The Morning After: HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) Second Impressions

Posted on February 19, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 26 Comments

The Morning After: HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) Second Impressions

A full day of use and a few more notes about the new 15-inch HP Spectre x360, which has already exceeded my expectations in a few key areas.

Speaking of which, the parallels between this portable PC and the new HP ENVY Curved All-in-One, a desktop-based system, are quite interesting. In both cases, HP has taken a well-designed PC and upgraded it in ways that both useful and surprising.

But the Spectre x360, in 15-inch form, hits a unique chord. From its gorgeous color scheme and styling to its capacious 4K/UHD IPS display, the new Spectre cuts a striking figure. But this is no supermodel. The HP Spectre x360 15 also has a newly-found brawn to back up its beauty.

That is, it is notable to me that this near-workstation device is only outfitted with a high-end Intel Core i7 processor, albeit a dual-core chip. It can be had with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB to 1 TB of fast PCIe-based SSD storage. HP does not offer a compromised version of this product. You’re getting quality, no matter which model you choose.

But the best change in this product is the keyboard. As I noted yesterday, I had been using last year’s Spectre x360 15 for the 10 days before the new version arrived for review. And the keyboard on that earlier device, like that of all Spectre x360 versions, is excellent.

This one is even better. I believe that the keyboard on the new Spectre x360 15 is, in fact, the best portable PC keyboard I have ever used. Now, I will need to keep using it, of course. And I will need to switch back and forth between this device, its predecessor, the recent 13-inch Spectre x360, and, most crucially Microsoft’s Surface Book—the reigning champ for portable PC keyboards—to be sure. But from the moment my hands started flying away on this wonderful keyboard, I think I knew. It’s just so immediately obvious.

The Bang & Olufsen speakers are likewise excellent. And while HP has actually gone from a four speaker design in the 2016 model to just two speakers here, I find the sound, overall, to be louder, fuller, and more impressive. HP credits a new design with discrete amplifiers for this improvement. Whatever the reason, if you’re ever stuck in a hotel room on a business trip and just want to enjoy a Star Wars movie for the upteenth time, you’ll be blown away by the sound.

Yesterday, I mentioning gaming. Since then, I’ve tried two Windows Store titles, Forza 3 Horizon and Batman: The Telltale Series, and the short version is that gaming is doable, albeit with lower-quality settings than you may be used to on a real gaming PC. But work it does.

So while the Batman game stutter-steps on a pre-Performance Base Surface Book, even in the introductory bits, the HP performs smoothly, with no hitching at all. Yes, I’ll need to examine the settings on each to see how they really compare. But it looks great, plays great, and the sound, again, is amazing.

Forza is perhaps the better test. After having GeForce Experience optimize the game for this system, I was told that it would run with “low” settings. This means it plays at 1360 x 768 at 30 fps, and with most advanced video settings either off at a low setting. But my god, does this game look pretty great even at these lowly settings, and the sound, again, is amazing.

OK, the Spectre x360 15 is not a game machine. But there is a much bigger audience of people who require a PC to be truly versatile and handle a variety of workloads, one of which is the occasional game. This system will do nicely, thank you very much. (And, I suspect, will do even better after the Windows 10 Creators Update hits, thanks to Game Mode.)

(And God help me, twitchy controls aside, I may be starting to like Forza 3 Horizon.)

There is a LOT of extraneous software on this device, HP and otherwise. I removed the obvious stuff, but there is a big list of HP someting something on there that I need to work through.

One final note for this early peek: As you may know, I’m very sensitive to noise, especially the fan noise that dogs so many PCs. The HP Spectre x360 15 (2017) has acquitted itself well in this regard, with silent operation for the most part. Yes, the fans crank up when you’re playing games, but that’s expected. Otherwise, it’s been very quiet.

More soon. But my quest for a new road companion may be settled.

 

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