HP's new Spectre laptops have a webcam kill switch to protect you from creeps

New privacy features are also coming to a new EliteBook business convertible.

Justin Jaffe Managing editor
Justin Jaffe is the Managing Editor for CNET Money. He has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on finance and technology for Wired, IDC and others. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which reveals how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how to protect yourself. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English Literature, spent 10 years in San Francisco and now lives in Portland, Maine.
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HP continues to double-down on security, making it a primary selling point -- even for consumer laptops. Two new Spectre x360 models, announced Tuesday, will be the first HP notebooks with a webcam kill switch, a physical button that cuts off power to the integrated front-facing camera to protect you from creepy voyeur-hackers

This is surely more elegant than covering up the lens with tape.


A panic button for your laptop webcam.


HP consistently delivers incremental but useful improvements to its consumer-focused Spectre lineup, and the 2017 edition of the Spectre x360 15 offered a great combination of features and performance in a pretty, reasonably priced package. We were particularly fond of last year's less expensive, more compact Spectre x360 13, which also added exceptional battery life to the equation. 

This year's updates to the 13- and 15-inch Spectre x360 feature new tweaks to design, software and components, including Intel's latest eighth-gen processors. HP says it has extended the 13-inch Spectre x360's battery life by 37 percent to a whopping 22.5 hours and that the new x360 15 will last up to 17.5 hours. We look forward to testing those claims in our benchmarks.

The company's privacy considerations extend to business users, too. The new EliteBook x360 1040 G5, also announced Tuesday, will feature HP's SureView privacy screen. We first tested this feature on the 12-inch EliteBook x360 1020 G2 back in January and found that it was pretty effective in making the display more opaque and thereby harder for prying eyes to see from the side.

HP premium Spectre and Elite lines get preholiday updates

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The x360 1040 G5 has a 14-inch display and starts at $1,499. The company says it's the world's smallest and lightest business convertible of its size -- and the first to feature gigabit 4G LTE. It will round out the EliteBook x360 series, which also includes the lightweight 13-inch Elitebook x360 1030 G3 that HP unveiled in May, and which now starts at $1,799, and the x360 1030 G2, which features Intel's older seventh-gen CPUs and starts at $1,349.  


HP's new EliteBook x360 1040 G5.

Sarah Tew/CNET

HP also announced the EliteDisplay E243d Docking Monitor, which features USB-C connectivity and an integrated webcam; the USB Fingerprint Mouse, which supports Windows Hello biometric authentication; and decorative laser cut skins for its line of Elite laptops.

US availability and pricing is:

  • HP Spectre x360 13, November, starting at $1,149
  • HP Spectre x360 15, November, starting at $1,389
  • HP EliteBook x360 1040, late October, starting at $1,499
  • HP USB Fingerprint Mouse, December, starting at $49
  • HP EliteDisplay E243d Docking Monitor, December, starting at $329
  • Custom skins for the HP EliteBook 1000 series, available now, starting at $20

We don't yet have information for pricing or availability in other countries.