HP Spectre x360 14 Review: An Elegant, Powerful but Pricey Notebook
HP Spectre x360 14
The HP Spectre X360 14 offers an outstanding but pricy addition to the HP lineup. Should be a top choice for all by those seeking a primarily tablet experience. Includes rechargeable stylus and a slipcase. Elegant and powerful.
The HP Spectre X360 14. Among the myriad models of computers designed and shipped by HP, a few outstanding models offer some of the best performance, designs, and battery life on the market.The HP Spectre X360 14 shows HP at the top of their game. Unlike Apple, which sells only memory and storage configurations, HP offers more options, including different screens, to meet varying user needs. It can be argued that they may have a few too many products in their PC portfolio, but options on individual devices make sense.
The HP Spectre X360 14 displays HP’s design chops once again. It may even be prettier than the Dragonfly Elite’s outstanding design. Some premium features, like the magnesium case, premium spill-resistant collaboration keyboard, remain unique to the lighter Dragonfly. As of this build, however (in June of 2021), the x360 14 outruns the pure CPU/GPU specs of the Dragonfly with its 11th Gen Intel chips and higher-end integrated graphics.
Pricing starts at $1,299 for Core i5 models.
While the HP Dragonfly Elite holds the flagship spot in HP’s computer lineup, the HP Spectre line has always offered sleek designs. The X360 14 continues the tradition. Even with Spectre in the first position, the X350 14 part of this PC’s name, however, makes this computer seem more commoditized than it should be. The color alternatives, including copper or gold highlights on some models, along with chamfered edges, create a more striking profile than its competitors.
And this Evo laptop pushes design strengths from its beautiful OLED display option, its strong hinge, its 3 Thunderbolt ports, all driven by 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors and Iris Xe integrated graphics.
The HP Spectre X360 14 comes in silver, Poseidon Blue, and Nightfall black. The review unit was Poseidon Blue and its gorgeous with its gold accents.
This is a 2-in-1 notebook, which should be 3 is one, as it completely folds backward to become a tablet, or sits as a tent for media consumption and shared presentations. A well-designed hinge keeps the mode fluid.
At 11.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches and about 3 pounds of heft, this Spectre compares favorably to other units in its class, including the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.
Like all Intel notebooks the X360 14 can get a little toasty with heavy workloads. I keep mine elevated with a TwelveSouth stand. Heat has not been an issue.
The biggest thing about the HP Spectre X360 14‘s display is it’s bigger than 1080HD. This display offers a more expansive canvas at 1920 x 1280—a 3:2 ratio with, well, more room for more windows. It also serves up vibrant colors, respectable brightness, and fine detail. The WUXGA+ IPS does an outstanding job at rendering the world.
An optional SureView Reflect Privacy Screen ($80) is also available to save precious content from prying eyes during intimate encounters.
The integrated Intel Xe graphics do a fine job on business work, which is all that matters. The Spectre isn’t a gaming machine, and never should be considered by gamers. The graphics may also struggle with heavy video or image editing, but again, not the device’s primary market. It does, however, chew on and spits out PowerPoint slides all day.
As a writer, the keyboard is everything, and the HP Spectre X360 14 delivers. Solid strikes result in characters on the screen, which can’t be said for all keyboards. The feel is great, as is the slight click of acknowledgment. Backlight works as it should, through the keys, not around them.
The power key is right on the keyboard. Unlike some reviewers, I don’t find a side placement for the power button an issue, but it is nice to have it on the top of the device. Power does sit a bit close to the delete key, which results in occasional mistyping that puts the X360 to sleep.
There is more than enough power under the Spectre’s hood to tackle most business jobs. The Xe graphics step up performance from older integrated GPUs, but they don’t match dedicated performance for gaming. The review unit shipped with Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 (up to 4.7 GHz, 12 MB L3 cache, 4 cores), Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics, and 16 GB of onboard memory.
I have yet to hit the bottom of my Spectre’s battery well. I don’t perform artificial benchmarks. However, I do use my devices day-in-day-out. And the X360’s battery life is one reason it gets used more than other devices in my arsenal.
3 Thunderbolt ports. 2 USB-C on the right, and 1 USB-A on the left. It also includes a microSD slot. The Spectre does not include an HDMI port. Owners with older monitors will have to dongle up, but those with more modern secondary displays (like the ViewSonic TD1655) need only USB-C to drive, and even power, an external display.
The X360 also includes a headphone jack to complement its Bang & Olufsen custom-tuned quad top and bottom-firing speakers. If you want to understand the premium nature of this notebook, check out the fine speaker grill pattern. If you want to immerse yourself in a movie or music, however, wear headphones. As good as these speakers are, they are still notebook computer speakers.
The HP Spectre X360 14 sports Wi-Fi 6 AX 202 (2×2) and Bluetooth 5. You know you are using top-of-the-line gear when your network isn’t as good as the devices connecting to it.
Touch and pen
Clamshell PCs still suffer from bulkiness when used with a pen. Apple designed the iPad to alleviate the bulk issue specifically. In the world of PCs, anything that includes a pen, but doesn’t optimize for it, will offer a second-tier writing experience.
The HP Spectre X360 14 touch screen, on the other hand, delivers value through the scrolling and flipping gestures that have become a natural way to interact with other devices. I don’t use touch on a PC the same way I do on an iPad, but do I touch the screen, despite the smudges.
I am not a big touchpad fan either, as I find the gestures across devices less than intuitive. But the 4.5 x 2.8-inch Spectre touchpad works well, even if I sometimes find myself moving things rather than scrolling. Truth be told, my mouse does most object manipulation because it is more integrated into my brain and work style. If, however, you like the swipes and taps associated with a touchpad, this is one of the best I have seen—and it’s large enough to feel like a thoughtful UI component, not just an afterthought pointing surface.
An electronic camera toggle!. Yeah! No more stick-on covers, bits of tape, or difficult-to-find sliders. If the camera button is red, the camera is off. One tap also mutes the microphone.
The premium nature of the HP Spectre X360 14 also shines through its full support from Microsoft Hello face recognition and fingerprint recognition. I rarely use the finger reader because the camera is so fast and accurate. But it’s nice to know it’s there as a backup.
Along with a well-made 60W power supply, the 360x also ships with a pleather sleeve secured through a sturdy Velcro closure. An integrated pen sleeve completes the sleeve features.
What could be improved
Mobile devices can always be thinner and faster. Thus Apple’s M1 iPad Pro sets the standard for thinness in business performance. But add a Magic Keyboard, and even the M1 iPad Pro puts on considerable weight.
HP skimped on HP Spectre X360 14‘s front-facing camera, which makes no sense in a post-COVID world. Every premium notebook computer from any manufacturer should include a full HD capable video input with all the software support the manufacturer can muster. And it should make its owners look good. Period.
Some may find the pre-installed apps and 16GB max RAM to be negatives. I could do without pre-installed apps, especially pushy ones that keep popping up their value propositions at annoying times. But, for most business situations, 16GB of RAM is plenty.
HP Spectre x360 14: The Bottom Line
In a market full of also-ran computers, the HP Spectre X360 14 stands out from the pack. It isn’t the thinnest or fastest laptops, and certainly not the cheapest, but it is one of the more elegant and classy. Its available options make it a top performer for any business situation. The poor webcam and clumsy tablet mode constitute the only glaring concerns on a device this pricey that otherwise exudes grace and power.
HP provided the Spectre x360 14 for review. Images courtesy of HP.
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Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.