In the high-walled world of 2-in-1 Windows tablets, it has been Microsoft’s Surface Pro that has caught the eye of consumers, critics, and Wall Street. The Surface Pro is the device against which every other 2-in-1 device maker compares its wares – and some, like HP’s latest version of the Spectre x2, are beating Microsoft at its own game by offering some compelling improvements over what was already a winning formula.
HP Spectre x2 (2017)
Performance well above expectations at this price level. Incredible detail packed into a superbright display. Rock solid stability.
Keyboard could be beefed up. Top of screen gets very hot under load.
Nothing drastic has changed between the 2017 Spectre x2 and the previous version of the product, which arrived in early 2016. Like the Surface Pro, it is foremost a tablet by design. The keyboard is magnetically attached and pulls off easily should you want to lighten the 2.4-pound load by three-quarters of a pound. Since there’s no hinge system (which works to great comic effect when you first accidentally flip it open, laptop style), propping up the screen means extending a kickstand which wraps around the backside of the screen. This combo is unworkable in your lap, but works just fine on a tabletop. You can also bend the hinge back as far as 165 degrees so the screen is only slightly elevated, like a drafting table, should you want to get up close and personal with the included pen.
Overall weight has dropped a few ounces since 2016, but just a fraction of a millimeter has been shaved off of the still 8mm-thick width (14mm with the keyboard attached). HP says battery life has been improved by 15 percent (it’s now a bit over four hours, but I don’t have a benchmark for the last version), and the (oddly-sized) 3000 x 2000-pixel screen is brighter (which is a claim that holds up well), with better (though still not great) color representation.
While specs vary based on configuration—these start at $1,150 and head just shy of $2,000—my midrange test unit features a 2.4GHz Core i7, 8 gigs of RAM, and a 360-gigabyte SSD and carries a $1,300 price tag. That compares quite well to a similarly-equipped Surface Pro at $1,599, and that price doesn’t even include a keyboard.
In testing, performance was surprisingly high given the small stature of the Spectre x2. On most tests, it even outperformed many high-end laptops, not to mention other 2-in-1s that have hit the market of late. Notably, the Spectre x2 handily outclassed HP’s own Spectre x360 laptop, a machine that costs $300 more.
Connectivity is limited to two USB-C ports, one of which doubles as the power input. While HP includes a USB-C to standard USB dongle, most users will likely need to upgrade to a multi-port hub for extended use. Still, that’s miles ahead of the Surface Pro, which features just one standard USB port, and has no USB-C at all.
As for actually using the Spectre x2, it worked like a dream throughout my testing. I had no noteworthy hiccups or headaches. Aside from a somewhat slow SSD, working with the machine is lovely whether you’re in tablet mode or using it as a laptop. That said, a 12.3-inch LCD does limit the keyboard’s size (and your typing speed), and I’d love to have a bit more travel on the keys, but otherwise it works beautifully.
Crow about the Surface Pro all you want: Today the Spectre x2 is the 2-in-1 to beat—across the board in performance, usability, and price.
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