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HP Spectre 13 x2 review: A big-screen hybrid with dual batteries

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Connections, performance, and battery
Hybrids often skimp on ports and connections, but the Spectre 13 x2 does better than most. The keyboard base has a pair of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output, while both the base and tablet have combo audio jacks. On the bottom edge of the tablet is its power connection and a microSD card slot, but they're only accessible when the two parts of the system are detached.

Most ultrabook-style laptops -- and even some hybrids -- use Intel's low-voltage U series of Core i-series chips. The Spectre 13 x2 instead uses the Y series, specifically designed for tablets, with a lower power usage during mainstream tasks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That led to the Spectre 13 x2 scoring slightly slower in some of our benchmark tests when compared to other ultrabooks and hybrids. But, in real-world terms, the differences are minimal, and you're unlikely to notice when working on everyday tasks such as Web surfing, HD video streaming, social media sharing, and working on productivity apps. Frankly, the wonky touch pad caused more of a slowdown when typing than did the CPU.

One of the interesting things you can do with a hybrid is include one battery in the tablet screen, and a second battery in the keyboard base. HP does that, and when using both batteries combined, the system ran for 7:15 on our video playback battery drain test, which is very good for a 13-inch non-Apple laptop. Using just the tablet screen alone, we got a result of 4:38 on the same test. That's not great for a full-time tablet, but it will at least get you through a couple of movies.

The ambitious HP Spectre 13 x2 is one of those products that may be better on paper than in person. But that's only because the idea of a 13-inch high-res hybrid that builds off of HP's excellent Spectre line is such an appealing one.

The Spectre 13 x2 works well as a big-screen tablet, and its laptop mode is only held back by some awkward weight and balance issues, not to mention a touch pad that doesn't always register taps and swipes. Fix those two things and you've got a real winner.

HandBrake multimedia multitasking
(In seconds, shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test
(In seconds; shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test
(In seconds; shorter bars indicate better performance)
Video playback battery drain test
(In minutes; longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

HP Spectre 13 X2
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz; Intel Core i5-4202Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz, 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB Samsung SSD

Sony Vaio Tap 11
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1739MB (Sharedl) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB Tosiba SSD

Dell XPS 12
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1745MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400: 128GB Lite-On SSD

MacBook Air 13-inch (June 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Acer Aspire S7- 392-6411
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4400: 128GB SSD

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