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HP Spectre x360 review: A sexy convertible that just can't take the heat

Gordon Mah Ung | April 13, 2015
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.

Other details of the Spectre x360 also impressed me. The tiny power button on the left side of the frame is a bit annoying--you have to hunt for it. However, it takes just enough pressure that you can't easily activate it by accident. On the convertible Yoga 3 Pro, I'd put the machine to sleep all the time just by picking up the chassis. 

The clickable trackpad is superwide. While that can leads to false taps (I flail my thumbs when typing at full speed and mash my palms, too), I didn't have any issues with it--my measured typing speed was comparable to what I'd achieve on a full-size laptop keyboard. I can't say that about Dell's XPS 13. One issue on the Spectre x360 worth noting: On occasion, I found it didn't detect my right mouse-click.

In port selection, HP plays it safe and sane with three USB 3.0's, mini DisplayPort and a full-sized HDMI. There's also an SD card reader and a combo analog audio jack. Apparently HP doesn't live in that bizarro MacBook world, where you get lauded for eliminating consumer choice in ports and forcing people to carry a bag of dongles.

The shell is milled from a solid block of aluminum. To add pizzazz, HP polished the edges of the body and screen. It gives this convertible a beautiful look that sets it apart from any other unit we've seen this year.

Performance

The Core i5 isn't fanless, and HP says the hard work put into the design should make it as fast or faster than the competition. That's a big claim that only some of our tests prove out.

In our Handbrake encoding test, we take a 31GB MKV file and transcode it to a tablet-friendly format. It's a beast of a job, and some may say, too much for a laptop. With the performance and expectations of today's portables, however, we don't think it's asking too much.

In the Spectre x360's case, however, it delivered a surprising result. During this long encode its performance fell off quite a bit compared to the Dell XPS 2013's QHD+ unit, despite sharing the same CPU and RAM amount. Other performance tests put it right alongside the Dell.

HP blamed the SSD in the unit. The company said that it found Handbrake can be surprisingly disk-speed-sensitive, and it even saw sensitivities with the free encoder just by switching NAND types. I haven't found that in my previous experiences with this particular test. The good news: The company said it was looking at adding a configuration to the Spectre x360 that would support much faster M.2 PCIe SSDs.

Thermal throttling? Probably

 

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