With HP's signature elegant, thoughtful design, the 2017 Spectre x2 two-in-one has a lot to recommend it in comparison with the now iconic. Advantages include a more solid feel when typing or inking -- with the bundled keyboard and stylus -- and a 12.3-inch display with a denser pixel pitch, thanks to its 3,000x2,000-pixel resolution. And it's much cheaper (for a comparable configuration), making it a better buy, as long as your needs don't run to serious creative work, speed or long battery life.
We tested the retail configuration of the x2, which costs $1,300. I think a slightly more expensive setup, with a 512GB SSD and 16GB memory for $1,670, is probably worth the extra money for likely better performance. In fact, the only configuration offered in the UK, for £1,500, comes with a 512GB drive, though it's limited to 8GB memory as well. (It doesn't seem to be available yet in Australia, but for reference, the US price converts to about AU$1,660.)
HP Spectre x2 (2017)
|Price as reviewed||$1,299.99, £1,499|
|Display size/resolution||12-inch 3,000x2,000 touch display|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i7-7560U|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz|
|Graphics||128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 640|
|Storage||360GB SSD, Micro SD slot|
|Ports||2 x USB-C/DisplayPort|
|Networking||802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home(64-bit)|
|Weight||with keyboard: 2.5 lbs./1.1 kg, without keyboard: 1.7 lbs./0.8 kg|
You don't have a lot of options even in the US; memory and storage are the only hardware choices, and a maxed-out system tops out at $1,960 (equivalent to about £1,500 and AU$2,500).
A sharp screen and touch-typist's keyboard
Given the caveat that two-in-ones with their detachable keyboards really can't be used on a lap, I really like this one. You can pound on it without feeling any give in either the keyboard or the stand, and it provides very good feedback. If you're a touch typist, you'll find all they keys in the right places -- I rarely over- or underreached. The backlight toggles on or off, which is sufficient for working in the dark as I am right now. The touchpad is also relatively big given the size of the keyboard, and did not make me curse once. Thumbs up!
The screen is also great from a productivity standpoint. It's small but you can fit as much or as little on it as you need, thanks to the high pixel density -- 293 pixels per inch compared with the Surface Pro's 267ppi -- and that makes it sharp and easy to read as well. It's also pretty bright. While you'll only get its rated peak brightness of 450 nits when you're plugged in and if you turn off the double-secret regional backlight control, it still delivers a respectable peak of 415 nits on battery and with those power-saving settings in place.
But if you're looking for accuracy or a broad color gamut, HP's 3K2K displays don't really hit the mark. This one only covers about 93 percent of sRGB, which isn't bad for everyday use. But on its defaults I noticed Netflix streams had some oversaturated colors. I tweaked the Night Light reduced-blue-light settings to bring the overly blue display down to a more comfortable warmth.
And just like a 4K UHD display, which is higher resolution but has a different aspect ratio, the 3K2K seems to be quite demanding of battery life. At 5.8 hours, it doesn't last nearly as long as competitors and probably won't get you through a full day. It does support quick charging via USB-C -- 50 percent in 30 minutes -- which came in really handy today when I pulled it out of my bag to find the battery was on its last drops of juice.
Optimized for inking
The 3:2 aspect ratio (like the Surface Pro's) feels a lot more comfortable to work with as a tablet than the typical 16:9. It does mean streaming video gets letterboxed, but since it's between resolution standards -- a lot more pixels than HD, but not enough for 4K UHD -- it means you don't need to pay for more expensive 4K content. And because of the small, pixel-dense screen, HD video looks really sharp.
The updated kickstand has nice tension, can be pulled out with one hand and can tilt back with the screen at a 165-degree angle for inking with firm support. If you like a slightly rubbery feel for your stylus nib (I do), you'll like the HP Active Pen, and it's as comfortable as any works-on-glass stylus feels for handwriting. In conjunction with the display it supports 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity; even if you never draw, it helps make your signature look really natural.
The HP Active Pen that comes with it delivers a smooth experience for markup and doodling (though I like a little more heft to my stylus) but it doesn't compare with Microsoft's for performance: 21ms latency compared with the HP's 35ms and 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity vs. HP's 1,024.
It also has two front-firing Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers with discrete amps. The sound is above average for a tablet and gets relatively loud, for whatever that's worth.
Some other notable tidbits:
- It has two USB-C connectors for charging, driving an external monitor or data transfer, but data transfer is limited to 5Gbps.
- It's not fanless; it still has the two fans of its predecessor. But while it can run a little warm, I can't hear the fans at all.
- The IR camera has moved from the rear, where it was used for sensing, to the front, where it's used for Windows Hello log-in.
A reasonable compromise
As a lightweight alternative to a laptop, the HP Spectre x2 two-in-one should deliver a great experience for entertainment, email and other basic tasks at a reasonable price, as long as you don't need it to last all day on battery.
|HP Spectre x2 (2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-7560U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640; 360GB SSD|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (2nd gen)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y57; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Pro||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640; 512GB SSD|