While Lenovo and Dell have announced tablet-based 2-in-1 PCs that are, shall we say, suspiciously similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices, HP has chosen a different tack. Yes, the HP Spectre x2 is a “tablet-first” 2-in-1 PC with a kickstand and a clip-on keyboard cover. But unlike its competitors, HP has also improved on what is clearly a Microsoft-inspired design. And the result is a set of improvements that even the new Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book do not deliver.
And what is that, you ask?
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A real hardware keyboard. To me the biggest deal is that the HP Spectre x2 is a Surface Pro-class device–e.g. a 12-inch-ish tablet–with a real hardware keyboard. Microsoft offers this in the larger Surface Book, but not in Surface Pro 4, and Lenovo provides an interesting middle-ground with its recently announced Miix 700. But the x2 has a real hardware (aluminum) backlit keyboard, one that is modeled on HP’s excellent premium portables, and it still provides that neat fabric bottom cover. Key travel is a full 1.5 mm (compared to 1.3 mm on the new and improved Surface Pro 4 Type Cover).
Fanless. While the Surface Pro 4 is allegedly much quieter than its noisy predecessor, the HP Spectre x2 is completely fanless, thanks to its use of Intel Core-m processors. (The base-level SP4 uses Core-m as well and is fanless.)
Built-in LTE. It’s unclear why Microsoft still doesn’t ship a Surface Pro (or Book) device with built-in LTE capabilities, but they don’t: Only the lowly Surface 3 gets such a feature. But the HP Spectre x2 does offer Verizon LTE/4G capabilities, out of the box.
USB-C. Still absent from any Surface device, USB-C pops up on the HP Spectre x2. Actually, it pops up twice, as the device features two USB-C ports for charging, and external display and storage support. It also comes with an adapter so you can access normal USB 2/3 peripherals too.
Beyond these advantages, the HP Spectre x2 offers other unique features, like its interesting U-shaped kickstand, which offers a wide range of positions (like Surface Pro), Bang & Olufen stereo speakers in the tablet and the keyboard, and Active Pen compatibility.
Beyond that, it is pretty much as you’d expect: Intel Core-m processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB to 512 GB of SSD storage, a Full HD display, and up to 12 hours of battery life. The rear-facing webcam is Windows Hello compatible, but the front one is not, a weirdness caused by Microsoft’s late heads-up to PC makers about this functionality.
If you’re considering a Surface Pro 4 (or Pro 3 for that matter), you should look into the HP Spectre x2 as well. It will start shipping from HP.com and Best Buy starting on November 8 and will cost $799 and up. But that price includes the keyboard, so this is a much better value than Surface Pro.