HP's Newest Notebook Folds into Several Form Factors

PRODUCT REVIEW: The Spectre x360 solid-state notebook is the new gymnastics star of the PC world, able to be folded into four form factors.

Hewlett-Packard keeps running hard at Apple, Dell, Samsung, LG, Acer, Sony and others with its innovative laptop and desktop computers. The venerable IT giant may be having some issues competing in certain segments of the IT business, but its Personal Systems division in Houston and workstation group in Ft. Collins, Colo., remain profitable.

We can use the term "innovative" with impunity here because there are indeed features on HP’s newest notebook-size laptop that are fresh to the laptop world.

HP debuted its latest mobile PC, the solid-state Spectre x360 convertible notebook, at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It is a high-quality device that stands up to competitors with its power, lightweight form, quality and feature list.

Converts into four different form factors

The term "convertible" is right on target, because the x360 can be molded and shaped into what appears to be four different PCs. It certainly will rank among the most versatile PCs in the market, once it gets onto store shelves and into online catalogs this week.

Versatility aside, when it comes to the three most important things that a laptop needs to do well, the Spectre x360 does them very, very well. These are, in this reviewer’s opinion and in order of importance: a) long battery life; b) strong and fast connectivity, and c) a bright, sharp display.

Everything else – including the Spectre’s x360's powerful processor, its classy brushed aluminum exterior, its thin and lightweight (3.3 pounds) frame, the several ways the user can access it using touchscreen or keyboard, not to mention a ton of other top-flight features -- is gravy. The basic requirements are met in impressive fashion, and that's where we start this evaluation.

The Spectre x360's battery lasts from 8 to 10 hours -- if you're not watching Netflix all day, that is. Frankly, this longevity is mostly because the battery itself is larger than most other 13.5-inch notebooks. It's also due to some smart software and hardware features that conserve valuable battery power and are built in to the device.

Smart use of resources

This is analogous to block storage in terms of smart use of capacity. When a file is stored, and a new copy of that same file comes into the store, smart storage hardware will add only what's changed in the file to the original, therefore saving the storage capacity that a whole new copy would have occupied.

It's really a plus not to have to think about having to recharge a laptop until the end of business each day. Whenever a device enables one less thing to worry about during the work day, that's good and worthwhile.

The x360 finds Wi-Fi stations quickly and connects immediately, thanks largely to a new antenna design. This capability is under-appreciated by some people but greatly appreciated by myself, because I have had more than one laptop that slips off connections, depending on various environments, and this is never good when work needs to be done.

HP also has improved Wi-Fi performance by tuning the wireless driver, which comes with 801.11ac wireless capabilities as well as 802.11a/b/n. The new antenna slot design at the top of the display for 2.4GHz and 5GHz tunes in every mode. It also has both a full-size HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 compatible ports.

The laptop sports a marvelous Quad HD (2560x1440) display and features something called Panel Self Refresh (PSR). This software holds images on the screen in place and enables other parts of the PC to shut down and save power when nothing on the screen is moving. This is a big factor in saving the battery life as discussed earlier; the brighter the display, as we all know, the faster the batteries discharge.

Touch panel, display also are power savers

HP has optically bonded the x360's touch-panel layer to the display, which increases brightness and pull the pixels up to the surface of the display. This also has a way of saving battery power, HP insists.

The Spectre x360 is the new gymnastics star of the PC world. HP's geared-hinge design allows the Spectre x360 to be opened and flipped over, under and around so that it resembles a tent, a tablet, a tablet with angled access, or a standard PC. (Check out the photos in our eWEEK slideshow.)

The hinge contains a set of three spiral gears, which enable users to move between the various configurations, depending on how they're using the device. The Spectre x360 can reform in four different modes: a stand mode for viewing entertainment, notebook mode for work, tent mode for touch-screen usability for games or presentations, or straight tablet mode.

To accommodate multiple devices and accessories, the Spectre x360 has three USB 3.0 ports. It also comes with the company's USB Sleep and Charge, which allows customers to use the convertible to charge their devices on the go, even when in sleep mode.

Pricing starts at $900

The Spectre x360 sports an Intel Core i5 Processor, full HD touch-screen display, 4GB LPDDR3 system memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. It's not inexpensive; the starting price is $899.99, and it moves up to $1,149.99 if you choose the faster Intel Core i7, full HD touch-screen, 8GB RAM and 256GB model. At the top of the line, 512GB model retails for $1399.99.

Like anything else, you generally get what you pay for, and this PC, in this reviewer's opinion, is worth it.

HP is also offering accessories such as an HP Premium Leather Sleeve to protect the device and an Active Pen for handwriting and taking notes.

You can view a slideshow by eWEEK's Nathan Eddy that includes more photos and key specs of the Spectre x360 here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...