, that's enough—and this laptop likely won't disappoint, as long as you have easy access to occasional power outlets.
Meet the tester
Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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