HP's new Spectre x360 is a convertible, a recent branch of the laptop's family tree born out of the belief that tablets would take over the world. Now that we know there's room for both laptops and tablets after all, convertibles still bridge the gap, with more sophisticated designs. In fact, one of the best features of the Spectre x360 is that you'd never know this sexy, milled-aluminum laptop was a convertible until you folded the screen all the way around to tablet mode.
This may sound silly, but it's actually a key point for those who just don't believe in Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. Sure, the Surface's keyboard is pretty good, but the "lapability" of it is still very poor compared to the Spectre x360 or a traditional laptop.
A closer comparison to the Spectre x360 is Lenovo's super-thin-and-light Yoga 3 Pro. Rather than mask its convertible capabilities, the Yoga 3 Pro shows it off, with its distinctive, watchband-like hinge. For those who can't take that bling-style look, however, the Spectre's elegance may be more appealing.
The Spectre x360 is an important launch for HP. Everyone knows the PC (and printer) division will be on its own soon. The PC division needs to prove to the world that it has what it takes to survive on its own. The Spectre x360 brings no shame to the family, but it has at least one compromise that even HP apparently didn't see coming.
A close collaboration
The Spectre x360 is also distinctive for being the product of a close collaboration between HP and Microsoft. The two said that when the first prototypes arrived from the factory, Microsoft engineers received theirs at the same time as HP's engineers. Most OEMs don't cozy up that closely with Microsoft, but the software giant says its open to more partnerships.
The Microsoft partnership may also have emboldened HP to forsake the trialware that's usually loaded onto laptops. The Spectre x360 is amazingly clear of "bloatware," and of course there's no Superfish to worry about.
Speeds and feeds
The midrange x360 I reviewed featured Intel's popular 5th-generation "Broadwell" Core i5-5200U, 8GB of DDR3/1600, a 256GB M.2 SATA SSD and an IPS 1920x1080 screen. This configuration will set you back $1,000, but you can step it down to $900 by halving the SATA SSD and RAM. Personally, I'd say spend the extra $100.
This configuration is actually fairly competitive. Outfitted with similar components, Dell's XPS 13, for example, is $800--but it's not a convertible and it even lacks the touchscreen at that price. Also, the XPS 13's smaller, lighter form factor feels great until you touch the keyboard. The Spectre x360's keyboard is far more comfortable to type on than the XPS 13's. Frankly, I'd probably trade the XPS 13's compact size for the Spectre x360's keyboard in a second if it were my everyday driver.
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