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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|