Monday, 21 December 2015 16:16

HP’s Spectre Pro x360 will bend over backwards (review)

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Its 360° hinge allowing for clam shell, tent, tablet and presentation mode is just the start of this interesting business class or premium consumer notebook.

There are eight in the Business (PRO) range based on the 5th generation Intel Core Broadwell processor. Prices range from $1703 (i5-5200U/4GB/128GB model to $2420 (i7-5600U/8/256GB).

There are there three in the Home range (not called PRO) - excluding the special brown/bronze Star Wars version that is long gone. These are based the 6 th generation Intel Core Skylake. Prices range from $1599 (i5-6200U/4/128GB) to $1899 (i5-6200U/8/256GB) for the Home.

Functionally there is little difference between Broadwell and Skylake – the latter may give a little longer battery life.

All have similar specifications: A 13.3” HD 1920x1080p touch screen; Wi-Fi AC dual band; Bluetooth 4.0; Dual speakers/dual echo cancelling mics/web cam; 56 Whr Li-ion battery, Intel HD Graphics, and packed into a 1.45Kg, 32.5 x 21.8 x 1.54cm very slim chassis. The difference comes down to processor speed and VPro option; RAM and SSD storage.

Go to HP and search on Spectre x360.

Out of the Box

It looks like it was milled from a single piece of Aluminium – and it was. It is very well built. It has a slight wedge shape – thinner at the front and slightly thicker at the rear.

It uses a smaller power plug (those that remember the old huge power plugs will know what I am saying), and has all manner of connectivity – full HDMI, a mini-Display Port, 3 x USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot. Missing – for want of a better word – is an Ethernet port (get a dongle), a Kensington lock slot and of course a DVD-ROM (as it could not possibly fit it in that svelte body).

You buy this for its flexibility – the only thing even close is the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 that cost about the same but use the M-5Y71 low voltage processor – same as the ones in a MacBook. There is nothing wrong with this except the raw horse power is far less.

Processor/RAM/SSD

I suspect the PRO version has Broadwell as that was the only CPU to offer VPro for maximum system security. The Home version does not need that and this is why it comes with the later Skylake.

I tested an 8GB version and was totally pleased but the 4GB version gets strong support from other review sites- it has plenty for the average user.

SSD drives are faster – very much so – and it’s a matter of what size you need – not a matter of what size you want! Most drives seldom use their full capacity and with the cloud, external USB hard disks and flash drives you are better off going smaller than larger.

Battery

I got six hours’ hard use which is good for an i7 and 8GB RAM. I suspect it would do better in video playback. The battery is not user removable but relatively easy for an HP trained tech to replace it. After use all day the i7 is barely warm – it is very quiet.

Screen/speakers/mic/keyboard

The HD, 1920x1080, IPS, LED screen is designed for the purpose – sure you could get 2HD or even 4HD but unless you have a specific purpose in mind movies, presentations and more look great on HD. Movies played in vibrant colour and the sound was clear and loud.

I hooked up Dual 24” Benq HD screens and while it did drive them at full res – plus the notebook screen – I had issues with powersaving and apps moving from the Benq’s to the notebook screen. I suspect this is a setup issue but it was easier to use a USB3.0 Kensington dock for flawless use.

Touch is precise, and the touch pad is huge (4”) and responsive. However there is such a thing as too big and I found I had to ‘go back’ to the left corner for a left click – again no issue.

The keyboard is island style (separate keys with respectable gaps between them) and has reasonable travel. It is a delight to use although I still prefer an old Steel Series mechanical keyboard for ‘War and Peace’. Backlighting is via the F5 key – it is switchable on or off. I could not find any brightness adjustment – no issues.

The dual echo-cancelling mics are great for Skype. The web cam is HD, WVGA and worked well for Skype.

Windows – which one

It can It can come with Windows 10, 64-bit, Home or Pro – or be downgraded to 7 or 8.1. Home is more than adequate – the only reason you need Pro is to join corporate networks.

Opinion

As a clamshell laptop its great It is unlikely that you will use it often as a tablet or tent etc., but it is nice to have. It is perhaps the best made, most attractive looking HP notebook ever.

I have mentioned it can be configured as you want it. I think the i5/8GB/256GB will be the sweet spot.

I also saw that you could save buying on line or at your local computer store – shop around once you know the exact model.

Yes, it gets 9 out of 10 – a great score for a great looking, well built, quality, notebook.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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