HP Spectre x360 15 2020 Overview: Much less Measurement, Extra Energy

"The Specter x360 15 offers a lot of performance and a nice display in a smaller case."

  • Tiny for a 15-inch 2-in-1

  • Spectacular appearance

  • Excellent keyboard

  • Solid productivity performance

  • Excellent OLED display

  • Modest performance in creative apps

  • Bad battery life

The 2020 HP Specter x360 15 is a 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 that is considerably smaller than its predecessor, but still offers the option for reasonably powerful components and a beautiful OLED display.

I have the high-end model with a sixth generation Intel Core i7-10750H CPU with six cores, 16 GB RAM, a 1 TB solid-state drive (SSD), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max Q and a 4K OLED tested display. This configuration is priced at $ 1,850 at HP.com and is intended for creatives who want the power of a 15-inch laptop with the flexibility of a 2-in-1. Let's dive in.

design

HP put the Specter x360 13 under a scalpel in 2019 to shed the fat and get a really small 2-in-1 ratio with a screen-to-body ratio of 90% thanks to tiny bezels. Earlier this year, HP did the same with the 2019 Specter x360 15, resulting in a much less unwieldy 15-inch 2-in-1. It also has a screen-to-body ratio of 90% and is significantly smaller than its predecessor. It looks a lot more modern and retains the gem aesthetic that makes the Specter line one of the best looking and most distinctive you will find.

I will find that the size difference is not as noticeable as it is on the 13-inch model. While this laptop feels tiny when in use, the 15-inch Specter x360 only feels smaller. HP says they built a 15-inch 2-in-1 into the chassis of a 14-inch model, but that seems a bit difficult to me – especially since 14-inch laptops are falling off too. I like the size of the Specter x360 15, but it still feels like I'm using a bigger laptop.

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Part of it has to do with thickness. It's 0.79 inches thick, more than the 0.75 inches of the 2019 model, and it doesn't match the 0.71 inches of the Dell XPS 15, which feels a bit thinner. The HP, however, weighs 4.24 pounds, which is less than the XPS 15's 4.5 pounds and much less than last year's 4.81 pounds. Of course, any laptop over four pounds will come across as a large laptop. I emphasize this point to make sure no one thinks they are getting a thin and light 2-in-1 device that is convenient to use as a tablet – unless it rests on a surface.

One thing that hasn't changed is the build quality of the Specter x360 15. It's made from machined aluminum, as before, and HP makes sure that it exudes quality. The Specter x360 15 has no bend, bend, or twist in the lid, keyboard deck, or case. It's as solid as a laptop. The hinge is a bit stiff, which means you open it with two hands, but it stays in place in whatever mode you choose – clamshell, tent, medium, or tablet.

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Connectivity also remains a strength. The Specter x360 15 has a competent mix of old and modern connections, so dongles are reduced to a minimum. On the left is a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and a 3.5mm audio jack. On the right side are two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a microSD card reader (though a full-size reader would have been preferable for the creative types). As with previous designs, one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports is in a corner notch on the case so you can connect it without a cable in the way. It remains a nice gesture. The wireless connection is via Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

performance

The Specter x360 15 is another laptop targeting creatives. Still, it doesn't emphasize as much creative power as it does on some other 15-inch laptops. The Dell XPS 15 and HP Envy 15 offer faster CPUs (and GPUs in the case of the Envy 15), more RAM, and more storage. In essence, the Specter x360 15 is a fast 2-in-1 device, but it's not in the same class as today's fastest 15-inch clamshell laptops.

I'd like to directly compare the Specter x360 15 to the XPS 15, but we tested the Dell with a Core i7-10875H, which means it benefits from two additional cores and four additional threads. The XPS 15 had the same Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti, although the HP uses the Max-Q version. The Envy 15 is a more direct comparison in terms of its CPU, which is identical to the Specter, but our review unit was equipped with an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q.

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Looking at Geekbench 5, the Specter x360 15 scored 1,237 in single-core tests and 5,013 points in multi-core tests. That's well behind the Envy 15's 1,274 and 5,542 points, and in fact, most of the laptops we tested with the same CPU are faster than this HP.

The same applies to our handbrake test, in which a 420 MB video is converted to H.265. Here the Specter x360 15 took a little over 2.5 minutes. The Envy 15 finished the test 21 seconds faster and 40 seconds less in performance mode with the HP Command Center utility. Note that this utility had virtually no effect on the Specter x360 15's performance as I saw in the previous version. The Specter x360 15 didn't perform badly here, but it doesn't quite match the standard of other laptops with similar equipment.

The Specter x360 15 achieved 469 points in the single-core test and 2523 points in the multi-core test in Cinebench 20. Here, the Specter was almost the same as the Envy 15, which scored 436 and 2593 (487 and 2830 in performance mode). That was a surprising result and could have something to do with the extensive work HP has done to improve the thermal design of the Specter x360 15.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Finally, I also ran our Premiere Pro test, which rendered a two-minute 4K video. In this test, which uses the GPU to speed up the process, the Dell XPS 15 took five minutes to complete compared to the Specter x360 15's nearly 7.5 minutes – those extra cores are important. The Envy 15 was done in under four minutes in performance mode and showed the performance of the RTX 2060.

Overall, the Specter x360 15 is a fast productivity laptop that can do creative work on the side. It is not as fast as its 15-inch competitors for demanding creative tasks like editing photos and videos. However, it's still a capable machine if you're not looking for the absolute best performance for creative applications.

Play

Of course, with a GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q on board, you'll be tempted to play with the Specter x360 15. I've gone through our series of gaming tests, and in general, it's a step or two behind other laptops with the same GPU.

For example, the Specter x360 15 achieved 2,963 points in the 3DMark Time Spy test. Compared to the Dell XPS 15 at 3860 (although the Dell may have the standard GPU, this is not always clear). The Microsoft Surface Book 3 13 achieved 3,214 points in the test with the GTX 1650 Max-Q from Nvidia.

When playing real world games, the Specter x360 15 managed 89 frames per second (FPS) in Civilization VI at 1080p and medium graphics, compared to the XPS 15 at 114 FPS and the Surface Book 3 13 at 68 FPS. The Specter kept 60 fps in Ultra graphics compared to the XPS 15 at 64 and the Surface Book 3 at 41. In 4K, the Specter x360 15 reached a high 55 fps in medium graphics and 30 fps in Ultra, with the XPS 15 at 51 fps and the Surface Book 3 reached 30 fps.

Ultimately, the Specter x360 can play 15 modern titles with 1080p and medium to high graphic details at reasonable frame rates.

In Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the Specter x360 reached 15 playable 40 fps at 1080p and high graphics, but dropped to 25 fps at ultra high. The XPS 15 was at 47 fps and 26 fps. None of the laptops in this title are fast enough for 4K.

When switching to Fortnite, the Specter x360 15 ran at 67 fps with 1080p and high graphics and 47 fps with the epic graphics preset. This is comparable to the XPS 15 with 74 fps and 60 fps and the Surface Book 3 with 55 fps and 43 fps. Here, too, the laptops fell significantly at 4K.

In Battlefield V, the Specter x360 15 finally managed 55 fps in 1080p and medium graphics and 44 fps in Ultra. The XPS 15 hit 60 fps and 50 fps, and the Surface Book 3 hit 41 fps and 32 fps. As before, 4K was out of reach.

Ultimately, the Specter x360 can play 15 modern titles at 1080p and medium to high graphic detail at reasonable frame rates, which is not bad for a 2-in-1 device. Overall performance on the Dell XPS 15 is poor, but the Specter x360 15 generally outperforms the Surface Book 3 in real world games.

display

HP offers the Specter x360 15 with three display options, all 4K. The entry-level model is the same 340 nit display that they have been providing on the 2-in-1 device for a few cycles. The middle option is a new 400 nit panel with low power consumption (2 watts). The premium option is a 400 nit OLED display. I checked the latter, and like all of the OLED displays we tested, it was largely excellent.

First, according to my colorimeter, it was very bright at 426 nits and exceeded HP's specifications. That's not as bright as the Dell XPS 15's excellent 442 nits IPS display, but HP uses an anti-glare coating so the Specter x360 15 makes the most of its brightness. Next, as always with OLED, the contrast of 426.180: 1 compared to the XPS 15 (excellent for an LCD screen) 1480: 1 was unfamiliar. The difference isn't as dramatic as it seems on paper, but the OLED display offers significantly better black tones and punchy contrast.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The color gamut of the Specter x360 15 was very wide with 98% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB and was close to 100% of both color gamuts of the XPS 15. However, the HP fell slightly behind in color accuracy and achieved DeltaE 1.21 (the human eye can see in the Generally not perceive an error below DeltaE 1.0), while the XPS 15 achieved a value of 0.65. Both laptops are great for creatives who crave broad and accurate colors, but the Dell is a bit better.

In real use, the OLED display is a dream. Colors pop, but they're not unnatural. Black text on a white background is crystal clear, and movies are a great experience. However, I will find that it does not support Netflix HDR as well as the Dolby Vision enabled Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2, which also has an OLED display. This laptop is the king of Netflix HDR.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Audio was incredibly loud and undistorted at full volume. The mids and highs were excellent and there was even a hint of bass. The Specter x360 15 benefits from its two upward and two downward facing speakers as well as the Bang & Olufsen tuning. You don't have to use headphones or external speakers to binge Netflix, although, as with all but the superior speakers found on MacBooks, you'll want to plug something in for the best musical performance.

Keyboard and touchpad

If you've read any of my other reviews, it should come as no surprise that the Specter x360 has one of my favorite keyboards. I love the spring travel, the size and the distance between the keycaps and the light mechanism, which still ensures a precise floor effect. It's the same keyboard on all Specter models, and HP has apparently started adding it to the Envy lineup too. The only keyboard that I like better is Apple's new Magic keyboard on the latest MacBooks.

The touchpad isn't that great, mostly because of its small size. Dell managed to fit a bigger touchpad onto the latest XPS 15, and I'd love to see HP do the same. Dell benefited from the extra keyboard deck space thanks to its 3: 2 aspect ratio, but I still think HP could manage to fit into a larger version. The Specter x360's touchpad works well, however, as after so many years of using Synaptic drivers, it's a Microsoft Precision touchpad and supports Windows 10 multitouch gestures with aplomb.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The touch display is precise as always. Windows 10 laptop manufacturers have this one slap. The 2020 Specter x360 15 also benefits from a welcome anti-fingerprint coating. I've found it stays cleaner than most other touch displays. The display supports HP's active pens, which provide 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt assistance. However, on this model, this is an option and I haven't received one to test.

Finally, Windows 10 Hello is provided by both an infrared camera for facial recognition and a fingerprint scanner. I prefer the latter, but both worked quickly and accurately during my tests. Further security is provided by a physical switch that electronically removes the webcam from the system, making it invisible to hackers, and a special keyboard key to turn off the microphone.

Battery life

One stat that has suffered from the downsizing of the Specter x360 15 is the battery capacity, which has dropped from 82 watt hours to 73 watt hours. Throw in some powerful components and a very power hungry OLED display, and battery life expectations should be tempered from the get-go.

First, the Specter X360 15 lasted little more than two and a half hours in our demanding Basemark web benchmark test, which was 42 minutes less than the XPS 15, and one of the worse results we've seen from a productivity laptop. If you plan to do CPU-intensive or GPU-intensive work with this 2-in-1, you should carry your power supply with you.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

In our web browser test, the Specter x360 15 shut down after just six hours. That's an hour less than the XPS 15 and again a bad score for a productivity laptop. This test gives an idea of ​​how long the laptop will run for less demanding tasks, and it is unlikely to last a day even just browsing the web and running Office apps.

After all, the Specter x360 15 lasted just under six and a half hours in our video test, which grinds a Full HD Avengers trailer until the battery is empty. The XPS 15 lasted an hour longer, and that score is again lower than what we're used to from productivity machines.

If you want the form factor of the Specter x360 15 with better battery life, go for the version with a quad-core Intel Core i7-10510U 10th generation CPU and a 4K display with low power consumption. Each of these tests get you hours longer, but of course you give up on the power and great OLED. As it is, our test device is not a good choice for street fighters.

Our opinion

The HP Specter x360 15 is smaller and more powerful. It's the most powerful 2-in-1 you can buy, and while it can't quite compete with the fastest 15-inch laptops for creative professionals, it can meet the needs of everyone but the most demanding of users. HP has succeeded in developing a 2-in-1 system that is characterized by productivity tasks and also offers some creative possibilities.

The laptop is well built, beautiful, and has one of the best displays you can buy today. It's also cheaper than some other laptops like the Dell XPS 15, so the HP is a good choice.

Are there alternatives?

The Dell XPS 15 is the most straightforward alternative to the Specter x360 15 as there has been no other 15-inch 2-in-1 that matches HP's pace for speed recently. The Dell can be configured as a much faster laptop and has its own great display. It is an excellent choice for the more discerning creative type. It's also more expensive, costing over $ 2,000 for similar specs, and only going up in price from there.

Another option is HP's own Envy 15, which is cheaper than the Specter but much more powerful. In fact, it's difficult to choose the XPS 15 over the Envy 15. So if a clamshell suits your needs and you're a creative power user, the Envy 15 is a great choice.

How long it will take?

The Specter x360 15 is durable and has relatively modern components. It should be productive for years. However, we would like the guarantee to be longer than a year.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you want a powerful laptop with the flexibility of a 2-in-1 device, the Specter x360 15 is your best bet.

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