The HP Spectre x360 15 is a Portable Productivity Monster

Posted on February 29, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

The HP Spectre x360 15 is a Portable Productivity Monster

One year ago this week, I was introduced to HP’s stunning Spectre x360, the most impressive convertible PC released in 2015. I just had one question: Would HP ever consider making a 15-inch version? The answer, happily and surprisingly, is yes. And it is awesome.

As with its 13.3-inch cousins, which of course now feature Intel’s newest Skylake-based chipsets, Windows 10, Bang & Olufsen audio, and an optional new Ash Silver with Copper color scheme, the HP Spectre x360 15 provides a premium experience, with high-quality materials, design, and construction.

And it does so at very reasonable pricing: $1150 for a version with a Core i5 processor, a 15.6-inch FHD (1080p) screen, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. Or you can go with a faster Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and a stunning UHD display for just $200 more. Put another way, the 15-inch versions of the Spectre x360 carry about a $150 premium over equivalent 13-inch versions. Again, very reasonable.

But here’s the kicker. While the Spectre x360 15 is of course bigger and heavier than its 13.3-inch cousins, it is no thicker: HP has somehow, magically, retained the same “z height” of the 13.3-inch version. That is, when the machines are closed, they are the same 15.9 mm height, as you can see here:

z-height

Of course, this is no Ultrabook, and the x360 15 is thicker and heavier (at 4 pounds) than the few 15-inch Ultrabooks out in the market. But its also a lot less expensive, and when you add in the versatility of this convertible design, the trade-offs start to make plenty of sense.

So what do you get with a larger x360?

For starters, you get a bigger 15.6-inch screen and more battery. As noted above, the screen can be had in 1080p and UHD variants. As usual, I opted for the 1080p version, which I find to be ideal for screen size. It is configured for 125 percent display scaling in Windows 10 by default, which looks wonderful. And it will deliver better battery life than the UHD version, of course, though my results have been mixed so far. (More on that below.)

face

You get more expansion, too. There are 3 USB 3.0 ports, all of which support sleep and charge. And a single USB-C port, though it should be noted that this one only supports data, so it can’t be used for charging the x360 or for driving a display. But that’s fine, because the x360 provides both full-sized HDMI and miniDisplayPort for video-out. There’s also a full-sized SD card slot, in case you were worried HP wasn’t using all that real estate.

right

(If you own or have seen the original x360, you may be interested to know that the side-mounted volume keys remain, but the side-mounted Windows button is gone. I suspect this is because of design changes in Windows 10; remember: The x360 first shipped with Windows 8.1.)

left

The 15.6-inch x360 also delivers richer and deeper sound thanks to the larger Bang & Olufsen speaker enclosures found to the sides of the keyboard. There are also two other speakers, below the keyboard, which kick in when the x360 is used in non-laptop modes (like Tent or Stand).

And while this won’t be unique to the 15.6-inch version of the Spectre x360 for long, this device comes with a most welcome change: The power cord is brand new, and much shorter than the ginormously long power cables HP has provided with recent PCs.

power-brick

While this newest addition to the Spectre x360 lineup delivers on the style and build quality we’ve come to expect, it also brings forward a few of the same issues. The device is curiously hard to open when the lid is closed, for example. And there’s no Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader or camera, so the simplest sign-in you get is a PIN. Oddly, there’s no Ash Silver and Copper option, though maybe that will happen in the near future. (And will add to the cost.)

kb-deck

My battery life tests haven’t been too encouraging: Despite HP advertising up to 11 hours of battery (9.25 with the UHD/Core i7 model), I’ve rarely seen over 7 hours of battery life in real-world usage. And on a cross country flight from Boston to Seattle, the x360 15 was barely able to hit the 5 hour mark in purely productivity usage, and didn’t quite last the entire flight. Brightness was set at 50 percent, but I wonder if the poor in-flight Wi-Fi played a role.

Still, consider the competition: Apple’s much-touted MacBook Pro 15 (2880 x 1800) is rated at up to 9 hours of battery life, sure. But those devices start at $1999. You get other advantages for that price—a quad core i7 rather than the dual-core chips used by HP, and discrete graphics in the $2500 model—but for most productivity workers, the HP just makes way more sense, even with less battery life.

rear

Indeed, choosing between the HP Spectre x360 and Microsoft’s Surface Book, which recently overcame its sleep apnea affliction thanks to a much-needed firmware update, would be difficult were it not for one salient fact: Like the MacBook Pro, Surface Book simply too expensive at $1500 and up.

Unless you have fairly unusual creative, gamer or power-user needs, the Spectre x360 15 hits all the right beats, and it’s an ideal machine for productivity users who prefer big screens. And I most certainly do prefer big screens. I’ll continue using the Spectre x360 15—and evaluating the battery life further—over my next few trips. But this PC really hits the right balance for me, and is a near-ideal productivity monster.

 

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