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HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019) review: A classy little laptop that can -- and will -- run all day

Want a laptop that stands out in a coffee shop, conference room or airport lounge? This is it, and it has excellent performance to match its fine looks.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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4 min read

It's rare that a laptop I've tested made me feel underdressed while using it. Actually, I take that back. I've never felt underdressed while using a laptop until I started using the HP Spectre x360. 

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8.7

HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019)

The Good

The HP Spectre x360 13 is one of the best ultraportable two-in-ones available with lots of component options including three display choices, multiple privacy and security features and class-leading battery life. HP includes a laptop sleeve and full-size active pen.

The Bad

Premium laptops come with premium prices. The low-power display is too dim for outdoor use.

The Bottom Line

A stylish, thoughtful design, excellent component options and looooooong battery life all make the HP Spectre x360 13 one of the best premium two-in-one ultraportables around.

Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but HP's premium two-in-one did make me feel like I should be suited up while I worked or, at the very least, that I should tuck in my shirt. Wrapped in metal with gem-cut edges (as opposed to the all-leather Spectre Folio), the 13.3-inch convertible weighs less than 3 pounds (1.3 kg) and is only 14.5 mm thick, so it barely registers that it's in your bag. 

Aside from looking good, the design also improves usability and performance is on par with its competition like the Lenovo Yoga C930, Samsung Notebook 9 Pro and LG Gram 14 2-in-1. It did beat them all in our battery life test, though, running for more than 13 hours. 

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This Spectre is at home on a leather couch and marble table. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, being a premium laptop, it's somewhat pricey starting at $1,150 and my review configuration is $1,350. That price does include a padded leather sleeve and an active pen for drawing and writing on the screen. In the UK prices for the 13-inch x360 start at £1,200, while in Australia it starts at AU$2,500. But if you need long battery life and want it in a small, lightweight two-in-one design and can appreciate a stylish and functional design, the HP Spectre x360 hits all of those (and you don't need to wear a suit to use it). 

HP Spectre x360 13-ap0013dx


HP Spectre x360 13-ap0013dx
Price as reviewed $1,350
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch display
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Design with a purpose

Though the angular gem-cut edges help it stand out from other premium ultraportables, the design isn't entirely just for looks. The cutaway corners on the back edge are where you'll find the power button and one of its two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The way they're angled allows you to charge the x360 with its compact braided USB-C cable power adapter while keeping the cord out of the way. And the power button's position on the left corner makes it easy to find without looking and easy to avoid accidentally pressing in tablet mode. The button is also accessible regardless of how the display is positioned.

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The Thunderbolt 3 port's angle keeps cords out of the way. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the right side, along with a microSD card slot, headphone/mic combo jack and a second Thunderbolt 3 port, you'll find a kill switch for the webcam so you don't need a Post-it note to keep your camera private. It does not, however, cut your mics. You'll have to do that separately in Windows 10's microphone privacy settings. For additional privacy and security, there's a fingerprint reader and an IR webcam for facial recognition sign-ins with Windows Hello (although it seemed to be disabled on my x360). 

As for the display, HP offers three options starting with what I tested, a low-power, 1,920x1,080-resolution panel. There's also a 1,920x1,080 display with HP's Sure View technology that, at the press of a button, whites out the screen obscuring what's on it for anyone not sitting directly in front of it. But, if you simply must have the most pixels for your 13.3-inch display, HP will sell you a 4K UHD touchscreen (3,840x2,160). 

The low-power full-HD display delivers good color and contrast, though it's not particularly bright. Working outside will likely have you frequently trying to increase the brightness in vain, but it's great for battery life judging by our test results. If you work in a crowded office or your desk is regularly an airplane seat tray, I recommend getting the Sure View display. Personally, I'd skip the 4K in favor of longer battery life and privacy, but it's nice to have options, too. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard is spacious and has big, easy-to-read markings. There's not a lot of travel to the keys, which isn't surprising given how shallow the keyboard deck is. The keyboard backlight has two brightness levels and automatically shuts off after about 30 seconds of inactivity and needs a key press to wake it up. The touchpad is a comfortable size considering the space HP had to work with and performance is smooth and responsive. 

Above the keyboard is a "micro-drilled speaker grill" that adds to the laptop's stylish design while apparently enhancing sound from the Bang & Olufsen-tuned speaker system. They sound fine, but nothing special. 

hpspectre
Watch this: HP's Spectre x360 puts a premium on design and battery life
HP's Spectre x360 puts a premium on design and battery life
1:54

It just kept going

If there's one thing we've learned in the past few months, it's that premium ultraportables are the way to go if you want extreme battery life. One after another has come into our lab and hit more than 12 hours on our streaming video battery test. The Spectre x360 blew right past all of them landing at 13 hours, 18 minutes. 

The Spectre's components are geared for average home and office uses like word processing, web browsing and email, but with enough muscle to push through more demanding work assuming it's not too graphics intensive. (You can step up to the Spectre x360 15 if graphics performance is important.)

The configuration I tested didn't get bogged down with a dozen tabs open in Google Chrome while other applications ran in the background. Streaming video and music are no problem either. And it'll handle casual photo and video editing without choking, though for large, high-resolution images and video, you'll want something with discrete graphics

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Time to go

Sarah Tew/CNET

A classy little two-in-one laptop

The current crop of premium ultraportable two-in-ones is impressive. My top pick remains the Lenovo Yoga C930 in the category, but the HP Spectre x360 is a close second with just a sliver of light between them. The HP is a little smaller, has better battery life and a full-size active pen. The C930 has a bigger screen, a slightly more comfortable keyboard, better audio and a pen that stores in its body. And instead of cutting the webcam electronically, Lenovo has a physical shutter that blocks it. It's basically a coin flip. 

Also read: Lenovo Yoga C930 vs. LG Gram 2-in-1 2019: Which laptop should you get?

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See all photos

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15,050LG Gram 14 14,392Lenovo Yoga C930 13,978HP Spectre x360 13 13,609Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7,870
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Lenovo Yoga C930 635HP Spectre x360 13 561Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 520LG Gram 14 509Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

HP Spectre x360 13 798LG Gram 14 755Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 750Lenovo Yoga C930 746Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

HP Spectre x360 13 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
LG Gram 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga C930 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD
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8.7

HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 9
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