I have been waiting for this day for years: With the new Spectre x360 14, HP has finally embraced 3:2 displays in one of its very best products.
And I mean that literally: Every time I huddle with my friends at HP, I bring up the need for 3:2 displays in productivity-focused PCs, especially those that support multitouch (which is pretty much all of them now), smartpens (many of them), and convertible designs (which, for HP, is a huge segment of their lineup, and a real differentiator).
HP hasn’t so much pushed back against this idea as it has pragmatically argued over the years that 3:2 display panels are still rare and expensive. And collectively, there’s an understanding that even 16:10 displays are a step in the right direction and away from the 16:9 displays that inexcusably still dominate despite them being optimized for entertainment, not productivity.
So there’s my biggest PC pet peeve aired for everyone to enjoy. And yes, I know that some of you will disagree with my stance on this issue. That some people even prefer 16:9 displays … for some reason. And that’s fine. You’re wrong. But it’s fine. So let’s move on.
(I’m kidding, of course. Everyone has their preferences, and I respect that. But as Mary Jo discovered when she purchased a Surface Laptop 3 about a year ago, the 3:2 aspect ratio may seem odd at first since 16:9 is so common, but then you get used it, and then you wonder how you lived without it.)
Anyway, the Spectre x360 14 is a cause for celebration, regardless of your stance or apathy on the 3:2 aspect ratio issue. Like its 13.3- and 15-inch stablemates, the Spectre x360 14 is a classy premium PC with an incredibly versatile convertible design. But unlike those stablemates, the Spectre x360 14 is right-sized, in a Goldilocks-like way. The most recent Spectre x360 13 models are, if anything, a tad too small, while the Spectre x360 15 remains gargantuan despite ongoing refinements. The Spectre x360 14 is just right.
That said, it’s also not really a 14-inch display, though I get why HP went with this naming scheme: Like the Surface Laptop and Surface Book, the Spectre x360 14 utilizes a 13.5-inch display panel. It can be had in various Full HD (1920 x 1280) variants—one with 400 nits of brightness and one with 1000 nits and HP’s vaunted Sure View Reflect privacy technology—or in what I assume is an incredible 3000 x 2000 OLED panel. The review unit has the stock Full HD panel at 400 nits, which is still fantastic and what I’d choose were I spending my own money.
I know, I need to stop talking about the display. But one more point: In addition to adding 13 percent more usable on-screen real estate in the vertical, HP has also continued its work to reduce the size of the display bezels on all sides. And with the Spectre x360 14, it has hit a new high, with a 90.33 percent screen-to-body ratio. Nice! OK, that was two points. I love this display.
What most people will notice first, of course, is the Spectre x360 14 design, which is incredible. It can be had in black with copper accents or, as with the review unit, in Poseidon Blue with pale brass accents. We’re almost a couple of years into HP’s hard-edge redesign of the Spectre line, and while I was on the fence about this initially, it’s really growing on me. The color schemes, for starters, are gorgeous, and the accent colors really help show off the angular, gem-cut edges.
More pragmatically, this design also lets HP stick an extra USB-C port on one of the angled back corners of the device, and that helps the customer get the power cord out of the way, even if they’re right-handed and using a mouse on that side of the PC. In previous Spectre x360 models, HP also used the left back corner for the power button, but that corner is unused in the Spectre x360 14 because of another, even more recent HP design trend: It features HP’s latest productivity keyboard, and the power button is integrated into the keyboard.
And that keyboard is fantastic, as always. I love the layout, the sizes of the keys, and the perfect key throw. There are keys for power, physically covering the webcam, muting the microphone, and triggering HP’s useful Command Center software. And the fingerprint reader is integrated into the keyboard now as well. Folks, this is peak keyboard.
HP’s glass precision touchpads are always very good to excellent, though I find that I have to disable three- and four-finger gestures because of my clumsiness, and that is the case here as well. But thanks to the taller display and thus the resulting deeper keyboard deck, the touchpad is almost 17-percent bigger than that on the Spectre x360 13.
Internally, the Spectre x360 14 gets a nice boost from its use of 11th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with Intel Evo Core-powered Iris Xe graphics. Evo Core is the lower end of Intel’s new integrated graphics engine, which can stand up pretty ably to dedicated graphics, and HP reports that GPU performance is up almost 80 percent over the previous generation. It can be configured with 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM, and from 256 GB of NVMe-based SSD storage up to 2 TB of NVMe-based SSD storage with 32 GB of Intel Optane memory.
Battery life is rated at 15 to 22 hours for various types of video playback for the Full HD version or 10 to 14 hours for the OLED/~4K display. This will require testing, but my guess is that it will be roughly half those numbers in real-world use. We’ll see.
The Spectre x360 14 has quad speakers so you can experience stereo sound in any usage configuration—laptop mode, tent mode, and so on—with a discrete amplifier and Bang & Olufsen tuning. There are a slew of new software optimizations to meet the work-from-home needs of this pandemic era, with AI noise removal, automatic color adaptation, a focus mode, smart thermals, and much more. That will all need to wait for the review.
The review unit also came with an HP rechargeable Tilt Pen that supports Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP)2.0 and has two configurable barrel buttons. You charge it via a hidden USB-C port in the barrel that appears when you pull back on the top of the pen. HP includes two additional pen tips in the box, too, which is nice. Also nice: The pen magnetically attaches to the left side of the PC.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but my early usage over the past 24 hours has been very positive and, as noted, this is pretty much the exact PC that I’ve been begging HP to build for years. And I know I’m not alone.
Pricing starts at $1300 for a version with a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage, and a Full HD display. And you could spend as much as $2000 if you need more than that. The review configuration includes a Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD, and a Full HD display, and costs a bit under $1600. All versions come with the HP Tilt Pen.