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HP Spectre x360 14 review: This 2-in-1 gets it all right

From its privacy features to its pen to its performance, this laptop hits all the marks.

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HP Spectre x360 14 is a tall-screen two-in-one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With so many people still working from home, having a handful of office-friendly features goes a long way. For example, the 2021 version of the HP Spectre x360 14 is the company's first Spectre two-in-one with a taller 3:2-ratio display. While 16:9 wide-screen displays are nice for entertainment, a 3:2 display is roughly the same as a standard A4 sheet of paper and has about 20% more vertical viewing space than a 16:9 display. That means you do less scrolling when you're working. It also makes it more comfortable to use as a tablet, especially with the included active pen. 

But HP isn't alone with a taller display on a two-in-one. Acer's Spin 5, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, Asus ROG X13 FlowLenovo's ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga for business and Microsoft's Surface Pro are all excellent options. So what else does the Spectre x360 14 going for it? Quite a lot actually, and while the ones I just mentioned (and the 16:9 14-inch Lenovo Yoga 9i and Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360) are excellent in their own ways, the Spectre x360 14 is a better balance of features, performance and design. 

9.0

HP Spectre x360 14

Like

  • Zippy performance with superb battery life
  • IR camera, fingerprint reader, webcam kill switch and mic mute button for increased privacy
  • Premium look and feel

Don't Like

  • Thunderbolt ports crowded to one side

The Spectre x360 14 is not a bargain, however. It's a premium model and is priced as such, currently starting at $1,170 on HP's site. It can be set up with an 11th-gen Core i5 or i7 processor, 8GB or 16GB of memory, up to 2TB of storage and a choice between two 13.5-inch 1,920-by-1,280-pixel displays, one with 400-nit brightness and the other with 1,000-nit brightness and HP's privacy screen feature, which makes it difficult for onlookers to see what's on your screen. You can also pick one up with a 3,000-by-2,000-pixel OLED display for $1,730. Prices for the Spectre x360 14 starts at £1,200 in the UK and AU$3,199 in Australia.

The configuration I tested sells for $1,430 and is what I would consider good for most people, although I would personally spend the extra $80 for the 1000-nit display with the integrated privacy screen. The extra brightness is nice for working outside and the additional privacy is handy on a plane, in a hotel lobby or a coffee shop. 

HP Spectre x360 14

Price as reviewed $1,430
Display size/resolution 13.5-inch 1,920 x 1,280 touch display
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7
Memory 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X (onboard)
Graphics 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (x2), USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), 3.5mm combo jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2)
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No flimsy build quality here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It looks the part

Regardless of what components you go with, the Spectre x360 14 looks and feels like a premium two-in-one. Admittedly, the laptop's angular gem-cut edges and cutaway corners might not be for everyone, but they do help it stand out and actually add to the functionality. The dual-chamfer edges make it easier to grip and open the x360 from the front or sides, for example.

Also, the cutaway corner on the right side has one of the laptop's two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. Since it charges via USB-C, the angled port allows you to charge the x360 while keeping the cord out of the way. It also helps keep your desk tidy and is nicer to use with a USB-C dock. 

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All but one USB-A port are crammed into the rear right side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The one minor complaint I have is HP put both of the laptop's USB-C ports on the same side (like a MacBook Air). Generally, it's not an issue, but since they can both be used for charging, it would be nice if the ports were split between the sides. This isn't uncommon with premium models, however, it seems like a missed opportunity to give people a little more flexibility when charging and more space for connecting other devices.

All together now

Many two-in-ones put things like the power button and volume controls on the sides so they're more accessible when used in tablet or kiosk mode. HP's done that with past x360s but not here; the power button and the webcam kill switch are now integrated into the keyboard along with a mic mute button and a fingerprint reader. 

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The touchpad matches the screen ratio.

Josh Goldman/CNET

HP's keyboards on its Spectre models are some of my favorites and that's still the case here. It's comfortable, easy to read and backlit. The precision touchpad is also excellent and matches the 3:2 screen ratio. HP includes one of its full-size USB-C rechargeable MPP 2.0 tilt pens for writing and drawing on the display. It doesn't store in the body, but it magnetically attaches to help keep it from rolling off your desk. HP bundles a laptop sleeve with the laptop that has a pen loop on it for storage.

What's also nice to have included here is the depth-sensing IR camera you can use for signing in with face recognition. That way no matter which mode you're using the Spectre x360 14 in, you'll be about to unlock it just by looking at the camera. It just makes getting right to work that much easier.

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The Spectre x360 14 is slim and light at 3 pounds.

Sarah Tew/CNET

All about Evo

I've tested a bunch of Intel Evo-verified laptops at this point and they've all lived up to the platform's promise. The Evo label means the system is tested to hit certain mobile performance requirements such as getting at least 9 hours of battery life with normal use, recharging quickly, nearly instantly waking and connecting to Wi-Fi and being just as responsive on battery power as it is plugged in. All of these things are true for this HP. 

While its performance wasn't quite as fast in our benchmark tests as other similarly configured systems, it held its own. And in general use, it certainly never felt sluggish or remotely slow. It's not a gaming laptop or meant for content creation, though it can handle casual use for both. Battery life was long, too, getting 14 hours, 22 minutes on our streaming video test and it had no problem getting through a workday and beyond with occasional breaks.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A killer combination

The HP Spectre x360 14 is unquestionably excellent. With a display that's as tall as a 15.6-inch laptop but only as wide as a 13.3-inch model, you get more vertical space to work without impacting portability. The aluminum body gives you that high-quality feel you expect at this price. It's loaded with privacy features that make it great for remote work. And with several configuration options, you can tailor it for your performance and battery life needs. If the tall screen isn't what you want, though, Lenovo's Yoga 9i is equally impressive or you can check out other options on our list of the best two-in-ones.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Razer Book 13
5,659
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
5,405
LG Gram 16
5,297
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
5,051
HP Spectre x360 14
4,940

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Razer Book 13
2,246
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
2,100
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
1,953
LG Gram 16
1,842
HP Spectre x360 14
1,819

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 CPU (multicore)

LG Gram 16
5,173
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
4,767
HP Spectre x360 14
4,599

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

Razer Book 13
5,077
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
5,052
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
5,027
HP Spectre x360 14
4,835
LG Gram 16
4,665

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme

Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
5,561
LG Gram 16
3,856
HP Spectre x360 14
3,698

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test (minutes)

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
885
LG Gram 16
877
HP Spectre x360 14
862
Razer Book 13
687
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch)
446

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

LG Gram 16 Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU; 16GB LPDDR4x 4,267MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2); 3GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU; 16GB LPDDR4x 4,267MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB PCIe NVM SSD
Razer Book 13 Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU; 16GB LPDDR4x 4,267MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 256GB PCIe NVM SSD
Samsung Galaxy Book 360 (15-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU; 16GB LPDDR4x 4,267MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
HP Spectre x360 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit (20H2); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU; 16GB LPDDR4x 3,733MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB Samsung PCIe NVMe SSD