There’s no shortage of great slimline laptops available right now: to see the full range of what you can get, check out our roundup of the best lightweight laptops. But the HP Spectre x360 14 doesn’t just promise sleek looks, a gorgeous screen and great performance. It’s also fully convertible. Which you can use it as a laptop, rotate it 360 degrees to use it as a tablet, put in tent formation for watching movies, or even lay both parts flat as a single rectangle.
If that kind of versatility appeals to you, then this streamlined, 17mm-thin laptop may well be the one for you. But it isn’t cheap. While the base model starts at a lower price, the model we were sent to review, the ea0008na featuring the faster Intel i7 1165G7 processor, is more money. So is it worth it? Our HP Spectre x360 14 review answers that question, by looking at the laptop in its totality, including its design, screen and speakers, performance, connectivity and battery life.
HP Spectre x360 14 review: Design
First impressions of the HP Spectre x360 14 are impressive: this is a sleek and upmarket design. The CNC machined chassis is both beautiful and professional looking, with the reflective HP logo and the diamond-cut diagonal edges adding extra touches of elegance and originality.
We also love the speaker grill above the keyboard, with its fashionable dotted stylings; the confident capital typefaces on the keys themselves; and the subtle placement of the Bang & Olufsen and Spectre logos. In short, it’s one of the most attractive laptops around right now.
It’s wonderfully functional, too, with large, responsive keys spread almost from edge to edge across the base. The 1.5mm key travel provides a satisfying click, and there's an impressively size touchpad (74 x 115mm), although we found you did have to press on this a little harder than we're used to.
There’s also a small and unobstructive 720p web cam at the top, which you can use to unlock your device with Windows Hello, and which you can lock with one tap of a shortcut key. There’s also a fingerprint sensor next to the arrow keys.
As a 2-in-1, the Spectre x360 14 is flawless. The robust hinges work perfectly to let you to move the screen through a full 360 degrees, letting you put it in tent mode for watching movies or giving presentations, reverse mode for using it on your lap as a tablet, or any other angle that suits your purposes.
Admittedly, you can’t quite open the laptop lid with one hand, and it’s a shame there’s no number pad on the keyboard. Also, anyone used to a 2-in-1 like the Surface Go may find it weird feeling the keys on your lap while using this laptop in 'tablet' mode. But these are pretty small niggles, and shouldn't detract from the fact that this is one beautifully designed device.
One final point: you also get a high-quality rechargeable stylus – the HP MPP2.0 tilt pen – completely free with the HP Spectre x360 14. This works well with the touchscreen, and is an obvious plus for artists, architects, or anyone who just wants to mess about with digital drawing or notetaking. You also get a free laptop case, which is nothing to write home about, but free stuff is always good in our book.
HP Spectre x360 14 review: Screen and speakers
The most notable about the 13.5-inch touchscreen is that it has proportions of 3:2. This makes it 13 per cent taller than the 16:9 ratio you find on most laptop screens, monitors and TVs these days. (Notable exceptions are Microsoft’s Surface Go and Surface laptops, which pioneered the 3:2 format.)
What this means in practice is that you get bigger black bars when watching movies, but you see more of, say, a web page before scrolling down. Whether you prefer 3:2 or 16: 9 is entirely a matter of personal preference and depends the kind of thing you use a laptop for. But in general, if you’re doing productivity focused tasks you’re most likely to benefit, while if you want to watch a lot of movie and TV content, it may be a little irksome. Watching Ready Player One, for example, the movie took up just 57 per cent of the available screen space.
Depending on how much you want to spend, you have three screens to choose from. The base model comes with a Full HD (1920 x 1280) touchscreen IPS display. Our pricier review model, however, came with a 3000 x 2000 OLED panel: not quite 4K but as near as damn it. And it’s quite frankly one of the nicest screens we’ve ever enjoyed. Colours were deep and rich, with blacks and whites being especially enticing. Details were super-sharp, and the brightness levels ample for use inside and out.
And then comes audio, and here's the best news of all. In sharp contrast to many of its rivals, the sound here more than matches up to the visuals. Of course, that’s what you’d expect when you partner with a name speaker brand like Bang & Olufsen. And in this case, the collaboration really does deliver, from the deep and enveloping bass to the crisp clarity of percussive sounds.
With four speakers (two on the top, two on the bottom), you’re sure to get a decent blast of sound from your HP Spectre x360 14, however you decide to configure your 2-in-1 device. It’s loud enough, too: we found a 30-40 per cent volume was more than sufficient to fill a room. And if you’re a proper audiophile, Bang & Olufsen’s equaliser software lets you tweak the settings to your heart’s content.
HP Spectre x360 14 review: Performance
The version of the HP Spectre x360 14 we were sent for review features the Intel Core i7-1165G7 chip. This is certified by Intel’s Evo platform, which means that HP and Intel have worked together closely to get the maximum of out of the new processor. And although it bumps up the cost significantly, it does make a clear and recognisable difference.
Whether using the device as a tablet or laptop, this 11th generation Tiger Lake processor made short work of all the tasks we put it through, including multiple-tab web browsing, video and audio entertainment, productivity software such as Microsoft Office, Zoom calls and more.
We do have one niggle to report, though: after a few hours with the laptop on our lap, it slowed to a crawl and needed rebooting. The base at this point felt noticeably warm. By switching it off and on again, things returned to normal immediately. We've had similar experiences with other slimline laptops, and suggest that using this kind of device on your actual lap is best avoided for long periods.
On the desk, though, things went swimmingly. The processor features Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics, which meant that Photoshop, digital drawing tools, video editing software and even most AAA games ran smoothly with some tweaking of the frame-rates.
HP Spectre x360 14 review: Battery life and connectivity
HP claims a battery life of up to 10 hours 30 minutes, and this chimed with our experience. We managed a number of full working days using battery power alone, playing videos, listening to music, using apps like Microsoft Office and Google Docs, and all the kind of day-to-day web browsing, emailing and social media bothering you'd expect a laptop to handle.
In general, the HP Spectre 14 lasted a good 8.5-9.5 hours performing such tasks, and if that's not long enough for your working day, then we admire your work ethic. Meanwhile, in our standard test playing a downloaded Netflix movie on repeat, the Spectre stayed alive for an impressive 11 hours 8 minutes.
Now the less good news. With thin laptops, connectivity is often limited, and you're certainly not spoiled for ports on the HP Spectre x360 14. That said, it's great to see there's at least one USB-A slot, on the left-hand side, while on the right, you get two USB-C ports, both of which you can use for charging, and a headphone/mic jack in between. We're not wild about one of the USB-Cs being on the diagonal edge of the laptop, but it didn't actually pose any practical issues; it just looks a bit weird.
What's a real shame, though, is you don't have the choice to charge the laptop from the left-hand side. Splitting the USB-Cs between left and right would have been our preference, and we can't work out why HP has designed its ports in this way.
HP Spectre x360 14 review: Verdict
There's an awful lot to like about the HP Spectre x360 14, but its main appeal lies in being able to rotate the laptop through 360 degrees. in practice, that works amazingly well... as long as you use it. Not everyone does, though. So if you just want a 'normal' laptop, you may be better off with a non-rotating rival such as the Dell XPS 13.
The other thing you may like or dislike is the 3:2 screen ratio. This approach has both admirers and detractors, and it's difficult to know which side you fall on until you try it. As a rule of thumb, if seeing big black bars around movies upsets you, go for a 16:9 screen instead. But if the idea of seeing more of a web page in one go excites you, then 3:2 could be the answer to your prayers.
Assuming these two factors enthuse rather than repel you, then this high-performing 2-in-1 Windows laptop, with its gorgeous screen, should be right up your street. With great battery life, an excellent keyboard, top-class audio, and a couple of decent freebies thrown in, this laptop may be an expensive option, but does offer good value for money.