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The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out.
Enlarge / The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out.

Samuel Axon

The HP Spectre 15 x360 is a good laptop, but it seemed we always found one or two things to quibble with.

With the 2017 model, we liked some key design decisions but felt let down by the performance and battery life. We were bigger fans of the 2018 update, which amped up performance while also improving battery life and making the 4K display standard. But we felt the trackpad was awfully small and didn’t like that the fingerprint reader and power button were separate.

Now we’re working with the 2019 model, and it brings a whole new design along with some faster internals and extras like clever port placement and a hardware webcam kill switch. At its heart, the 2019 HP Spectre 15 x360 still seeks to accomplish the same things as its predecessors. It’s an eye-catching (if a bit bulky) convertible packed with most of the features creatives and heavy consumers of media are looking for.

Do the 2019 updates solve some of the quibbles we had in prior years? After some recent testing, we can confidently say the HP Spectre 15 x360 remains a good laptop—but its unusual design could be alienating if you’re just looking for something simple.

Specifications

Specs at a glance: HP Spectre x360 15 2018
Model Worst Best As Reviewed
Screen 15.6-inch 3840 × 2160 WLED touchscreen
OS Windows 10 Home 64
CPU Intel Core i7-8750H (6-core, 2.2GHz up to 4.1GHz)
RAM 8GB DDR4 RAM 16GB DDR4 RAM 16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD 2TB PCIe SSD 1TB PCIe SSD
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 630 + Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB
Networking Intel 802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 combo (MU-MIMO supported)
Ports 1 USB-C 3.1, 1 USB-A 3.1, 1 HDMI 2.0, 1 Thunderbolt 3, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD slot
Size 0.76 × 14,22 × 9.84 inches
Weight 4.8 pounds
Battery 6-cell, 84 Wh lithium-ion battery
Warranty 1 year; optional 2- and 3-year protection plans
Price $1,499 $2,419 $2,049
Other perks Fingerprint reader, webcam with privacy switch, active pen

The 2019 HP Spectre 15 x360 is a notable bump over its predecessor when it comes to specs. All configurations now include a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics. That’s up from four cores in the previous model.

They also include Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050Ti discrete GPU with 4GB of video memory, which is good enough to edit 4K video and play modern computer games. As stated previously, HP pitches this laptop as an option for creatives, but this isn’t a workstation GPU. That distinction would only matter to a select few professionals, though.

Last year, HP made the 4K 15.6-inch WLED touchscreen display standard. That returns here. The screen doesn’t appear to have changed, and it’s still a good display, albeit a bit dark—we measured the brightness at around 300 nits, which is much lower than you’ll see on competing laptops like the Dell XPS 15. That’s a perplexing letdown for a laptop made for media creation and consumption. Nevertheless, the display is sharp and the colors look good.

HP doesn’t make any claims about P3 or sRGB colorspace coverage—but again, this isn’t a professional workstation, it’s a personal machine. For that, the screen is good enough. We’ve just seen better.

The laptop comes with 8GB DDR4 RAM standard, and you can upgrade to 16GB. Either should be sufficient for most use cases for this laptop. There’s a wide range of storage options, and given that it’s solid state, this is the configuration option that can ramp up the price. Configurations start at 256GB but go as high as 2TB. Our review unit had 1TB, which, while pricy, seems appropriate for a media laptop these days—but most people could likely get by with the 512GB option.

Other specs of note include 802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5, a front-facing camera, a fingerprint reader, and a six-cell, 84Wh lithium-ion battery.

Design

The first thing you’ll notice when unboxing this laptop is its unusual aesthetic. HP calls it a “gem-cut” look—the angles on the edges resemble the clean, geometric corners and sides of a gemstone, supposedly. It has a dramatic effect. It looks “polygonal,” for lack of a better term. If you want something eye-catching, it does that well.

The combination of the “gem-cut” appearance and the shiny, attention-grabbing copper or brass accents do give it a certain Vegas-style, over-the-top vibe that won’t work for everyone. I find it a bit much, to be frank, but that’s purely personal. Many other people are going to love it. I just liked the old look a little better, as I appreciated the accents in last year’s models very much and didn’t feel more was needed to get the point across.

That said, the materials don’t feel cheap at all, which helps. If you’re the sort to want your computer to look and feel “premium,” this convertible delivers.

The backlit keyboard is similar to last year’s model, and it’s still solid. It’s a chiclet keyboard with 1.5mm of key travel. It has a full numeric keypad, which will appeal to some users but not to others. I feel that squeezing numpads into 15-inch laptops makes the keyboards cramped. But then, I rarely if ever use the numpad even if I have it. For other people, a numpad is essential, and it’s clearly a welcome inclusion in that scenario.

The trackpad is similar to the one in 2018’s model, and it’s fine. It still feels a little cramped to me—that was one of Ars’ Valentina Palladino’s main criticisms last year—but not everyone likes giant trackpads.

With dimensions of 0.76×14,22×9.84 inches and a weight of 4.8 pounds, this convertible is a bit too bulky to comfortably use as a tablet. Most 15-inch convertibles have this problem, though. I also feel the bezels are rather large—primarily the bottom. HP says they’re 11.9-percent narrower overall than last year’s Spectre 15 x360, though.

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