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)

9/10

Wired

Performance well above expectations at this price level. Incredible detail packed into a superbright display. Rock solid stability.

Tired

Keyboard could be beefed up. Top of screen gets very hot under load.

How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Sad, really
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10Solid with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless
  • 10/10Metaphysical perfection

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.

Hydra_CoreSet_inline-1.jpgcourtesy of HP

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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