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HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) review: A hybrid that spins me right round

HP's latest 15-inch convertible deftly balances design, performance, features and price.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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4 min read

HP deserves some props for the direction it's taken its consumer desktop and laptop designs over the past year or so. It's turned some relatively functional but cheap-looking products into sleek, engaging models that are as pleasant to look at as they are to use. The first redesign iteration of its general-purpose Spectre x360 15 premium convertible from the 2015 to the 2016 model took a big step in that direction.

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8.3

HP Spectre x360 15 (2017)

The Good

Beautifully designed and with practically no missteps, the HP Spectre x360 15 has a great keyboard and trackpad, 4K display, above-average sound system with solid battery life and decent performance for the money.

The Bad

It's not particularly lightweight.

The Bottom Line

It's hard to find a match for the HP Spectre x360 15's mix of features and performance for the money, and none of its competitors are nearly as pretty.

For 2017, HP refines it even more, delivering a strikingly designed product that doesn't sacrifice function for form. If a laptop can be both "premium" and "middle of the road," this is it. By the latter, I mean it's configured and priced for reasonably good performance at a sensible-but-not-cheap amount. As a result, the Spectre x360 15 for 2017 delivers a dynamite balance of design, performance and features for the money, as long as you don't want something smaller and lighter.

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Like all convertibles, you can flip it into a tent for presentations or watching movies.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Our test configuration costs $1,500 and will ship February 26; in the US you can custom configure it on HP's site for as low as $1,280 or as much as $1,770. However, the only important options you can select are the version of Windows 10, the amount of memory (8GB, 12GB or 16GB) and storage (256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD).

The closest UK configuration to ours is £1,500, with only 8GB memory, or £1,800 with a 1TB SSD. HP Australia doesn't seem to even offer the larger version yet, only the 13-inch model for between AU$2,300 and AU$3,400. Directly converted, though, the US price range for the 15 translates to roughly AU$1,670-AU$2,300.

HP Spectre X360 15 (2017)

Price as reviewed $1,499
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 3,840x2,160 touch display
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 2GB Nvidia GeForce 940MX
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

HP bundles an N-Trig active stylus with the x360, but it also includes conversion cables for Ethernet and USB-A -- and more -- which are an unexpected convenience. The system has two USB-C connectors (one is Thunderbolt compatible) and an HDMI on the right side and a USB-A 3.1, jack and SD card slot on the right, along with the power switch. That's not a plenitude of ports, but that's the way convertibles roll these days.

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The N-Trig stylus has nice balance and decent friction on the touch surface.

Sarah Tew/CNET

4K all the way

Changes for this year include limiting the aluminum chassis to the swankier copper and brown option, dropping the silver, and only offering it with a Core i7 and 4K UHD touchscreen with slimmer side bezels for a narrower profile. It's responsive for both pen and touch, and not exceptionally reflective, with good contrast and saturation that should work for watching video, surfing the web and working. With a color gamut of 72 percent of Adobe RGB (which is very similar to DCI P3, the 4K standard), it probably won't handle future expanded-range 4K, though, like HDR.

To keep the 4K display from killing it, the system has a bigger more powerful battery, which lasted almost 10 hours on our streaming video test -- significantly better than the previous model. But that also makes it a little thicker and heavier -- this model tips the scales at just under 4.5 pounds (2 kg) and feels quite sturdy.

Movies and TV look very nice, and the B&O-certified audio system sounds full-bodied for a laptop, with good surround. And it 360s pretty well, with sufficient tension in the hinge to prop it up in the gymnastic fashion of a typical hybrid. HP also increased the field of view for the webcam, and it's appropriately wide. The automatic white balance seemed better than most as well.

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HP includes the HP Orbit utility, which lets you transfer images and single lines of text between the computer and a mobile app. Since it requires they both be connected to a Wi-Fi network, it seems pretty duplicative of existing cloud services.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and still pound the keys after all this time; when there's no travel, it really hurts my fingertips. So when I say the keyboard has a nice amount of travel and feedback without inducing fatigue, there's your context. It's also backlit, which is really great since I sit in the dark. Too much information, I know. The glass touchpad is big and feels comfy on your fingers as well, with glitch-free operation.

It vents out the sides, though I never felt a hot desert wind come out of them and it remained quiet, the keyboard section did run hot under intensive use. Not burning, but noticeable around the hinges and on the wrist-rests. You need to keep that in mind when using it as a tablet, since the keyboard section is the part you hold or rest on your lap.

While HP goes all out for the visible aspects of the system, it keeps the price low by equipping it with components that deliver decent but not earthshaking performance. It's faster than the 2016 model we tested -- but that one had a lower speed class of processor and graphics card. It incorporates a dual-core version of the i7, and if you look at the charts you can see where that lags behind the quad-core versions in the Razer Blade 14 and MacBook Pro. In practice, it's fine for the typical a-little-bit-of-everything type of use it's intended for.

None so shiny

You can find cheaper convertibles, but given the Spectre X360 15's 4K display, it's quite aggressively priced against models with similar configurations but only QHD-resolution (or less) screens. But none look nearly as pretty.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) 509HP Spectre x360 15 (2016) 496HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2016) 492Surface Book (2016) 480Samsung Notebook 7 Spin 442Razer Blade 14 205Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 202
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

HP Spectre x360 15 (2016) 6439Samsung Notebook 7 Spin 7078Surface Book (2016) 7269HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2016) 7680HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) 7778Razer Blade 14 13130Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 14451
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Razer Blade 14 341HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2016) 414Samsung Notebook 7 Spin 470HP Spectre x360 15 (2016) 483HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) 594Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) 605Surface Book (2016) 709
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce 940MX; 512GB SSD
Samsung Notebook 7 Spin Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce 940MX; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Razer Blade 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970; 256GB SSD
Surface Book (2016) Microsoft Windosws 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U; 16GB DDR4 1,866MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GPU; 512GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 15 (2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2016) Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 2GB Radeon Pro 455 / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 530; 512GB SSD
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8.3

HP Spectre x360 15 (2017)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 8
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