HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Which is best for you?

HP's updated Spectre 13t is one of the finest looking laptops to recently hit the market, and its size and function put it in competition with Microsoft's own premier Ultrabook, the Surface Laptop. If you're shopping for a device in the 13-inch range, both of these options have likely hit your shortlist. Let's take a close look at the differences between the two to see which one is best for you.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySpectre 13tSurface Laptop
OSWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 S (upgradeable to Pro)
Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel Core i7-8550U
Intel Core m3-7Y30
Intel Core i5-7200U
Intel Core i7-7660U
Display size13.3 inches13.5 inches
Display resolutionFHD (1920 x 1080) IPS touch
4K (3840 x 2160) IPS touch
2256 x 1504 touch
Aspect ratio16:93:2
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620Intel HD Graphics 615 (m3)
Intel HD Graphics 620 (i5)
Intel Iris Plus 640 (i7)
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB PCIe SSD128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
CameraFront-facing 1080p
IR for Windows Hello
Front-facing 720p
IR for Windows Hello
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3
USB-C 3.1
3.5mm audio
USB-A 3.0
Surface Connect
Mini DisplayPort
3.5mm audio
Dimensions12.03 in x 8.83 in x 0.41 in
(30.56cm x 22.43cm x 1.04cm)
12.3 in x 8.78 in x 0.57 in
(30.81cm x 22.3cm x 1.45cm)
Weight2.45 pounds (1.11kg)2.76 pounds (1.25kg)
ColorsDark ash silver
Ceramic white
Cobalt blue
Graphite gold

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Performance

The new Spectre 13t is stocked with eighth-gen Intel Core processors (CPU), with four cores and a 15W thermal design point (TDP). These U-series CPUs, whether Core i5 or Core i7, offer great performance while not sucking up a lot of battery.

The Surface Laptop is sticking with seventh-gen Intel CPUs that have a similar 15W TDP but only two cores. You'll notice this difference most when multitasking, so I'd recommend sticking with the Spectre 13t if you often have 30 browser tabs open while simultaneously editing a handful of Office documents.

The Surface Laptop does have an option for Iris Plus graphics with the Core i7 CPU, which will offer slightly better performance when it comes to gaming or multimedia editing. Still, if you need something for heavy video editing, go with a laptop that has a dedicated graphics card (GPU).

For seriously light workloads, the Surface Laptop is available in a cheaper configuration (about $800) with a Core m3 CPU, 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), and 4GB of RAM.

Winner: HP Spectre 13t. Eighth-gen Intel Core CPUs with four cores will beat out seventh-gen dual-core CPUs any day, though Iris Plus graphics in the Surface Laptop might be attractive to some.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Display

Surface Laptop display

Both laptops have touch displays that are in the 13-inch realm, though resolution and aspect ratio differ. The Surface Laptop's 3:2 aspect ratio means a taller display with a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution, and it's compatible with the Surface Pen for easy drawing and note-taking.

The Spectre 13t sticks with the more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, offering up more standard 1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160 resolutions. Yes, if you want 4K, you have to go with the Spectre. However, it doesn't have pen support, and though it has slimmer bezels along the side of the display, it has a larger chin than the Surface Laptop.

Winner: Draw. HP Spectre 13t is available in 4K, but the Surface Laptop is compatible with the Surface Pen.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Keyboard and touchpad

There's no doubt about it — the backlit keyboard on the Spectre is fantastic. Key travel is spot on, keys are spaced evenly, and you won't mind typing with it for a full day's work. The same can be said about the Surface Laptop, though instead of a metal finish around the keyboard, you're getting soft Alcantara fabric.

The main difference here is that the Spectre 13t is still using Synaptics drivers for its touchpad, rather than the Precision setup that most modern Ultrabooks are now using, including the Surface Laptop. You can install Precision drivers once the Spectre is in your hands, but it would be nice to see them installed straight from the factory.

Winner: Surface Laptop. Both laptops offer up a great typing experience, but the Surface Laptop's Precision drivers push it over the edge.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Design and features

For anyone who wants a laptop that looks and feels like a premium device, either one of these will do. The Spectre 13t is just 0.41 inches thick and weighs in at 2.45 pounds (1.11kg), and you can get it in dark ash silver or ceramic white colors. The Surface Laptop is just a bit thicker (0.57 inches) and just a bit heavier (2.76 pounds), but it's nevertheless highly mobile. It's also available in four colors, including burgundy, platinum, cobalt blue, and graphite gold.

Both laptops have IR cameras compatible with Windows Hello, though the Spectre 13t has a 1080p standard camera for web conferencing, while the Surface Laptop's webcam is set at 720p.

As for ports, the Spectre is the clear winner. Here you're getting two Thunderbolt 3 ports with 4x PCIe lane support in each, as well as USB-C 3.1 and a 3.5mm audio jack. You'll likely need an adapter or two to connect your older peripherals, but it's certainly looking to the future. The Surface Laptop has a USB-A 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, a 3.5mm audio jack, and the proprietary Surface Connect port, altogether offering up a selection that won't hold up as well as that of the Spectre.

Finally, the Surface Laptop has Windows 10 S installed, which is essentially the same as Home or Pro except it's meant to be used only with apps straight from the Microsoft Store. This is basically Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS, and if you don't like it, you can always upgrade.

Winner: HP Spectre 13t. This is a beautiful laptop with the ports needed to see it well into the future.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Battery

Best Surface Laptop Sleeves So Far

Due to size, the batteries in both laptops aren't going to hit any incredible uptimes, but the Surface Laptop and Spectre 13t with FHD display should get you through a workday. Going with the Core i7 CPU in either laptop or the 4K display in the Spectre 13t will no doubt bring the life down a bit, but this one is too close to call one way or the other.

Winner: Draw. Both laptops should set you up for an eight-hour work day, but bring along a charger if you're tackling any big jobs.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Pricing

While the Surface Laptop is available at a cheaper introductory price — about $800 for a Core m3, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD — compared to the Spectre 13t, prices soon grow apart.

See at Microsoft Store

A Surface Laptop with a seventh-gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD costs about $2,700. A Spectre 13t with similar specs — eighth-gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD — costs about $1,800. That's nearly $1,000 you're saving by going with the Spectre 13t. Even adding a 4K display to the configuration keeps the price below $2,000.

See at HP

Winner: HP Spectre 13t. You can get way more hardware for way less if you go with HP's Ultrabook, though the Surface Laptop does have a cheaper introductory model.

HP Spectre 13t vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop: Conclusion

Looking at all things together, HP's Spectre 13t comes out on top of the Surface Laptop. It's using eighth-gen Intel Core CPUs for better performance, it has a beautiful, mobile design with Thunderbolt 3 ports, and it's considerably cheaper if you're looking for a device with decent performance.

Still, the Surface Laptop is no slouch, bringing Surface Pen support, a beautiful design, a better pointing experience, and a cheaper introductory model. My suggestion? If you just need a laptop for everyday tasks, go with the Surface Laptop. Need high performance? Stick with the Spectre 13t.

More resources

For more information about both of these laptops, be sure to have a look at our in-depth reviews.

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.