Surface Pro 4 or HP Spectre x360 (or other)


Hi everyone

I’m looking for some real-world usage feedback.

I’m in the market for a portable PC.

As an IT pro I have a PC at home which I use as a VM lab and a development/learning workstation.

I have a work-issued laptop that I use for work.

But I can’t use my work laptop for personal use so when I’m travelling I rely on a Surface RT (don’t judge me) and an iPad Mini.

I’ll be attending some training and conferences through the year so the time has come to get a laptop.

I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to a Surface Pro 4 i5/8GiB/256GB or a 13″ HP Spectre x360 i7/8GiB/256GB.

My only reservation is whether the dual core chips are sufficient to run the occasional VM or docker image? I won’t need a full lab but it’s sometimes useful to spin something up for demo purposes.

Have any of you used either or both of these machines for this kind of work? How do they perform? Which do you prefer? Or is there another, better option you would recommend?

Thanks in advance!


Comments (19)

19 responses to “Surface Pro 4 or HP Spectre x360 (or other)”

  1. Polycrastinator

    I've used Hyper-V on an original Surface Pro(!) and as long as you don't ask too much of it, it's fine (in my case, basic Server 2008r2 VM as an emergency imaging server at a client site). With Hyper Threading, you can shoot 2 logical cores at a VM, and it's fine. As long as you're not expecting too much from it.

    Depending on the environments you work in, I'd think about how much you put your laptop in your lap. I find even with the improved "lappability" of the SP3/SP4, I can't use them on my lap well, they're just too awkward. If you're always sitting at a table, that's just fine, but if you're stuck on a bench working somewhere on a regular basis, I would look at the HP instead.

    • DaveHelps

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Thanks, appreciate it. I expect I will usually be at a desk, plugged in rather than really lapping.



      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to DaveHelps:

        Oh, I'll add: my experience is you'll get better performance with Hyper-V than the other solutions. Hyper-V on the desktop is a Type 1 hypervisor, so it runs VMs bare metal on the hardware. If you're looking at VirtualBox or VMWare within Windows, they're going through a software abstraction layer. My experience (and YMMV on all these things, of course) is that Hyper-V is just a better option where you have limited resources available.

        • DaveHelps

          In reply to Polycrastinator:

          I'm right with you on that. I used to swear by VMWare, and still would professionally, but at home Hyper-V is more than adequate. I wish they'd build templates into it, but it's nothing a little PowerShell can't solve :)

          • Paul Thurrott

            In reply to DaveHelps:

            You will need to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, btw. I think Home is the default.

            • DaveHelps

              In reply to Paul Thurrott:

              Thanks, I hadn't noticed that! This actually shifts the equation somewhat. The Surface Pro 4 retails for £969, and very few retailers deviate on this price. However I can get the Type Cover from Amazon UK for £90 (vs. £125 at the Microsoft online store). As the Surface ships with Windows 10 Pro, all in the Surface Pro 4 comes to £1059.

              The 2017 i7/8GiB/256GB HP Spectre x360 is £1200 on Amazon. That's already £141 more. Add in a Windows 10 Pro upgrade at around £130, and the x360 is now £1330.

              There are some deals to be had on the 2016 models... I guess I need to decide whether I need that pen :)

            • ChristopherCollins

              In reply to Paul Thurrott:

              Paul, I am hoping you could answer an HP question, since they seem to be sending you review units. I decided against the Surface and plan to go with the Spectre X-360 (model with pen).

              The only model I can find anywhere to play with is the FHD. It looks good. Is the 4K a worthwhile upgrade on that machine? Not being able to see it, I would kind of be rolling the dice if I purchased that model.

              I try to go through a local retailer, because dealing with HP on returns or defective items is a pure nightmare.

  2. phytio

    Just to add my 2 cents - I haven't got any experience with the Surface Pro 4, but I have had a number of HP Spectre x360s.

    I initially bought the 15" version and found that I had an issue with the touch sensor of the screen. Sent it back to Amazon and got the 13" because they didn't have any 15" at the time. The first model I received had a stuck space bar, so I sent it back for a replacement. Now, after just over a month of use, I've had to return another unit for repair because the screen backlight would fire off intermittently. I love the device, but I really hope they fix this and I don't continue having issues. This is all with the latest 2017 models.

    • DaveHelps

      In reply to phytio:

      Thanks for your two cents! Sorry to hear you've had such a bad experience. My general impression of HP's current hardware is that it's pretty well-built. My girlfriend has been using a Pavilion x360 every day for two years and it's survived well.

  3. Budorat

    I have the S Pro 4 i7/16Gb/512GB. I use it for work and use Hyper-V on a daily basis. It works well, could it do better, yep - but I suspect that would only be if I had a quad core CPU and 32 Gb RAM. I suspect that the dual core CPU will work just fine for your occasional use.

    I love my SPro, but the screen is too small for long term use. I need to have it docked if using it for more than a few hours at a time. For this reason I would go for the larger screen on the X360. I am in the market for a new laptop purely based on screen size and long term use, hence why I recommend the x360 over the SPro4. Is the Surface Book an option for you?

  4. Paul Thurrott

    I prefer the Spectre to the Surface Pro 4 personally. It's a 12-inch form factor with a bigger screen and is more laptop than tablet, which i think is the better mix.

  5. Simard57

    I am doing the same assessment right now - I have a SP3 but am itching for some new tech.

    The Spectre seems a better value than the SP4 does at this time if you have never had a surface before. I could reuse my type cover to lower the costs but the Spectre has larger screen, better CPU, better typing experience. better battery life (which may not matter for you). The SP4 is lighter and has a better 3:2 screen ratio that I wish the HP offered -- hell I wish any OEM would offer as it makes using as a tablet nicer

    • DaveHelps

      In reply to Simard57:

      Thanks. I was thinking the weight might be the decider, but as Paul noted below the Spectre comes with Windows 10 Home. Factor in a Windows 10 Pro upgrade (essential for me as I want Hyper-V) and the bang-for-buck equation shifts somewhat.

      • Simard57

        In reply to DaveHelps:

        True and the HP Elite series is priced higher as well.

        Prices for the upgrade vary

  6. gnome920

    I don't use VM for work or personal efforts but I do run video and ASI analyzers which also require quite a bit of horse-power especially if decoding a stream for analysis or troubleshooting. I've used both of these devices and sold the Surface Pro 4 and am sticking with the new Spectre X360 (a 2016 model - the newest ones come with pen included for inking, etc.). The Spectre I have is the 13 in/i7/16GB/512GB model that was on sale when I bought it for $1249

  7. DaveHelps

    Thanks to everyone who commented. Today I pulled the trigger - it's a Surface Pro 4 i5/8GiB/256GB.

    The deciding factors in the end was price. I paid CHF1174 for the Surface, plus CHF110 for a UK layout Type Cover. The Spectre would have come in at CHF1713 - much more expensive. Given I'll only be using it occasionally for pretty specific tasks, and as I have a more powerful machine on the desk at home, I just don't think I'd have seen any extra value for my CHF500.

    I'll let you know how it goes!