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HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) Review

A nimble 2-in-1 laptop with excellent build quality

Verdict

The HP Spectre x360 is one of the best small convertible laptops available in 2021. It lacks features seen in alternatives, like 5G and a slot-in stylus, but it does offer excellent build quality, a keyboard you'll love working on, long battery life and a relatively high contrast screen.

Pros

  • Great keyboard
  • Excellent build quality
  • Bright, high-contrast screen
  • Sturdy 360-degree hinge

Cons

  • Max speaker volume is just OK
  • Not as powerful as a MacBook Air

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £1399.99
  • 13.3-in 1920x1080 touchscreen
  • Intel Core i7-1165G7
  • 8GB RAM
  • Intel Xe graphics
  • Dimensions: 306 x 194 x 17 mm
  • Weight: 1.22kg

The HP Spectre x360 13 is part of HP’s top-end line of convertible laptops. It is exceptionally well-made, and has a particular kind of portability.  

Some rivals are slimmer, and some are lighter, but the HP Spectre x360 13 has unusually slimmed-down design, making its silhouette from above much smaller than most. Its weight and thickness are travel-friendly, too.  

The HP Spectre x360 13’s real highlight, though, is how enjoyable it is to work on. Its keyboard is deep and responsive, the screen is bright enough to handle life outdoors and its Intel Core i5 and i7 processors offer excellent performance per square inch. 

This is not a cheap laptop, and the HP Envy or Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 lines may be better if you want to spend less. But it’s cheaper than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, with no obvious sacrifices involved. 

Price and Availability

The HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) is available to buy from the official HP store for £1399.99/$1249.99/€1699,00, which gets you a Full HD display, Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB storage.

HP is also offering a £1799.99/$1349.99/€1798,99 model with an impressive 4K OLED screen, 16GB RAM and 1TB of storage. The processor remains the same.

Design and Keyboard – Familiar angles

  • The HP Spectre x360 13 features a classy convertible design 
  • Deeper keys than most provide a great typing feel 
  • Touchpad is good, just not that tall 

HP has not radically altered the HP Spectre x360 13’s design this year. It still has the bold square keys and the unusual 45-degree cuts offs at the top of the keyboard plate and bottom of the screen bezel that make it stand out a mile from other laptops.

I’ll let your eyes judge whether HP’s Spectre x360 is a masterpiece of style or a step too far from the smoother curves ultrabook-style laptops tend to have, but the HP Spectre x360 13 is undeniably neat and petite.

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

The HP Spectre x360 13 has a 16:9 aspect screen and there’s relatively little space between the hinge and the bottom of the display. When I work with it on my lap outdoors, its base doesn’t actually reach my knees proper because it’s a good inch or so smaller than the norm.  

What’s the benefit? If you’re going to mainly work on a desk, not much. But it lets the HP Spectre x360 13 fit into smaller spaces, whether that’s a bag or a cramped train table.  

This is also a convertible laptop, one with a 360-degree swivel display. It has among the best 2-in-1 hinges going, with almost no wobble when you work on a less than solid surface – like your legs.  

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

Build quality in general is superb. The body plates are aluminium rather than magnesium, offering an unmistakably metallic feel. And both the lid and keyboard plate are wonderfully rigid. It’s all part of why you have to pay the big bucks for the HP Spectre x360 13.  

I love working on the HP Spectre x360 13, and that is mostly doing “boring” stuff that doesn’t necessarily seem the perfect fit for a movie-ready 16:9 screen. A taller 3:2 aspect is usually preferred for productivity apps.  

However, I find this is outweighed by the keyboard. The HP Spectre x360 13 has a much deeper, more satisfying keyboard than, for example, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. It seems beamed right from the old days when it was the norm to have 1.4mm key action, or more.  

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

A row of function keys that sits to the right of the primary set sees the whole keyboard shunted just slightly to the left, but I can’t say I noticed any difference to the ergonomics here other than accidentally pressing “page down” instead of “enter” for the first few days. I sunk into this one almost immediately, which I can’t say about the Galaxy Book Flex2, which has a pretty shallow keyboard.  

The keys have a backlight with two intensity levels, and a reasonable fingerprint scanner sits below. 

HP had to use a fairly short touchpad in the HP Spectre x360 13, to match its low-depth base. The pad itself is of top quality, though, with a smooth textured glass surface and a clicker that balances ease of press with solid resistance well.  

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

And if you don’t like the sound of a cut-down touchpad, just take a look at the 14-inch version of the HP Spectre x360 instead. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, and a much taller touchpad. But, I presume, it’s otherwise fairly similar.  

The HP Spectre x360 has speakers with a Bang & Olufsen stamp, but they are not particularly loud. Still, they do have a little bit of bass and a reasonable, somewhat bright tone that does the job for YouTube videos.   

This laptop also features Thunderbolt 4 ports, a microSD slot, a headphone jack and a USB-A port. The latter is the classic rectangular style of USB, and I’m always glad to see one in a laptop like this as almost all of my peripherals end in a full-size USB, not USB-C.  

Display – Bright, but without pro-grade colour

  • Bright enough for outdoors use 
  • Excellent contrast (for an LCD screen) means a rich image 
  • Upgrade to the 4K OLED version for even deeper colour 

I’m using the 13-inch version of the HP Spectre x360 for review, which has a 1080p LCD screen. This sort of resolution doesn’t get rid of pixelation entirely. You can see a slightly cragginess to text in Microsoft Word. But just about all of this laptop’s rivals, like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, use a 1080p in their lower spec versions.  

Even in this 1080p version, maximum brightness is a more than respectable 460 nits. You don’t even need to use the full brightness when working outdoors unless the sun shines directly at the screen as the display also has a pretty effective anti-reflective coating. This is important because the HP Spectre x360 13 has a glossy display that doesn’t scatter reflections like a matte one.  

Very high contrast for an LCD also dramatically improves how good the HP Spectre x360 13 looks to the naked eye. It reaches 1593:1 according to my Spyder X colorimeter, and this is high enough to make blacks look rich and inky even with the brightness maxed. As long as you are not in a darkened room, anyway.  

Colour reproduction is good although, unsurprisingly, not at the same level as the step-up 4K OLED HP Spectre x360 13. This one covers 100% of sRGB, 74.7% of Adobe RGB and 79.3% of DCI P3. The OLED model covers 100% of DCI P3, according to HP.  

What does all this mean? The LCD screen can’t quite replicate the deepest of red, greens and blues, the tones that can make a vibrant image with larger-than-life colour look super-vivid. However, this is still very good colour coverage, and roughly matches the MacBook Air‘s colour depth.  

The HP Spectre x360 also supports HP’s digitizer stylus pen. There’s no hole in the shell to actually put a pen and our review sample didn’t include one. But it’s a handy feature if you want to use design or drawing apps, and the convertible hinge can help here too, getting the keyboard out of the way.  

Performance – Par for the 2021 course 

  • Runs silent when you do simple tasks 
  • Powerful enough for all jobs suited to an ultra-portable 
  • Intel Xe GPU lets you play more games than last year’s model 

HP may have sent us a HP Spectre x360 with a lower-end screen, but it didn’t scrimp on the core specs. It has the Core i7-1165g7, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.  

Windows 10 runs perfectly, and this laptop easily has enough power to run Photoshop, office apps and music production software very well. If you spend a lot of time editing video or rendering 3D models, you might want to consider a chunkier, higher-powered laptop or a MacBook. Apple’s new CPU offers staggering performance with fully optimised apps considering the size and weight of the MacBook Air and Pro 

But for most of us, the HP Spectre x360 is easily powerful enough. I would actually recommend the step-down Core i5 CPU model to most friends who ask for laptop advice.  

HP Spectre x360 13  Lenovo Yoga 9i Galaxy Book
Flex2 5G
Processor Intel Core i7-1165G7 Intel Core i7-1185G7 Intel Core i7-1165G7
Geekbench 5 multi-core 5025 5176 4603
PCMark 10 4641 4923 4970

The Intel Core i7 CPU also comes with Intel’s new secret weapon: an Xe graphics chipset. This is so much better than the Intel UHD 620 seen an earlier laptops of this style, it’s a bit like a shift in game console generations.  

Intel Xe lets you play games like GTA V, The Witcher 3, Kingdom Come: Deliverance and other PS4/Xbox One generation games surprisingly well. You don’t always have to use rock-bottom graphics settings, and plenty will play well at native 1080p. Calling the HP Spectre x360 a good gaming laptop would be an insult to the actual best gaming laptops. But it can probably play an awful lot more games than you’d guess. 

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

The HP Spectre x360 remained silent whenever I tasked it with basic work. A word processor app and browser window don’t cause the fans to start spinning. And even when playing GTA V the fans aren’t too distracting. They tend to generate a relatively low-pitch whir, which the integrated speakers manage to drown out without too much fuss.  

The SSD is an Intel Optane model. It reaches read speed of 2260MB/s and writes of 1122MB/s, which aren’t particularly high scores, but still mean the Spectre x360 can load and save data on the physical drive at a reasonable speed. Some laptop SSDs now exceed 3000MB/s, so there are faster alternatives out there if this is important to you. 

Battery – All-day working is no struggle

  • It lasts over 12 hours with light use 
  • 50% charge in 30 minutes 

The HP Spectre x360 13 has a 60Wh battery. This is significantly more than the 51Wh cell of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, and significantly less than the 69.7Wh of the Samsung Galaxy Flex 2.  

It results in, unsurprisingly, real-world stamina somewhere between the two. But we are still in very comfortably territory.  

HP Spectre x360 13 2021

The HP Spectre x360 lasts 12 hours 15 minutes when streaming 1080p video at 150-nit brightness, which is the kind of display setting you might use indoors. Not bad, right? 

There will likely be a significant hit to battery life if you buy the 4K OLED HP Spectre x360 instead, so bear that in mind before assuming the high-end model will be better in all respects. The screen is the main difference between the two, as neither has advanced extras like 5G.

HP Spectre x360 13 conclusion

The HP Spectre x360 13 (2021) is one of my absolute favourite ultra-portable convertible laptops right now. Its screen looks superb, battery life is fantastic and the build quality is among the best.

It is missing a number of features found with rivals such as the Galaxy Book Flex2 however, with no bundled stylus or 5G support. But considering you have to pay a few hundred quid more to buy Samsung’s 2-in-1 notebook, the HP Spectre x360 13 remains the better value purchase.

You should buy the HP Spectre x360 if…

  • You like a traditional keyboard feel
    The HP Spectre x360 has a rather lovely keyboard for a slim and light convertible laptop. Key action is deeper than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 or MacBook Air, giving you great feedback with each keypress.
  • You appreciate a small footprint
    The HP Spectre x360 has an unusually short base depth, letting it fit in smaller bags and on tiny tables. It’s perfect for the cramped conditions of trains and planes.  
  • You’ll pay for top build quality
    It’s tough to find ways to criticise the HP Spectre x360’s build. Its keyboard and screen are very stiff. The all-aluminium shell telegraphs quality to your fingers more effectively than the magnesium alloys popular among other low weight laptops. And the hinge design is great.  

You should not buy the if…

  •  You value performance per pound above all else
    Ryzen-powered laptops, including HP’s own Envy x360, are available for a few hundred pounds less and offer similar real-world performance.  
  • You need a large touchpad
    HP sacrifices the touchpad area to keep the HP Spectre x360’s dimensions trim. Look to the 14-inch version if you want a truly large pad.  
  • You want added flashy features
    The HP Spectre x360 does not have some of the show-off extras of some of the most expensive 2-in-1s. Theres no slot-in stylus, seen in the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i. Theres no 5G, seen in the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 5G. This laptop is out to excel as a 2-in-1 laptop, to a fairly traditional blueprint.  

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