HP Spectre x360 13.5 First Impressions

Posted on July 28, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 11 with 7 Comments

Since its initial release seven years ago, the HP Spectre x360 has always occupied a special place in the PC market. It started out as a premium 13.3-inch convertible PC, co-designed with the Windows 10 team, and HP has since expanded the model lineup to include new capabilities, of course, but also new 15- and 13.5-inch form factors. And each, in turn, has ranked among my favorite PCs of all time, thanks to their best-in-class typing experiences, build quality, and reliable performance.

Last year, I reviewed what was then called the HP Spectre x360 14, which actually has a 13.5-inch 3:2 display and is the predecessor to the Spectre x360 13.5 I’m now examining. It was one of the single best PCs I’ve ever used, and still is, and so I was excited to see that HP was revving the product for 2022. Not surprisingly, my first impressions are mostly positive, though I do have one minor gripe.

So let me get that out of the way.

The HP Spectre x360 14, like many premium HP portable PCs, offered a near-perfect typing experience, with short key throws and quiet, snappy performance. But what put it over the top was its extra rightmost column of keys for Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End: I use these keys a lot and find that configuration much easier to use than overloading the arrow keys with Fn-based keyboard shortcuts.

The (2022) Spectre x360 13.5, alas, dispenses with that handy row of keys and uses a more traditional layout … for some reason. I don’t believe the keys are a different size, and it looks like the former layout would fit fine in this PC. But HP didn’t do so. In the good news department, the keyboard is otherwise excellent, with the same excellent key feel and performance.

Beyond that, everything else looks—at first glance—to be as good or better than its predecessor. As before, there are fun and professional color choices, including Nocturn Blue with Celestial Blue accents, Nightfall Black with Pale Brass access (as found in the review unit), and bland Nature Silver. And it features the same basic form factor, though the controversial sharp edges have been, in many cases, softened and curved to good effect, creating an even nicer-looking product.

Part of that design included angled back corners, with a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port on the right and … nothing on the left (older Spectres with this design put the power button there). I had hoped to see another USB-C port on the left at some point, but HP partially addressed my concern by using that space for the combo headphone/mic jack. That works.

HP Spectre x360 13.5 (top) and HP Spectre x360 14 (bottom)

The new Spectre is also thinner than its predecessor, I think, based on the thin, curved edges and the fact that the full-sized USB-A port on the left requires one of those lower flaps you see on really thin devices. I don’t see any dimensions in the materials HP included, so I’ll find out. Otherwise, it’s roughly the same size as its predecessor. (Maybe the curved side edges necessitated the USB flap.)

HP Spectre x360 13.5 (top) and HP Spectre x360 14 (bottom)

The display lid features the same new curves but is likewise mostly identical to that of its predecessor, with the same screen size and resolution choices. This time around, HP sent a so-called 3K:2K display instead of Full HD+, meaning it offers a 3000 x 2000 resolution, and it’s a colorful and stunning OLED panel that is VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black certified.

But the biggest update to the display lid may be in the camera: the webcam has been significantly updated to a 5 MP IR-capable unit that, combined with HP’s software, should significantly improve camera quality for meetings. It features auto framing, appearance filter, and backlighting adjustment, and AI noise removal on the beamforming microphones. (And, yes, it’s Windows Hello compatible.)

There are some major upgrades inside as well, of course. Like the rest of the industry, HP is moving to 12th-Gen hybrid Intel Core chipsets, but the Spectre x360 13.5 is the first I’ve received with a 15-watt U-series chip; all previous 12th-Gen review units have used 28-watt P-series parts. I’m curious to see how this will impact the experience, but it should result in better battery life. And if HP’s claims about the new cooling fan are correct, less fan noise too.

But it’s not just that. I’ve had weird performance issues with every P-series PC I’ve reviewed so far, and what I really want to see is whether the U-series chips have the same problem. I’ve been using it less than 24 hours, but so far I’ve had no issues.

Pricing starts at $1199 for a version with a Core i5-1235U CPU, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage, and a Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) display. The review configuration, with its Core i7-1255U processor, 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage, and 3K:2K display, retails for $1750. You can configure a Spectre x360 13.5 with up to 32 GB if required, and there are privacy screen options too.

There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll save that for the review. More soon.

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Comments (7)

7 responses to “HP Spectre x360 13.5 First Impressions”

  1. rob_segal

    Regarding the keyboard changes, the alt key is smaller than the previous HP Spectre x360 14. HP may have needed to reduce the width of the keyboard slightly to accommodate the rounded edges of the base. Last year's x360 14 had the keyboard go edge to edge. This new one looks like it has a similar rounded taper as the x360 16.

  2. feek

    I want to know about the trackpad. I'm sort of looking for a new personal laptop, and really would like one with one of the new haptic touchpads

  3. linear2202

    How many junk apps are installed, or HP specific apps?I'm specifically looking at this model or the Lenovo I9 14' model.

  4. Ruvger

    The missing row of keys is a deal breaker for me. I use those keys all the time.

  5. Daishi

    I’m curious if the markup on the new models is still around 25% for people foolish enough to live outside the US as it was on previous models? (For comparison, where I am, the new MacBook Airs have a 0.06% LOTUS tax on the base models) Assuming it is, how do HP justify actively ripping 95% of their potential customers?

  6. bluvg

    "extra rightmost column of keys for Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End"

    That's a big plus in my case. I'm sure one gets used to it, but whenever I have to hop on one of those laptops, it totally mucks with muscle memory particularly for the backspace key, which I've found maddening.