Better yet? HP's 2017 version of the Spectre x360 15-inch with convertible features a latest-generation Intel processor alongside a switch to discrete graphics. The updated design incorporates smaller bezels a la Spectre x360 13 and the 4K display - improved over last year's model - is now the unique panel option.
HP's Spectre x360 series of upscale consumer convertibles has been widely regarded as one of the top choices when it comes to 2-in-1 offerings. Last year, the company from Palo Alto took a page out of Dell's playbook with the redesign of the Spectre x360 13-inch, as they incorporated extremely narrow left and right-edge bezels. The Spectre x360 15-inch - we've reviewed both the FHD predecessor as well as the model with 4K display - now gets the same slimming treatment. Aside from the quite obviously new, like the chassis or the switch to a latest-generation processor, there are a few other noteworthy changes as far as the configuration is concerned: the 2017 version makes both the 4K panel as well as discrete graphics in form of a Nvidia GeForce 940 MX mandatory. The sole processor choice is the dual-core Intel Core i7-7500U (2.7 GHz, up to 3.5 GHz, 4 MB cache).
At the time of writing, a user can choose from 8 to 16 GB of RAM and SSDs ranging from 256 GB to 1 TB. While we couldn't located our particular version - the Spectre x360 15-bl002xx - HP offers the identically-equipped 15-bl075nr for $1500. Compared to the "base" model with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD, which sells for $1280, this version ships with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. HP also offers the popular Spectre x360 13-inch FHD with 7th-generation Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD for $1050.
The CNC-machined aluminum chassis is strikingly beautiful. The display lid, the keyboard deck and the bottom are "dark ash silver", but the color looks - especially outdoors - more like a slightly purplish charcoal gray to us. The sides and front edges of the notebook, the touchpad-surround and the HP logos are copper-colored; the hinges feature copper accents as well. HP's use of the accent color here is much more restrained than on their super-slim Spectre 13 and the overall result is very pleasing to the eye.
While not quite as sturdy as some other metal semi-unibody designs, the Spectre x360 is torsionally very rigid with no noticeable creaking sounds whatsoever. There is some minor give when pressing down in the middle of the laptop or to the left and right of the touchpad, but not enough so as to be a detriment as far as durability or usability are concerned. The display lid with its Gorilla Glass touchscreen is also quite sturdy and resists twists quite well given it's thickness. Moderately-heavy pushes induce some ripples on the display, however. The metal-encased 360° hinges are not nearly as convincing as the rest of the notebook and in our opinion not quite stiff enough to cope with the heavy display. While it takes two hands to open the lid, the display is actually quite easy to move once in it's in a normal laptop position. In fact, even the action of picking up the x360 can cause the display to swing backwards beyond a 180 degree angle. Tapping on the screen also introduces noticeable wobbles, so the laptop might not be the best choice for train rides and such.
As mentioned in our introduction, HP shaved quite a few mm of the bezel, which now measure less than 5 mm each - 4.65 mm to be exact. The company calls the result a "virtually borderless micro-edge display". While the overall width of the notebook has decreased compared to the predecessor - see our size comparison below - the lower-edge bezel is very wide at 3.6 cm / 1.4 inches. so the convertible is slightly deeper, although only marginally so. The thickness has increased as well by about 1.8 mm, but in normal use this is hardly noticeable. The Spectre's footprint most closely matches that of the Dell XPS 15 width-wise, but it's once again deeper by about 1.5 cm (0.6 inches). Even so, for a 15-inch notebook, the HP convertible is exceptionally easy to slip into a bag and carry around.
More noticeable is the increase in weight. Not only has the new version gained about 100 g / 3.5 oz compared to the predecessor, the supplied power adapter is - at 430 g - substantially heavier as well. The total "carry-about" weight has thus increased by roughly 380 g / 13 oz - certainly worth considering if you're planning on lugging the notebook around a lot. The Dell Inspiron 15 convertible weighs about as much as the review 2-in-1; smaller 14-inch convertibles are roughly 450 - 600 g (15 - 20 oz) lighter. The Dell XPS 15 tips the scale at 1.8 kg, so about 200 g / 7 oz less than the Spectre x360 15.
The very upscale-looking box contains the notebook, a faux leather sleeve, the 90 W power adapter and the usual setup instruction as well as warranty pamphlet. In addition, HP supplies their HP Active Stylus Pen and three adapters: USB Type-C to VGA, USB Type-C to USB Type-A, and a USB Type-C to RJ45 dongle.
Accessing the hardware requires removal of 6 tiny Torx screws and two additional Phillips screws hidden under the rear plastic/rubber feet so the bottom cover can be taken off. The RAM appears to be soldered on, so the maintenance tasks are limited to cleaning the two system fans or swapping out the M.2 SSD or the wireless module.
As a consumer/prosumer product, the Spectre x360 15 comes with a standard warranty and is thus protected against manufacturers defects for a period of one year. Additional coverage through HP can be selected at the time of purchase. A Care Pack upgrade to a 2-year warranty with accidental damage protection and free pickup and return service, for example, costs $190 at the time of writing.
At first glance, the keyboard seems to be the same unit as the one used for the Spectre x360 13. Compared to the smaller sibling, key travel has increased though from 1.3 mm to 1.5 mm, however. The keys are slightly concave and spaced at about 3 mm and offer just enough feedback. Typing on the keyboard is very comfortable even at higher speeds and for prolonged periods of time. We don't have too many complaints: we would've liked to see full-sized arrow keys and more than one level of brightness for the backlit keyboard. One other, though fairly minor dislike: the space key in particular makes quite a racket, which might bother noise-sensitive users or users operating in particularly quiet environments.
For a Windows machine, the Synaptics touchpad is exceptionally large at 14 x 6.5 cm (5.5 x 2.6 inches). The etched glass surface is smooth with just the right amount of friction and responds to inputs well even if the fingers should be slightly moist. Given the large surface area, multi-touch gestures like two-finger scrolling or three-finger flick are very easy to perform. The integrated mouse keys work well enough, but right clicks are only recognized in the bottom right quarter both horizontally and vertically and not starting in the middle, as one would assume. As a result, we often executed left clicks when we required a right click. As fitting for a convertible, the keyboard and the touchpad are disabled when the display is folded back.
Touchscreen & Stylus
The 4K touchscreen works flawlessly even into the vary corners and the edges. Flipping the lid all the way around until it rests on the back of the bottom unit puts the convertible into tablet mode. Holding a slate this large and heavy for longer periods time is not necessarily something we particularly enjoy, however. The stylus or "Active Pen", as HP calls it, is powered by a small AAAA battery and features 2 programmable buttons, which can be assigned their function using the HP Pen Control software. In Microsoft OneNote, we found the pen to work smoothly and accurately. The inking capabilities are particularly useful of course with the x360 Spectre 15 in tablet mode for annotating text or marking up images.
As we mentioned in our intro, HP has made the 15.6-inch UHD UWVA eDP WLED-backlit IPS display with 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) the sole panel choice. Along with a manufacturer switch - the predecessor with 4K display used a panel from LG Philips, while the new Spectre x360 15 utilizes one from BOE - HP also decided to drop the PenTile-technology in favor of standard RGB , so we ought to see a better contrast ratio this time around. Thanks to the bonded glass screen combined with the ultra-high resolution, the icons and text are supremely sharp without any apparent graininess
While HP sells the smaller Spectre x360 13 with either the Intel Core i5-7200U or the Intel Core i7-7500U processor online, the 15.6-inch Spectre x360 can only be purchased with the i7 CPU. Our configuration for $1500 comes with a 512 GB NVMe M.2 SSD and 16 GB of system RAM, which should guarantee great performance for some time to come. The base model for $1280 comes with 2x 4 GB of RAM. An upgrade to 16 GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM (2x 8 GB) costs $120 more.
The dual-core i7-7500U (2.7 GHz, up to 3.5 GHz, 4 MB cache, TDP 15 watts) is used in a lot of different mid to higher-end notebooks and convertibles and our sample generally performs as expected. The CPU handles common office and multimedia applications with aplomb and doesn't shy away from heavier processing tasks, either. During the Cinebench R15 multi-test, the processor cores operated at Turbo frequency of 3.1 - 3.5 GHz.
Compared to the predecessor with i5 CPU and integrated Intel Graphics HD 520, the new laptop is about 12 - 20 percent faster according to PCMark 8. The Dell XPS 15 2017 9560, on the other hand, packs more powerful hardware in form of the quad-core Kaby Lake i5-7300HQ and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU and pulls ahead by roughly 15 - 20 percent. Perceived performance is excellent with fast boots and application startups.
Performance of the SSD - a Toshiba XG3 NVMe THNSN5512GPUK - is great across the board. The capacity of 512 GB should be sufficient for most users, but for those requiring even more storage, HP also offers an upgrade to a 1 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD for an additional $200. We did encounter an issue with the tool AS SSD, which recorded excellent read, but sub-par write rates.
Fan noise (Gray: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Heaven, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
The HP Spectre x360 15 is mostly inaudible during idle, as the fans are not running at all, although they do sometimes turns on for no apparent reason with the noise level then jumping to 36 dB. Subjected to medium and high loads, the fan reaches a maximum of almost 43 dB, so the 2017 edition of the Spectre x360 is a bit noisier than the predecessor. Overall, the system is well behaved, although the fan noise during prolonged loads can get annoying after a while. The Dell Inspiron 15 convertible with integrated GPU only tops out at 36 dB, the XPS 15 with much more potent hardware and dedicated reaches an uncomfortable 48 dB under full load.
Unlike the predecessor, the new Spectre x360 15 is now equipped with two system fans. The surfaces temperatures are uniformly low at idle with the warmest spot at 34 degrees C just below the HP logo on the lower bezel. During the stress test, this general area reaches 50 degrees C on the bottom. In laptop mode, the location of the hotspot keeps the legs out of harms way, although the same can't be said for tablet mode, as this section now can rest against the underarm depending on how the user carries the device. Still, these extreme temperatures are rarely achieved during everyday use.
The sound produced by the two stereo speakers - found under perforations to the left and right of the keyboard - isn't exactly a revelation. The speakers are sufficiently loud for an average-sized room, but the sound quality is unfortunately lacking. Although the highs are decent enough and not overly tinny, the lower frequencies are less pronounced while bass is barely detectable at all.
The power consumption is comparatively high with the idle power consumption ranging from 8-12 watts - the large 4K display definitely makes its presence known. Load average and maximum are also higher than those of other 14 -15-inch devices with the exception of the Dell XPS 15, which features extremely potent hardware. The maximum power draw exceeds that of the predecessor by 35 watts, which explains why HP switched to a larger (and much heavier) 90 watt power adapter.
In light of the higher power consumption, HP increased the capacity of the integrated Lithioum-Ion battery from 65 Wh to 79 Wh and promises runtimes of "up to 12.75 hours". During our WLAN test, the Spectre was able to last for nearly 9 hours before shutting down, besting the predecessor by 1.5 hours. This is an impressive result. The Yoga 910, which lacks a dedicated GPU and has a smaller 13.9-inch screen, packs a same-sized battery pack and lasts 2 hours longer. Nonetheless, the Spectre x360 15 should last through an entire work day without requiring an outlet. If charging should be required, HP's Fast Charge technology allows the battery to reach 50 % capacity in just 30 minutes.