The original HP Spectre x2 was a worthy rival for the Surface Pro, offering many of the same features in a similar sleek design.
It was great value for money, too, but it did have issues such as a poor quality screen, the speakers were not up to scratch and the stylus pen was disappointing.
HP has updated its consumer 2-in-1 this year, but is it better?
HP Spectre x2 Review: Introduction
The new HP Spectre x2 is a classy, 12.3in ultra-portable 2-in-1 laptop and, it comes bundled with a keyboard and stylus pen, unlike the Surface Pro. With a copper coloured hinge and an aluminium body, the Spectre x2 is certainly looks the part.
Now for the changes. It has a sharp, more colour accurate high resolution display and a faster Kaby Lake processor.
However, it ran extremely hot during our benchmark tests, even with its fans ramped up to the max. And I had problems with connecting the bundled keyboard and trackpad which are temperamental.
Price and competition
The HP Spectre x2 costs £1,500 from HP’s website. It comes with an Intel Core i7-7560U processor, 8GB of RAM and a quick 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD.
It might look expensive on paper, but compared with the closest equivalent Microsoft Surface Pro, which costs £1,419 with a Core i7, half the storage and doesn’t include a keyboard or stylus, the HP looks like good value.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Tablet (Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SDD, Intel Iris Graphics Card, Windows 10) - Black/Silver
There’s also competition from other manufacturers, such as the Acer Switch 5 laptop at £1216, the Lenovo Miix 510 at £1327 and the Asus Transformer 3 Pro for around £1,297. However, these are lower spec options with, with slower, older generation processors, or much lower resolution screens.
Design and build quality
The design is superb, with a dark grey aluminium body and copper-coloured trim look great and it’s practical, too. Its kickstand provides up to 165-degrees of adjustment, which gives plenty of room to manouevre.
It's a mere 780gin weight, and is only 8mm thick. Overall, this a wonderfully well thought out design.
For such a slim device connectivity is good. It has two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, on either side of the tablet part of the machine, and these can both be used for charging, display output and data transfers. A 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card slot can be found on the left-hand side. The laptop’s volume rocker and power indicator are on the right, with the power button at the top.
The Spectre x2 comes with Bang & Olufsen-branded speakers, which flank the screen and face forwards. The sound is full-bodied and remarkably rich for such a slim device.
It also includes Intel 802.11ac (2x2) wireless and Bluetooth 4.2 and the Spectre has two cameras: a forward-facing, 5-megapixel camera with a dual microphone and a rear-facing 13-megapixel camera.
Keyboard, trackpad and pen
HP is including both keyboard and stylus in the box with the Spectre x2 which is slightly surprising as they did not offer these options on the older version, these seem to be top-quality additions.
The keyboard attaches magnetically to the tablet’s body via a ten-pin connector and can either be arranged so it lies flat on the desk or it’s tilted up at a slight angle. There’s minimal keyboard flex, and the keys are well-spaced, and have a nice, positive action. Typing is very easy on this keyboard.
The trackpad feels responsive and smooth. But it's not all good, sometimes it wouldn’t properly track my swipes, and clicks, requiring several tries.
More concerning was the recognition of the bundled keyboard and trackpad with the Spectre x2’s main frame. Occasionally, when flipping between laptop and tablet mode, the x2 would simply refuse to recognise the keyboard, even with it still attached.
The HP Active Pen is a different matter as it works beautifully, especially with Windows Ink integration on Windows 10. With 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, it’s wonderfully responsive and the nib has a nice firm feel on the surface of the tablet.
One area where the x2 has improved dramatically is the display, last years model was a lower quality 1080p screen, this year’s 12.3in screen has a sharper resolution of 3,000 x 2,000; a big improvement.
It’s offer vivid colours, is much more colour accurate and has a stunning 1,315:1 contrast ratio. Movies and photos are a snap.
Brightness is impresssive, at 488cd/m2 this is one of the few laptops you can use outdoors on a sunny day.
Underneath the Spectre x2 powered by a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-7560U with 8GB of LPDDR3-1866 SDRAM. Windows 10 Home 64-bit is pre-loaded, and it runs smoothly with no problems whatsoever.
Performance wise the HP Spectre x2 is better than the Surface Pro, with a score of 4,440 and 8,220 in the single-core multi-core benchmarks respectively compared with the Surface Pro 4’s 3,632 and 7,044. It can handle anything you throw at it.
For graphics, it has the integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. Having no problems running movies, and games up to a point. Without a discrete graphics card, you won’t be playing modern titles at the display’s 3,000 x 2,000 native resolution, though.
However, if you were to use the laptop for gaming, I’d suggest dialling down the resolution to a more manageable 1080p. Here, the laptop achieves 23.8fps and 42.6fps respectively - a more playable frame rate, but still not brilliant.
What is impressive is the performance of the HP’s 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, which is seriously quick sequential read and write speeds of 2,110MB/sec and 633MB/sec respectively.
The battery life was disappointing, with just over 5 hours in our video rundown test. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 achieved more than double this result at 11hrs 31mins by comparison.
At £1,500 the HP Spectre x2 looks good, but does have its niggles.
The performance is extremely impressive, it has all the right ports and far better quality sound than the previous model.
However, its thermal limitations are worrying, the keyboard is temperamental and battery life is below what we were expecting. If you’re looking for a do-it-all 2-in-1 device I’d choose the Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 over the HP Spectre x2.