Before we provide a list of hardware inside this laptop, we really need to explain why this notebook performs differently than most Windows laptops we’ve seen (and certainly different than previous HP laptops).
An essential factor in what makes the HP Spectre x360 different from previous Windows-based MacBook competitors is that HP and Microsoft worked closer than ever before during the development process of this notebook. While this is an “HP” product, you would be forgiven for thinking this laptop was co-developed by HP and Microsoft to deliver the best possible user experience with Windows 8.1.
HP and Microsoft engineers worked side by side at every stage from chassis design and hardware selection to driver optimization and final OS and software image installation. The result: This Windows laptop doesn’t just run smoothly, it has essentially been “performance tuned” like a Formula One race car to make every operation happen as quickly as possible down to the last fraction of a second.
Full Windows start up (including the time for BIOS POST and the time needed for the Windows desktop to fully load) took an average of 8 seconds or less after we pressed the power button on our review unit. Wake from sleep mode took between 1 and 4 seconds depending on whether the x360 was in sleep mode with the screen lid closed or already open. When we pressed the “Shut down” button on the Windows desktop the x360 shut down Windows and completely powered off in just 4 seconds.
The reality is that most of this speed comes from expertly optimized drivers for everything from the CPU and Wi-Fi card to the screen orientation sensors and the USB ports. That said, the hardware isn’t lacking for much either. Our review unit of the Spectre x360 is the “Best Buy exclusive” configuration priced at $999.99 that comes with the Intel Core i5-5200U dual-core processor running at a base speed of 2.2 GHz along with 8 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 256 GB M.2 SATA 6.0Gb/s SSD.
HP also offers a less expensive configuration of the Spectre x360 starting at $899.99 with the same Broadwell processor, smaller 128 GB SSD and just 4 GB of RAM. On the other hand, you can step up to a Core i7 Broadwell processor for $1,149.99 or add the Core i7, Quad HD display and a 512 GB SSD for $1,399.99.
Of course, we’re not surprised those prices line up perfectly against the various configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Air. In fact, a MacBook Air with slower Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD is priced at a less reasonable $1,749.
The integrated Intel graphics are the only weak spot in the x360’s performance. While the Intel HD Graphics 5500 is enough for general computing, streaming HD video, and connecting to multiple monitors or projectors, this integrated GPU isn’t enough for visually intense traditional PC games (i.e., Battlefield 4 or Dragon Age: Inquisition). If your idea of gaming is Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga or World of Warcraft on low detail settings then the Intel graphics will be more than enough.
- Genuine Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
- 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen IPS display
- Intel Core i5-5200U dual-core processor (2.2 GHz base frequency, 3 MB Cache, 2.7 GHz max Turbo frequency, 15 W TDP configurable down to 7.5 W TDP)
- 8 GB LPDDR3 RAM
- 256 GB M.2 SSD (Samsung PM851 – MZNTE256HMHP – NAND Flash)
- Integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500 with Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.0
- Stereo speakers
- HD webcam with integrated stereo microphones
- Internal 56 Wh Li-ion polymer battery
- 45 W travel AC adapter
- Dimensions: 12.7 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches
- Weight: 3.3 lbs
- MSRP: $999.99
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
Heat and Noise
The HP Spectre x360 remains cool to the touch even after hours of continuous use. The heat generated by the Intel Core i5 processor and graphics is vented out of the exhaust on the left side of the notebook and you won’t notice the heat as long as you keep your body away from that vent.
The cooling fan doesn’t seem to run at all unless the CPU and GPU are pushed to maximum speed by an application or game. The fan never turned on while I was editing a library of high-resolution images with Photoshop in Adobe Creative Cloud and I barely noticed the fan turning on a few times while watching 1080p video. The fan noise only became “obvious” when we ran the benchmarking software which stresses the CPU and GPU to their limit.
As previously mentioned, the x360 does an amazing job with battery life thanks in large part to the amount of “tuning” done by HP and Microsoft engineers and developers. Microsoft and HP both claim they not only made changes to the hardware but revised many drivers multiple times simply to save a fraction of a watt or a few watt-seconds of battery life during various tasks. That might seem excessive, but all that power efficiency means the x360 consumes no more than absolutely necessary from the battery at any given second.
Of course, it’s not all a matter of power efficiency. The internal battery itself is a massive 56 Wh power source (compared to a 54 Wh battery inside the 13-inch MacBook Air or the 44 Wh battery inside the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro). It’s no wonder that the HP Spectre x360 takes the top spot for battery life among notebooks in its class based on our extremely aggressive Powermark tests.
While the Powermark battery benchmark will not run on Mac OS X, we’ll point out that we average between 8 and 12 hours of “real-world” battery life on the 13-inch MacBook Air depending on use. We have only been able to run two “real-world” battery life tests with the HP Spectre x360 in the short time we’ve had it, but it managed a similar real-life run of between 8 and 13 hours depending on use. We will update these results if additional testing shows the first two tests weren’t accurate.
As of this writing, the HP Spectre x360 is available from HP starting at $899.99.