HP Spectre x360 review: A winning hybrid laptop with all-day battery life

The display on most versions of the Spectre x360 (including the one tested here) is a 1,920x1,080 touchscreen. It's an IPS display, so it looks good from nearly any angle, which is especially important for hybrids that might be viewed from all around in tablet or kiosk mode. Our one complaint about the otherwise excellent screen is that it's especially glossy, and reflects quite a bit of light. The Dell XPS 13 has a glossy display on its higher-resolution touch version, and a matte display in the 1080p non-touch version.

A second screen configuration of the Spectre will be available later in 2015, with a 3,200x1,800 touch display. For a 13-inch laptop, 1,920x1,080 still feels more than adequate, and based on other systems we've tested, there's a legitimate concern that these higher resolutions can have a significant adverse effect on battery life.

Ports and connections

Video 1 mini-DisplayPort, 1 HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 3 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Optical None

Connections, performance and battery

With dual video outputs, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort, the Spectre x360 can drive two external monitors at once, and the system also follows a welcome recent trend of dropping older USB ports and making every port a USB 3.0 version.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In our CNET Labs benchmarks, both the Spectre x360, the pair of Dell XPS 13 systems we reviewed, and a new 14-inch Lenovo Yoga 3, each with a fifth-generation Intel Core i5-5200U processor, were closely matched in most tests. The non-touch version of the Dell was slower at Photoshop, but that model has only 4GB of RAM, versus the 8GB in the other Broadwell systems.

But, before you expect too much in terms of performance from the new Intel CPUs, a MacBook with last year's Core i5 CPU, was still in the running (and led in one test), while a different Broadwell-generation chip, the ultra-low-voltage Core M found in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, was slower in all tests by a noticeable margin.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's battery life that really makes this system stand with the best in its category, with the Spectre x360 running for exactly 12 hours in our video playback battery drain test. That's not as rare a score as it might have been even last year, but having more laptops that top a dozen hours of battery life is not a trend anyone should argue with.

A pair of Dell XPS 13 systems, with substantially similar hardware configurations (including the same fifth-gen Intel Core i5 CPU), showed the wide range of possible battery life, with a higher-res touchscreen model running for about seven hours, while a non-touch 1,920x1,080 screen model running for about 12 hours, closely matching the Spectre x360.

Conclusion

HP doesn't break any new ground in terms of design or features in the Spectre x360. It's essentially a slightly nicer version of what's come before, built from premium materials and outfitted with an excellent screen and Intel's latest CPUs.

But it does all this for under $1,000, even for a configuration with a big 256GB SSD, which is enough for me to ignore the fact that it's just a little heavier than it should be.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch)
428
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
441
HP Spectre x360
476
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
478
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
577
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
682

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

HP Spectre x360
235
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
238
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
243
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
253
Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch)
263
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
263

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
76
Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch)
112
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
113
HP Spectre x360
113
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
113
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
142

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video-playback battery-drain test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
986
Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch)
726
HP Spectre x360
720
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
485
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
422
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
346

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)


System Configurations

HP Spectre x360 13t Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2,000MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) Apple OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks ; 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1,536MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 128GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y60; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD

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