The convertible 2-in-1 laptop with a display that can switch from normal clamshell mode to tablet mode with tent and media modes in between has proven itself. They are no longer too big to be used as tablets or too weak to be used as clams. The form factor is embodied by the HP Specter x360 13 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
However, these machines are not the same, although they share some important components. HP and Dell went to great lengths to develop their own version of the Convertible 2-in-1 – but which is the better option?
Riley Young / Digital Trends
These are both attractive laptops, but they couldn't be more different. The XPS 13 2-in-1 is far more conservative, with silver aluminum on the outside of the case and a choice of Arctic White or Black interior. It's a more traditional wedge shape with the same swept-back rear case that has been adorned a number of Dell laptops recently.
The Specter x360 13 is much more extravagant. The angles in the gemstone cut can be seen at the edges and most clearly at each back corner. These are cut away at convenient angles for easy access to the power button and one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports. You can get the HP in the colors Nightfall Black, Poseidon Blue and Natural Silver.
Both laptops are also well built, with little bend in the lid, keyboard deck, and case bottom. The hinges instill confidence as they pivot through their 360 degree arcs and they hold your displays where you want them to be. In terms of size, the XPS 13 2-in-1 is slightly less wide, while the Specter x360 13 is shallower – but both are tiny thanks to sleek bezels that save space and look modern.
The HP advertises a screen-to-body ratio of 90%, which leads the convertible 2-in-1 class. The XPS 13 2-in-1, however, is slightly thinner at 0.51 "versus 0.67", and the laptops are almost equally light at only about 2.9 pounds.
Things start to differ when you look at the input options. Both laptops have touch displays (Natch) with active pens, and both support Windows 10 ink and handwriting. However, the XPS 13 2-in-1 uses a second generation magnetic levitation keyboard (maglev train), which is very flat, and it's a completely different feel that users will either love or hate.
The Specter x360 13's keyboard, on the other hand, is the same deep, spacious, and clicky version that we loved in the previous versions. Touch typists will likely prefer the HP keyboard. Both laptops have spacious touchpads with Microsoft Precision touchpad support. This means that they are equally precise and all support Windows 10 multi-touch gestures.
Finally, connectivity is also an area of differentiation. The XPS 13 2-in-1 has two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support and a micro SD card reader. That's it. The Specter x360 13 also offers two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 ports, but also has a USB-A 3.1 port for older peripherals (with a jaw-drop mechanism that fits into the tight space). It also offers a micro SD card reader.
Both laptops support Wi-Fi 6 for faster internet speeds along with Bluetooth 5, while the Specter x360 13 has support for LTE cellular data, which can now be used alongside Wi-Fi. Finally, HP has two privacy features: an electronic switch that turns off the webcam and removes an attack vector, and a dedicated button to turn off the microphone.
Riley Young / Digital Trends
The XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Specter x360 13 are both based on Intel's 10th generation Ice Lake CPUs. Accordingly, they offer similar performance that can be adjusted by utilities that make it possible to increase the speed with more fan noise or keep things quiet.
Both also feature Intel's improved Iris Plus graphics, which have the usual Intel built-in graphics for a better entry-level game and better support for creative apps that can use the GPU to speed up certain operations.
In short, both 2-in-1s offer great productivity performance that rivals most 13-inch laptops. There is little the typical productivity user wants to do that these laptops cannot offer.
Both Dell and HP offer some display options. The XPS 13 2-in-1 offers a more productive aspect ratio of 16:10 with Full HD or 4K IPS panels. The latter gives you very wide and accurate colors and good contrast for an LED display. The Specter x360 13, on the other hand, has three displays located at the extreme ends of the spectrum.
The low power consumption Full HD display is very good with solid colors and excellent brightness. What is known, however, is the low-power technology that offers the best battery life you can find in a 13-inch laptop. Users can also opt for the HP Sure View privacy screen which blocks view from the sides. Finally, HP also offers an AMOLED panel that offers superior brightness, colors, and contrasts and is simply the best display you can find in this class of machine.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 benefits from its 16:10 aspect ratio, but the HP's AMOLED display is just great. And if battery life is your primary concern, the HP low-power panel offers more than an all-day life.
These are small and lightweight laptops that probably don't make you feel like weighing down your backpack. Both offer great performance in thin, small, and light chassis.
Battery life is important, however, and HP has the advantage here. Choose the full HD, low-power display and we're talking hours of extra battery life when you're doing most of the productivity tasks. It's just phenomenal. On the other hand, if you want a 4K display, you will likely get better battery life with Dell's 4K IPS display than with HP's AMOLED display. So in the end, it all comes down to what matters most to you – display quality or battery life.
Ultimately, the HP offers the best battery life thanks to its energy-saving display.
Two excellent 2-in-1 games, but the Specter x360 13 wins
Theis a premium laptop starting at $ 1,100 for a Core i5-1035G4 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and a full HD display with low power consumption. You can spend up to $ 1,879 ($ 1,770 on sale) with a Core i7-1065G7U, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 4K AMOLED display.
Theis slightly more expensive and starts at $ 1,310 with a Core i5-1035G1, 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and a Full HD display. The most expensive configuration is $ 2,360 for a Core i7-1065G7, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 4K IPS display.
Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 is a great convertible 2-in-1 that looks great, runs fast, and has great display options. Simply more cohesive, the latest Specter x360 13 from HP offers a tough choice between great battery life and the best display you can buy on a 13-inch laptop. The HP wins a difficult battle and does it for less money.