Nothing is more fashionable than a laptop that can be folded in half; a feature so neat it even trumps the Macbook Air. Until Apple releases a Macbook that can pull off this party trick, manufacturers like HP and Lenovo get to lead the charge in the flexible notebook segment.
A few months ago we looked at the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, which has one of the most striking and durable hinges that we have ever seen. No one can declare that the Yoga 3 Pro was perfect; it simply wasn’t. But it did show how far hybrid ultrabooks have come both in design if not in performance (it was hobbled by the super-low power fanless processor). HP has now stepped up to the plate with its own creation, the Spectre x360. That name is a bit of a faux pas but we will overlook it in the hopes that the x360 turns out to be the hybrid that deserves your hard earned cash.
As with all modern ultrabooks, the Spectre x360 is ultra-thin and absurdly minimalistic. An all aluminium body does mean this ultrabook is both durable and light, albeit not as light as one made out of plastic. The screen hinges are made out of metal too and allow for effortless transformation of the ultrabook to a tablet as well as ensuring that the screen does not flop like a dead fish when being used as a laptop.
Unfortunately we do not know what the overall lifespan of these hinges will be but, they do not feel like the type to give out after just a few years, even with daily transformations.
The unibody design is simply beautiful. Each half of the Spectre x360 consists of an aluminium chassis with the relevant pieces bolted on. For the top half the screen is perfectly seated into the lid which is how one expects a tablet to look. The bottom half on the other hand has the necessary back plate to allow access to all the silicon bits underneath.
Overall, the Spectre x360 is so good-looking that it will doubtless inspire some jealous ogling at the boardroom table.
The biggest failing of the Yoga 3 Pro was its lack of beefy hardware, specifically the processor; an Intel Core M CPU might save on battery power but it lacks the punch to take on more difficult tasks.
The Spectre x360 has no such failing. Inside that aluminium frame is a full-blooded Intel Core i7-5500U processor, which means it has both the chops to handle video editing as well as being a low-voltage variant that ensures battery life doesn’t take a dive.
The supporting cast for that action hero of a processor includes 8GB of RAM, a massive 512GB Samsung SSD, and the integrated Intel Graphics 5500.
By including such a high capacity SSD HP has killed four birds with one stone; the need for a high-speed drive, the need for a drive that needs very little power, the desire for consumers to have more than 128GB of storage, and your bank balance. A remarkable feat by any standards.
The Intel Graphics 5500 GPU is integrated into the processor, which means there is no extra silicon to keep cool; furthermore, while it cannot beat AMD’s APUs in performance it still manages to remain beefy enough to play the odd game or two, including Battlefield 4 and GTA V. Just not on max.
The keyboard is perfect. Strong words I know but let me explain: the keys are firm when stabbed at like a madman but also soft at the same time. To put it simply, this keyboard will handle the brute force of a man typing but will also respond beautifully to a gentler, more feminine touch.
The even key spacing means that touch typing is a breeze, and from the start typing errors were few and far between, with any such errors down to the maddening of my mind.
The touchpad is massive and, like the keyboard, is a masterpiece. It’s able to pick up the lightest of touches yet ignores one’s palms. Synaptics is the company behind the touchpad and one could almost say this is its crowning achievement.
Topping off this beautiful little ensemble are three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and a mini DisplayPort as well as an SD card reader. Last but not least there is an Intel dual-band 802.11ac WiFi adapter and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
Just like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, the Spectre x360 comes with a quad HD touch display with a resolution of 2 560×1 440. This screen, however, is only available on the top-of-the-range version of the x360 with the cheaper versions only sporting a 1 920×1 080 Full HD screen. The touch screen is very responsive and makes navigating the Windows 8 UI a treat.
What doesn’t make it a treat, though, are the sensors involved in deciding which way the screen should be oriented. Either they are overly sensitive and rotate the screen at the slightest movement – and often in the opposite orientation that you need – or they take forever to realise that you’ve shifted from portrait to landscape or vice versa. It is probably the only negative aspect of this ultrabook, but it is incredibly annoying.
You could be forgiven for assuming that since the Spectre x360 has a proper Core i7, the battery life is dismal. After all, that processor has a TDP of 15W compared to the 4.5W of the Core M found in the Yoga 3 Pro.
Well, you’d be wrong. Yes, the Core M consumes less power but HP has worked some serious magic in the x360, chief of which is a relatively massive 56wHr battery. The Spectre x360 fails to deliver on HP’s promised 12.5 hours, but in our tests got around nine hours, depending on the workload, which is enough for a full day’s work.
We thought the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro was impressive, but against the Spectre x360 the Lenovo comes in second place. Overall the x360 is perfect in almost every aspect, however the gyroscopic sensors need to be overhauled and the designers shot because they turn the perfect hybrid ultrabook into something less than perfect.
For this flawed beauty you are looking at a price tag that’s anywhere from R21 100 to R25,000, depending on the exchange rate and the
greediness pricing policy of your favourite online retailer. Since local pricing is not available at time of writing, this is an educated guess based on the £1 099 price tag for this particular model on HP’s official web store.
Any way you slice it that’s a lot of money, especially when you consider this ultrabook’s niggles. But despite those I’d buy it in a heartbeat, as it’s closer to perfect than any Windows notebook I have ever used.