HP Spectre x360 14 First Impressions

Posted on December 20, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 59 Comments

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.

Moving on.

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.

More soon.

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Comments (74)

74 responses to “HP Spectre x360 14 First Impressions”

  1. Avatar

    Daninbusiness

    This looks fantastic! Curious about noise & heat (but wouldn't expect any bad surprises there).

  2. Avatar

    JimP

    In reply to JimP:


    Actually, I take part of that back. An HDMI port would be nice, but you can get around that.

  3. Avatar

    JimP

    Not to brag, but I've had mine since Dec 8th. I ordered the blue, but got the ugly copper (which is starting to grow on me). I don't have any major complaints other than the placement of the Fn and Ctrl buttons but that placement seems standard on laptops. Interestingly, when you bring up the Win10 virtual keyboard, the Crtl and Fn positions are reversed.

  4. Avatar

    franklyray

    "...power button is integrated into the keyboard." Brilliant!

  5. Avatar

    jeroendegrebber

    Mmmmm, it's so pretty and now with the right display. So, should I buy this one or a Surface Pro 7 ?

  6. Avatar

    Philotech Mueller

    I never understood why the 4:3 ration was abandoned in the first place (shows my age, ughh). Agree those machines look terribly outdated, but 4:3 was not to beat for most productivity tasks (Excel being an exemption in many cases).

    Guess because of all the el-cheapo TV sets, 16:9 just saved the manufacturers a few dollars, and that of course beats every other reason...

  7. Avatar

    werneral

    Thanks for the review, great stuff. A question though, is this available now? I can find no mention of it on hp.com.


    Which of course leads me to a complaint at least, but perhaps more of a rant. I find hp's website to be impenetrable and not just unhelpful, but actually discouraging. I keep thinking that I want to replace my five plus year old Spectre x360, but just can't stomach trying to figure out hp shopping.


    What’s everyone else doing that has an interest in hp laptops?

  8. Avatar

    faustxd9

    Any interest in providing some feedback on light gaming with this computer? I would really like to see if older titles can be played reasonably well. My use case it usually on the road (whenever that happens again) throwing on a Half Life or AOE game to pass the time.


    All in all, I am really looking at this computer (and your feedback) very much as I have the 15" version and it is just too big. One other question, I find that the edges on my 1-2+ year old Spectre are sharper than I would like. Have these been blunted a bit?

  9. Avatar

    rh24

    There is room for improvement in (1) area. I really need these machines to allow us to get to 32GB RAM. This is a business machine that will run business apps. Outlook is a memory hog. Now we have Microsoft Teams sucking up a ton of RAM. Add in a couple of other office apps, a handful of ever fatter browser pages, and the standard array of background processes and you can get to 12GB of consumed RAM pretty quickly. Ok, I said it was a business machine. So fine, 16GB is good enough for most business folks. But as a technical sales professional, I need to run VMs. With my "standard apps" open, I find myself shutting down apps to get a Hyper-V to load. But if I could get to 32GB RAM? This machine would be PERFECT and would be competing for my next big tax deduction!

  10. Avatar

    adam.mt

    Have the 2019 13" model and it's a great machine so nice to see the latest processor with better graphics and a 3:2 ratio display (which there's long been space for). On my model, the fans kick in a little too often when doing light 'office tasks' ('HP Recommended' mode) but aren't too loud. Have to say that I prefer the power key, webcam switch and fingerprint reader being separate to the keyboard but guess that's personal. Nice also if the tilt pen is included as standard rather than forcing the user to by a second pen for that functionality (and believe it's magnetic this time).

  11. Avatar

    jfgordon

    I totally agree that the taller 3:2 aspect ratio is better. It is funny because I do not recall, circa 2005, using a widescreen laptop and thinking, this is worse than my current 4:3. On the contrary, it was nice to fit two document pages next to each other. It could be that the taller taskbar in post-XP Windows, or the ribbon toolbars, or the "touch-friendly" icons reduced the average vertical space available. As of today, I think there is not contest. I don't know for external screens: probably 16:10 is the sweet spot there, just a little taller than FHD, not so tall that black bars are a problem when viewing videos.

  12. Avatar

    winbookxl2

    This is a nice device! It reminds me of the 5:4 days of the late 90's and early 2000's laptops from HP & Dell and (Winbook lol)

  13. Avatar

    mixedfarmer75

    14 inches is the sweet spot. I get the appeal for the 3:2 ratio, but if you like snapping 2 apps side by side 16:9 ratio is nicer.

  14. Avatar

    jhuylebroeck

    An element I don't see mentioned as often as I'd like: what about the reflectivity of the display? Are there matte display options, or at least an anti-glare coating? Working in conditions where lighting can be suboptimal, this is of interest, especially when comparing to the Surface Laptop which features a pretty reflective screen.

  15. Avatar

    jeffq

    Ok, this is the first keyboard I have seen that doesn't have the "home" and "end" keys mixed in with the function keys (makes it a dev keyboard). Now if I could only find it on their site as their sku numbers are ridiculous.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      This is the new keyboard layout for 2020 HP premium PCs and I gotta say, I really like it a lot.
    • Avatar

      jeffq

      Went to buy the laptop but seriously, I don't know how anyone could choose a laptop on hp's site as it is sku explosion. Too many brands and too many skus within each. Marketing fail on hp as the site should abstract all that complexity from their customers. Zbook, envy, spectre, elitebook.... In reply to jeffq:


  16. Avatar

    thedeuce01

    Any idea if the Envy line will also move to a 3:2 display?

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      I don't see HP moving its entire portable lineup, premium or otherwise, to 3:2, but I hope that this is successful enough that they at least start to move away from 16:9 across the board.
  17. Avatar

    earlster

    It's on sale right now on the HP store, for $200+ off, depending on the configuration. Awesome deal.

  18. Avatar

    wp7mango

    Alleluia!!!


    Now they just need to apply the same aspect ratio to the Folio and they'll have a proper competitor to the Surface Pro.


  19. Avatar

    angusmatheson

    I cannot agree more about abandoning 16 by 9 scenes on laptops. If you are going to watch a movie you are going to use your phone or tablets. If you are going to write something you use your laptop. Except maybe long excel spreadsheets (but not long excel spreadsheets) every productively task I can think of, and the web are better on 2 by 3 or 3 by 4 rather than 16 by 9. Thank you fir championing that screen size. And 2 and 1 that are 16 by 9 are super awkward to use when in tablet mode.

    • Avatar

      geoff

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      I still prefer 16 x 9

      (And I'm writing this on a Surface Pro. I really do know what 3 x 2 is like, based on years of use.)


      Why?

      Because, aside from simply looking 'right', all external monitors and TVs are (quite rightly!) 16 x 9.


      I always use an external monitor, unless I'm on the road (and I don't do anything substantial while on the road, because a small screen is not a 'hard at work' screen - just presentations, notes, check email and calendar.)


      There is a simple elegance about running two screens when they have the same aspect ratio. Sliding the 'focus on this' app to the large screen doesn't alter anything. Menus keep all of their contents, nothing re-scales.

      IT JUST WORKS.

      Perfectly. Every time.

      16 x 9 forever.


      And putting the power button inside the laptop? I see dozens of users here who have their laptop *shut* and use two external monitors (both the same size, both 16 x 9). I think they like the same size and the same aspect ratio. It's easier to switch your attention when needed. It's a productivity boost.

      This two-large-screen setup is actually the default here, and I guess it's pretty common elsewhere too.

      But force me to open the laptop just to touch the power button! That's crazy.

      • Avatar

        bluvg

        In reply to Geoff:

        "simply looking 'right'"


        When I see all the 16:9 laptops with the big "chin" bezel below the display, it don't look right to me at all :D

      • Avatar

        bluvg

        In reply to Geoff:

        For me, the 1080 width in portrait is just a deal breaker for many applications. It's very limiting for vertically as well, since so many applications run their UI controls at top and bottom.


        I agree that matching the res has benefits, and I do hope we see more aspect ratio options. Even 16:10 is a surprising difference for an external display. That said, I don't have a big problem with mixed aspect ratio setups; if anything, mixed DPI setups are messier.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        I agree the external display thing is an issue, and that's why I've been begging Microsoft for years to release 3:2 Surface displays. But this is a convertible PC, and few users are going to dock it. I bet few people use multiple displays regardless.
      • Avatar

        wp7mango

        In reply to Geoff:

        3:2 is much better than 16:9 for 2-in-1 devices because it works much better in portrait mode.


        But even in landscape mode, with 3:2 you're not sacrificing anything over 16:9 but are in fact gaining height.


        Each to their own, but a lack of 3:2 on the previous HP Spectre x360 is precisely what stopped me from buying one. That's why I went with the Surface Pro instead. But next time, I can get the HP.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to Geoff:

        One external display is 1920x1200 (16:10), one 1920x1080 (16:9) the other 3840x1440.

        16:9 just looks wrong on a computer. It is a step back from the 16:10 days, you get less on the screen than you used to - and those 120 pixels vertical do make a big difference in daily use.

        At the end of the day, my laptop and my desktop are PCs I work on, they aren't glorified TVs! 16:9 might work for letterbox TV content, but it is the wrong format for real wide films and it is the wrong format for working on long documents or bigger spreadsheets.

        To the power button question, I agree, sort of. I think it is a silly place for it. But, if you are working with the lid closed, you usually have it plugged into a docking station, which has a separate on/off switch for the laptop.

        My work laptop is connected to a 16:9 and a 16:10 display, mainly because I have an old 16:10 display and 16:9 was all I could get from work for the second display. I do use it with the lid open, it is the third display, for Teams and sits under the other 2 displays.

        My private PC is connected to the ultra-wide display.

  20. Avatar

    dstrauss

    I have been using mine for nearly six weeks, and I have to add a few observations (TL&DR - productivity workers run, don't walk, to buy this model):


    1. Best Buy frequently puts the top SKU (3:2 OLED (3000 x 2000), i7-1165, 16gb, 1tb model) on sale for $300 or more off on daily/weekly specials. I got mine (actually a pair) for $1299 each in early November - you CANNOT beat that value combination from any vendor anywhere (at least not that I've seen).
    2. Routinely get 7-8 hours battery time doing routine productivity tasks (MS 365, OneNote, Outlook, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, Chrome with 5-8 tabs).
    3. This replaced my late 2019 13" model, and subjectively is faster, graphics snappier and more responsive.
    4. Very little fan noise - often running silent.
    5. The OLED display is a dream - and videos are bright and vibrant. Once you experience 3:2 display you will NEVER go back to anything smaller, not even 16:10. Thank you Paul for continuing to press HP on this.
    6. NO MORE HOT BAGGING - HP touts they have sensors for bag placement, and I have never had mine emerge from my bag hot and running.
    7. For note takers out there - I find the included HP pen to have far too hard of a nib, slips on the glass, and can vector/skip at times. My Surface Pro pen is far better (nearly as good inking as my Apple Pencil 2 on an iPad Pro - that I have subsequently sold) and includes an eraser top which is very handy. Also, with the 3:2 display I have been able to put a Word doc and OneNote window on a single screen for note taking during a meeting.
    8. I've been using laptops since 1986 (Toshiba 1100 Plus), including various Apple devices, and this is the best keyboard ever. The separate HOME/END/PgUp/PgDn are aligned oddly in a row on the right side of the keyboard, BUT THEY ARE THERE - in other words no awkward Alt or Fn key combinations to invoke these movement keys for all you Word/Excel users out there. As Paul noted, EVERYTHING is now on the keyboard deck (power; fingerprint reader; camera and mic; etc) - productivity heaven.
    • Avatar

      MikeCerm

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I'd really recommend that anyone getting anything with an OLED screen for any kind of 9-to-5 work. OLED burn-in is still a thing, and whatever set of apps you use on a regular basis will burn into the after a few years, and you'll especially need to keep the taskbar hidden which, to me, negates one of the benefits of having a 3:2 screen. With the extra vertical height, having the taskbar there is not a big deal, but you'll probably be a little annoyed when the start button and all your icons are permanently etched into the display after like 3 months.

    • Avatar

      LocalPCGuy

      In reply to dstrauss:

      Your additional input is appreciated.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to dstrauss:

      The power button being in "the middle" of the keyboard is the only thing that bothers me. Yes, it is top row and "only" one key in from the edge, but I'd be worried about hitting it accidentally, when trying to delete something. I guess you get used to it, but that is the only small negative that I can see. Having it outside the keyboard tray or on the side, like my Spectre X360, seems more sensible.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        I hear you, but two thoughts on this... 1. It's best to leave DEL in the top right because of muscle memory. 2. If you just tap the power button normally, as you would with any other key, nothing happens. Looking at the Power Options control panel, it's set to Sleep when the button is pressed. So HP is doing something special with that button to make sure you can't casually or mistakenly put it to sleep.
    • Avatar

      Chris_Kez

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I was waiting to see your reply as soon as I saw the headline, Dale, and you did not disappoint! 👍🏼

    • Avatar

      Jorge Garcia

      In reply to dstrauss:

      All those things are great, but the 7-8 hours of battery life should make us all want to cry. Apple has shown the world that you can DOUBLE that number and still have UNBELIEVABLE performance... :'( The game has been irrevocably changed, whether we wish to accept or not.

  21. Avatar

    ronh

    I agree Paul.... For a laptop or tablet (Surface), 3:2 is awesome, and I will never get such a device without 3:2.


    For my desktop, a high-res widescreen works fine because the resolution is high enough to do 2 docs at one time.

  22. Avatar

    JE

    Ooooh yeah.. this is going to be my early 2021 gift to myself. Already in the process of offloading my 13” 16:9. As soon as I saw this was coming out in 3:2 I knew it was my destiny. I completely understand Paul’s enthusiasm. This should be a contender for his ‘perfect thing’ award.

  23. Avatar

    wright_is

    It looks like a great laptop. It is a shame it took so long and I'm no longer looking for a laptop.

    I still have the original Spectre x360 and it is still doing fine, but I use it maybe once a month. The rest of the time I work on my desktop PC.

    If HP had brought this out 18 months ago, I'd have upgraded to it in a flash. Now, it is nice, but isn't what I need.

    On the positive side, I did splash out on a Pi 400 last week, just waiting for delivery.

  24. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    It's about time, HP. Let's hope the 3:2 display trickles down throughout the ENTIRE lineup and doesn't just become a "high end" feature (you know it will be for YEARS, sadly). Now, on a related subject (to me) Android tablet developers just need to go back to making SENSIBLE 4:3 tablets again. Admittedly, 16:9 is desirable for "some" use cases (movie watching, motion picture watching and cinematic feature watching), but there are literally NO 4:3 Android tablet options left out there for the "rest of us", and there used to be. When you hold a 16:9 tablet vertical, the content feels pinched, when you hold it horizontal, it feels compressed the other way. What happened here? Did Apple threaten to sue everybody? - Apple can't possibly "own" 4:3 :-). ALL IPads are 4:3, which does suck in terms of lack of choice, but at least Apple shackles the consumer to the more sensible of the two ratios. I think Lenovo has adopted 16:10, which helps the situation a bit.

  25. Avatar

    czenisek

    Bought one for my wife. I'm quite jealous. It's a gorgeous machine.

  26. Avatar

    brettscoast

    wow what a beautiful piece of hardware, adding the 3:2 aspect ratio is a step in the right direction finally away from 16:9. Hopefully Dell implements this soon in their XPS line-up. The specs are impressive the bezels noticeably smaller/narrower on this model. Look forward to your full review on this one.

  27. Avatar

    jchampeau

    She's a beaut, Clark!

  28. Avatar

    longhorn

    The touchpad is gigantic and extremely off center if you look at the placement of G and H keys which are at the center of a keyboard. How do you type on this thing? Is palm detection that good?


  29. Avatar

    sgbassett

    I agree that 3:2 is best for a productivity laptop. I miss my original generation Surface Book. It has the all-to-common in-screen swollen battery problem, so I cannot safely use it anymore. Its replacement has been a rugged and serviceable Lenovo ThinkPad T490. But the T490 has a 16:9 screen and it just isn't the same.


    When I have time, I am going to attempt the delicate process of removing and replacing the in-screen battery in the Surface Book. It has a comparatively ancient Skylake Core i5 and just 8 GB of RAM, but I really loved using it. I can't help but think that the "hot bag" issue that plagued the original Surface Book had a role in the bulging battery problem and that Microsoft should take more responsibility for fixing it. But I've spent many hours on the phone with Microsoft support and the best they can offer is for me to pay $599 for replacement. No thanks.

  30. Avatar

    jaredthegeek

    I have had this model for a few weeks now with a 16 gigs and a 1TB optane ssd and have been really pleased with it. The fans run a lot but are not terrible.

  31. Avatar

    scottbass

    Enjoyed the review, I ended up ordering the blue 15t tigerlake with oled but still question whether I should have gone for this one, but I did get almost 600 off on cyber Monday so hopefully I will be happy with it. I have seen that the thermals are a little cooler with this chip so it may have slightly better performance, of course most reviews are for the 14t because of the redesign

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