I've been using my supposed-to-be-amazing 2-in-1 laptop for 3 years now and since I had quite a few issues with it, I really wanted to make a hands-on review of it. I actually posted a review on Hewlett-Packard website, but it's not showing for some reason (it wasn't overly critical), so now it's time to do a real review in my Second Opinion series. So glad that I started it!
A couple of disclaimers – I am not a real tech reviewer like Dave Lee or Linus, but I am a power user and someone who had a great deal of experience with this laptop and with HP customer service, so I think my review will be very useful for those who want to purchase it. Also, spoiler alert, my review will be favorable overall, but with quite a few criticisms, and I would like to say that I am neither promoting this product, nor trying to affect the business reputation of the manufacturer, I'm just doing an honest customer review on it.
Why Spectre x360?
I've been on a search for a perfect machine for many years – I had quite a few laptops by Hewlett-Packard – as a matter of fact, my very first laptop was from HP and I loved it. Then I bought a 20.1" HDX Dragon – yes, it was a 20.1" laptop, they called it a "desktop replacement" laptop. A beast of a machine, unfortunately it came with Windows Vista and I couldn't run Excel on it (it dropped all the time), which kind of defied the whole purpose of getting it. Then, in search of portability, I tried HP Mini, a 10" laptop, which turned out to be too small for me and I switched to a couple of machines by ASUS. One of them was a Transformer Book, which was really cool on paper, but somewhat unwieldy and clunky. Mind you, it was 2011-2012, just before the times of Microsoft surface. I also tried couple of other machines from ASUS, as well as MacBook Air and the first iPad Pro, hoping that I will find my ideal device – something with a touch / tablet functionality, but also powerful enough to run serious statistical tasks, run games (I play sometimes), do video editing and, at the same time, it would have a good battery life and would be portable. Long list of demands, I know, but at the end of the day I was willing to pay for such a product and in 2017 I came across HP Spectre x360 and I was amazed by its style, technical specifications and promising form factor. I bought the most advanced machine at the moment with an i7 CPU, 16 Gb of RAM and 512 Gb of SSD and a 4K touch display
First impressions / Build Quality
Out of the box, the machine was very nice to handle – it had this solid, premium quality feel, the hinge was sturdy enough to prevent any wobbling of the display, but unfortunately it was not possible to open it with one finger, which turned out to be important (more on it later). It was also a gorgeous machine - the sides were flat copper/gold on this unit, and the last one that I got as a replacement has the diamond-cut style, with very small bezels - a true beauty! It was a little bit hefty, but the weight was acceptable for a 15.6" laptop. I must say, that ultimately the weight turned out to be a major factor for my user experience with it as a convertible laptop. Again, more on this later, and now, I'd like to focus on quality.
If you noticed, I said that "the last one I got as a replacement" had diamond-shaped design. It is the third unit I own, and I only bought one! I happened to have quite a few issues with this device, many of them seem to be inherently related to the technical specs. First of all, I had an issue with the screen – the resolution was so high that everything displayed on it was extremely small and hard to read. It was not a defect, just something that needed to be adjusted, and no one at HP Customer Service could help with that, which was disappointing as it rendered this device almost unusable until I figured out what to do. And I had to do it myself. Then, just 3-4 months later, the device started to get very hot and the fans were spinning like crazy even when it was in my bag. I called customer service, send the laptop in for repairs and three weeks later or so, I received it. Repaired, but reset to factory defaults, which was absolutely unnecessary. But ok, HP, you have your process.
Several months later, the device began to overheat again, and I was offered repairs again, which I declined. and they have replaced it. Factory reset again. Several months later, exactly the same situation happened, and it was replaced again, so now I have a machine without SD slot (it has micro-SD), but with camera turnoff switch and 1Tb of SSD. Also, it looks like the screen brightness and saturation have improved with this one. Factory reset again, mind you. It's a great machine, but the amount of issues I had with it was very disappointing as well as the amount of time I wasted fixing them and talking to customer care.
Customer Service / Technical Issues
I think, it's worth talking about the customer service interactions I had before I move from technical issues to hands-on experiences. I must say that they did their best to help, but at the same time the process of calling them, spelling out my long name, providing personal details over and over again, being redirected, waiting for the next "specialist" to pick up the phone was tedious on its own. Each time, I'd send my laptop for repairs it was reset to factory defaults and it took time to restore everything back to my liking. At certain point I have converted the amount of time I wasted on that into my work hours and calculated the amount of money I could've made and it was much more than the price of the unit.
Couple of other things, that are really annoying about technical support / customer service:
- The site is very slow, I cannot fathom why they don't modify it – it's ridiculously outdated for 2020. Actually, the HP maintenance tool is outdated too, it looks like something designed in 1995.
- I always purchase service packs and registering them was quite difficult as invariably I end up on the US customer service line and the process is quite glitchy. Just to give you an example, once I purchased a care pack, and the site charged me for that just before freezing. I didn't receive any confirmation and I couldn't activate it without it. A couple of months, I kid you not (literally MONTHS) later, I received a paper copy and was able to activate it and all this time their customer care representatives were not able to locate it in the system. Just be aware and keep good record of your purchases online, keep the receipts etc. Maybe take screenshots, but, quite frankly, if we get to that point of distrust, I wouldn't even get any services from a company.
- If you need a replacement machine, they send you a refurbished one. This is very unfair – I didn't pay for a second-hand laptop! You failed to deliver and somehow now it's ok to dump a used device on me? I'm annoyed with that even when writing this blog, this practice is just ridiculous!
Ok, that was my vent of the day, let's get to the hands-on experiences
Performance / Usability
The very first thing you notice is the screen, which is gorgeous – it's a 4K screen, quite bright and vibrant. My two issues with it are:
- The fact that it's glossy – the reflection is so clear, that it's hard to use it in daylight, I get a massive headache after just several minutes of working with it. Not so good for a laptop to use on the go.
- The second problem is the aspect ratio of 16:9. It's great for media consumption, but it's not so good for reading. When I was getting a 15.6" convertible laptop, I hoped that I would be able to have enough screen space for a standard size journal article page on the screen and since the screen is quite narrow, all documents are shrunk beyond my comfort level.
Speaking of work – typing on it is a great experience, I do enjoy the full keyboard with a numeric keypad and it also has a nice feel to it. No issues with that – typing is a great experience, and this machine is really good for working with productivity software such as Microsoft Office suite or R.
When it gets to real performance, say video editing, this machine is simply not enough – I edited two videos on it and the process was rather inconvenient. It froze multiple times, was getting rather hot and noisy and clearly was not able to carry out video editing tasks smoothly. Inconvenience aside, the videos were completed in a rather unusual circumstances, so the job can be done. I also never played any videogames on it, simply due to lack of time, and ultimately I didn't expect much from it, given that it has MX150 video card, pretty weak for gaming, and I have my 2080Ti in my main machine, which is a beast (both the machine and the videocard), so why bother with something suboptimal.
And speaking of overheating when performing heavy duty tasks – it still happens, and it doesn't take anything really heavy for this device to get hot. It happens a lot! And this is a major inconvenience and I think it has something to do with relatively powerful components placed inside of a slim device. Reasonable or not, the bottom line is it gets hot and noisy when doing anything remotely demanding, when updating OneDrive, when charging, when watching Netflix... well, all the time and it's very inconvenient.
Convenience / Portability
And since we are talking about convenience, I must say that this device is... unwieldy. It's too heavy, the hinge is sturdy, and the bezels are too thin to flip it over without any issues. I tried many times and each time I have to close some process that was initiated while flipping it. Please, don't tell me that it happens because I'm clumsy. It's also too heavy to use it as a tablet. I do work out, but I can't hold it in my hands for longer than several minutes and I always end up resting it on something. And given, that you don't have access to keyboard in tablet mode... well, it's easier to use it as a regular laptop. Also, it's almost impossible to flip it in tight spaces, like an airplane seat. Trust me, it's a hassle, and I had experienced it first-hand on many occasions.
Last, but not the least – battery life. The advertised battery life is 17 hours, at least for the 2020 model. It sounds like a joke to me because I doubt that I ever had even 10. Maybe it's due to overheating of my particular machine, but I would say that I would be lucky to have 7 hours, not 17.
I think that it's a great machine overall, but as they say it's a Jack of all trades and master of none. It's good for office applications and for media consumption, but you don't need the 2-in-1 form factor for that and the components could be less powerful, which would ensure that it doesn't overheat and has a better battery life. It's not good for gaming or high processing loads and again, you'd be better off with a regular clamshell laptop, maybe a gaming one or a workstation. And, as a tablet, which is its main selling point, it's just unwieldy and inconvenient, but if you'd still like a 2-in-1, I'd suggest trying something smaller, like a 13.3" Elite Dragonfly by Hewlett-Packard. I actually decided to give HP another chance and ordered this new laptop. I will do an unboxing video and blog on it soon.
That was pretty much everything I had to say about this laptop, and I hope that it was useful to you. Again, I am not a professional tech reviewer, this was just my user experiences and thoughts, but if you like blogs like that I would like to encourage you to subscribe to this website, and to my YouTube channel. You are also always welcome to communicate with me by making comments, suggestions, and asking questions, either here, or on social media platforms.
Stay safe, strong, and healthy!