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HP Spectre x2 (2017) review: Classy 2-in-1 drops marks for battery, performance

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The Good The 2017 HP Spectre x2 two-in-one has an elegant yet functional design, with a great keyboard, a bright, sharp screen with a decent stylus and above-average sound for a tablet.

The Bad Lackluster battery life and performance.

The Bottom Line If you like your two-in-one pretty and sufficient for streaming video, lots of typing, ink-based markup or casual sketching in proximity to a power outlet, the HP Spectre x2 hits the mark.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7

Review Sections

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 Microsoft Surface Pro. 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.

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