HP Spectre x2 Windows laptop-tablet hybrid tries to do too much with too little
What’s under the Surface?
The price of HP’S newly updated Windows 10 tablet has already been cut, and compared to the rival Surface Pro this model looks almost reasonable. Microsoft’s nearest configuration would cost you £200 more, and that’s before you pay through the nose for a keyboard and stylus. HP includes these, and the design of the Spectre x2 leaves no doubt that this is more than a copycat product.
The shiny Spectre trim is officially copper-coloured, but you could be forgiven for calling it gold. Set against dark-grey matt aluminium, it gives the x2 the look of something you might find built into a five-star hotel room. Some will find it too garish, but there’s no denying it looks expensive. The 12.3in touchscreen section that contains all the electronics is under 8mm thick and weighs 780 grams, barely more than a 12.9in ipad Pro. For a Windows 10 system, that’s remarkable, and with the keyboard clipped on it’s still a very portable 1.15kg.
The keyboard feels reassuringly rigid, and can sit flat or tilted at a comfortable typing angle. We weren’t so impressed with the trackpad, which has a lovely frosted glass finish but didn’t always respond accurately. The magnetic connection to the screen kept it in place, but occasionally the x2 refused to recognise the keyboard.
HP’S Active Pen worked well with Windows 10’s Ink features. Although it lacks the Surface Pen’s tilt sensitivity and can’t quite match its ‘nib on paper’ feel, it doesn’t slip too much and didn’t get confused when our hand rested on the screen.
From the previous rather dull Full HD panel, the x2’s screen has been upgraded to a Surface-beating 3000x2000-pixel resolution, with very high contrast and brightness levels. Our test detected just under 92 per cent of the SRGB range, which might not satisfy professional photo editors, but accuracy within that range was excellent.
For general Windows use and portable entertainment, it’s superb, and Windows 10’s scaling features let you make practical use of every pixel. It’s complemented by a pair of unexpectedly rich Bang & Olufsen speakers, decent front and rear cameras, and a usable set of connections. There are two multi-purpose USB Type-c ports, although they only go up to 5Mbps, a headphone jack and a microsd card slot.
Intel’s i7-7650u processor, however, didn’t quite perform as we’d hoped. Geekbench 4, a well-respected speed test, rates it very highly, comfortably beating the old Surface Pro 4 and not far behind Microsoft’s latest model, simply named Surface Pro (see our review, Issue 508), which has a slightly faster i7 processor. But in our tests, which take much longer to run, and simulate real tasks like processing 4K video, the Spectre x2 fell way behind, not even managing half the new Surface Pro’s performance.
We found the explanation for this in the temperature logs. The x2’s i7 chip hit 96°C, putting it within a whisker of shutting down. Evidently, the slim case couldn’t quite dissipate heat fast enough, and the motherboard was throttling the processor to stop it overheating. So the x2 will handle most everyday tasks very smoothly, but you can’t rely on it blazing through more demanding jobs or 3D games. However, these will just about run playably at Full HD thanks to the built-in Iris 640 graphics card.
That theoretically powerful processor still brings a downside, exacerbated by the fancy screen. In our video-playback test, the Spectre x2 lasted just five hours. Depending on how you use it, that may or may not worry you, but it’s less than half the Surface Pro’s stamina.
VERDICT: We wanted to love the Spectre, but it hasn’t quite solved the problems of squeezing a Windows PC into such a tight space
ALTERNATIVE: Microsoft Surface Pro £1,549 It’s more expensive once you add the keyboard and stylus, but performance is undeniably better
Its compact design only serves to compromise its performance
SPECIFICATIONS 2.4GHZ Intel Core i7-7560u dual-core processor • 8GB memory • 512GB SSD • 12.3in 3000x2000pixel touchscreen • 13-megapixel rear camera
• 5-megapixel front camera • 802.11ac Wi-fi • Bluetooth 4.2 • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-c ports • Microsd card reader • Windows 10 Home • 1.3x294x207mm (HXWXD) with keyboard • 1.15kg
• One-year warranty www.snipca.com/25821