HP Spectre x360 13t (late 2018) review: HP's flashiest 2-in-1 has one (big) flaw

Windows Central Recommended Award

For a few years now HP has been doing its best to win over the premium consumer Ultrabook market with its Spectre series. It's working. The Spectres continually demonstrate what good design engineering can do for a company.

The 13-inch Spectre x360 is the most well-known (and popular) of the Spectre series, and its latest revision reveals a lot of good stuff. However, HP still has a few small areas where it can improve.

Like a jewel

What's new in the HP Spectre x360 13t?

The HP Spectre x360 13t's all-new "gem-cut" design brings sharp, angular edges to the metal chassis. The design is a sharp departure from the more rounded hinge area from the last model (see my review). It's especially noticeable near the back where the corners have been lopped off in favor of hard angles. That design isn't just for flare but for the Type-C port (right side) and the power button (left side). A Type-C peripheral or charging cable now clears the laptop without blocking your mouse hand, and that power button is far harder to hit accidentally when in tablet mode. It's smart engineering that happens to be eye-catching too.

Other new features include:

  • 8th Gen Intel Core i7 "Whiskey Lake."
  • Longer battery life.
  • 4G LTE (optional).
  • Gigabit Wi-Fi.
  • Webcam privacy killswitch.
  • Thermal control app.
  • Fingerprint reader on deck.

New 'gem-cut' design brings sharper edges to the chassis.

HP claims the dual chamfer edges also make the lid easier to lift no matter which side you're opening it from. The design detail even filters down to the speaker holes, which HP claims have been drilled in a specific pattern meant to boost "acoustic transparency." This generation also includes a stylish new color, called "Poseidon blue," with brass accents, adding to the dark ash silver available on previous models.

This new Spectre is slightly thicker (14.5 mm compared to last year's at 13.6 mm) and heavier (2.9 lbs versus 2.85 lbs), but the difference is barely noticeable, and it lets HP get better thermal dissipation, more performance and increased battery life.

HP Spectre x360 13t tech specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySpec
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U
8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U
RAM8 GB, 16GB
StoragePCIe NVMe SSD
256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Display size13.3 inches
Touch
Display resolution1920 x 1080
1920 x 1080 w/ Sure View Privacy Screen
4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
PenYes (N-trig)
Included
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3
Two USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2
USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 2
Micro SD card
3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless connectivityIntel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11b/g/n/ac Gigabit Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 Combo
Optional 4G LTE
BiometricsIR camera for Windows Hello
SecurityFingerprint reader
TPM
Privacy camera kill switch
BatteryUp to 22.5 hours
Dimensions12.16 in x 8.58 in x 0.57 in
Weight2.92 lbs

HP also updated the processor to the latest Intel 8th Generation 15-watt Core i7 processor, offers optional 4G LTE support, Gigabit Wi-Fi, and the company moved the fingerprint reader from the side to the top deck.

The display bezels are now 5.7 percent thinner than the last model (though they're still rather large on the top and bottom).

All those changes add up to make this Spectre x360 an ambitious refresh to HP's premium Ultrabook line.

getting the basics right

HP Spectre x360 13t screen, keyboard, and audio

The Spectre x360 13t's 13.3-inch full HD display is one of the better ones we've tested. With around 320 nits of brightness and 98 percent, sRGB color accuracy the tones and balance look great. Like other HP models there are options for a 4K panel – which while looking great is likely overkill for many – and HP's new privacy screen dubbed Sure View.

About those thick top and bottom bezels ... HP insists on putting the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas at the top for best reception, but as a result, the bezels are unusually large for a premium Ultrabook in 2019.

The included pen for inking is N-trig based (versus Wacom), and it works quite well for casual use. However, there is no storage or magnets for the pen, which makes traveling with it a bit tricky.

HP still makes some of the best and "crispiest" keyboards on the market for Ultrabooks. With large chicklet-style keys with pleasant spacing, the Spectre x360's keyboard has ample travel. The keyboard is also edge-to-edge with a dedicated home row on the right-hand side. This keyboard is arguably one of the best around, only slightly bested by the softer, plusher Surface Laptop 2.

Audio is excellent. HP recently started to use a quad-speaker array in its premium business (EliteBook) and consumer (Spectre) series of laptops, with much success. The software is tuned by Bang & Olufsen as has been the case for years now. Two of the speakers are placed behind the keyboard near the display with two more underneath the front of the laptop, near the edge. Such placement lets the audio bounce off the screen and back at the user, delivering crisp sound. But it could be improved with more bass and resonance. The two speakers on top and two on the bottom mean that when used as a tablet or in tent mode you have a better chance for consistent sound.

HP Spectre x360 13t audio is excellent.

The trackpad is where things go sour for the Spectre x360 13t. The hardware and design with the gold trim are excellent. Smooth glass, large elongated design, and a satisfying click all work in favor of the 13t. But it's betrayed by the shoddy Synaptics software drivers that power it. The continued omission of Microsoft Precision drivers is a blight that HP needs to rectify. Scrolling can be janky and pinch to zoom wildly inconsistent, and such an egregious oversight in 2019 nearly ruins the whole experience of the Spectre x360 13t.

powerhouse Ultrabook

HP Spectre x360 13t performance

HP Spectre x360 13t

The Spectre x360 13t uses a familiar Intel Core i7 8565U processor, but it can also be configured with an Intel i5-8265U. Both are the latest from Intel, are quad-core, and 15-watt regular Ultrabook processors.

In the past, HP has caught flak for having less than stellar thermal management, but most of that is addressed with this version. Heat and fan noise are reduced partially because of the use of smaller dual-fans instead of one larger single one. HP for the first time is also including thermal management software, called HP Command Center. The simple app lets you toggle between different power modes, which then affects the heat dissipation amount and fan-noise levels. It's good software and something the company should carry over to its business-themed EliteBook range.

There is no dedicated GPU in such a thin device, but the Intel UHD 620 gets the job.

Performance is in line with similar laptops although Huawei today is pushing its processors harder than HP, which results in slightly better benchmarks.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
HP Spectre x360 13tCore i7-8565U5,05614,767
Huawei MateBook X Pro (new)Core i7-8565U5,19216,757
Huawei MateBook 13Core i7-8565U5,33617,062
Surface Laptop 2Core i5-8250U4,20313,233
Surface LaptopCore i7-7660U4,7149,535
LG gram 14 2-in-1Core i7-8565U4,82913,889
LG gram 17Core i7-8565U5,16113,370
Lenovo Yoga C930Core i7-8550U4,78715,028
Dell XPS 13 (9370)Core i7-8550U4,68114,816
Lenovo Yoga C630 (ARM)SD8502,2877,215

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 CUDA (higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceGPUCompute score
HP Spectre x360 13tUHD 62037,487
Huawei MateBook X ProMX25045,365
Huawei MateBook 13MX15048,430
Surface Laptop 2UHD 62035,473
Surface LaptopIris 64031,010
Samsung Notebook 9 15MX15048,536

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeviceReadWrite
HP Spectre x360 13t3,085 MB/s1,182 MB/s
Huawei MateBook X Pro (new)3,416 MB/s2,779 MB/s
Huawei MateBook 133,436 MB/s2,553 MB/s
LG gram 14 2-in-1558.1 MB/s523.1 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C9302,596 MB/s806 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 730 132,790 MB/s506 MB/s
Lenovo IdeaPad 730S3,450 MB/s1,463 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C630791 MB/s220 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook S550 MB/s512 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook 151,725 MB/s1,447 MB/s

HP is using a newer Western Digital SSD with good results. Our model has a 256GB drive with excellent speeds.

Nary a flaw

HP Spectre x360 13t is (almost) perfect

HP Spectre x360

HP Spectre x360 (Image credit: Windows Central)

You could argue that HP almost over-engineered its new Spectre series of laptops. The designs are unique, but also pragmatic and functional. The attention to detail for the buttons and design is to be commended.

One of the most elegant 2-in-1 PCs in this price range.

New features like the privacy killswitch for the web camera are welcomed. Sticking with Windows Hello for facial recognition and a fingerprint reader is a good choice. The performance and overall feel of the laptop are among the best we've tested.

Battery life is rated at a crazy 22 hours by HP, but the real-life experience is more like ten hours or slightly more, which is still outstanding. Port selection, features, and audio are also all well above average.

Even the starting price of $1,050 for a Core i5 configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is good enough for most regular consumers. For that price, they will be treated to one of the most elegant 2-in-1 PCs around.

HP even lets users configure a model with 4G LTE. When combined with the slim, light body, and all-day battery life, that's a winning combination.

But some of that is betrayed by HP's insistence on using Synaptics drivers for the trackpad and the rather huge top and bottom display bezels. While simply navigating Windows and using apps like Office feel OK on the trackpad, using apps such as Twitter, GroupMe, or the Edge browser while scrolling and using pinch-to-zoom can be wildly janky. There's no excuse for this, as those Synaptics drivers do not offer a single benefit to the consumer when compared to Precision drivers. HP is one of the last PC makers to stick with Synaptics, and it's unacceptable in 2019.

That blemish is unfortunate because HP is making outstanding hardware, only to trip on such a simple detail like the trackpad. While I believe many users can live with the Spectre's trackpad, it's the one thing that keeps me from using one of these PCs as my daily laptop.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

21 Comments
  • Lenovo Yoga 730-13 wins at value starting at $750 vs $1k. Similar build quality, ports, and screen options. Major difference is the battery capacity, 48Wh on Yoga vs 57Wh on Spectre. Configuring up to 16GB memory starts at $900 with Yoga vs $1,200 with Spectre. Considering neither memory is upgradable, Yoga is better bang for the buck. Also Lenovo did not gimp on the fundamentals - touchpad and stylus - on their high-end lineup. Yoga C930 is also the better flagship between the two. Bigger screen, better speakers and better build quality, precision touchpad, pen slot, Wacom AES 2.0. Then you have EliteBook x360 1040, which is the next upgrade from HP. Maintains same benefits as C930 over the Spectre, with the addition of better screen options, even better keyboard and build, more I/O, security features, and magnetic pen attachment. Currently SureView 3rd Gen is at 700-nit FHD 120Hz IPS, and was announced to reach 1000-nit brightness with upcoming 4th Gen this year. My guess is HP is deliberately keeping Spectre from cannibalizing EliteBook's bulk corporate sales. Still, the the Spectre x360 is too expensive considering what Lenovo has to offer with Yoga C930 and 730-13.
  • I dont' really disagree with that. May do a vs. video between Spectre x360 and Yoga C930. Spoiler alert: C930 is one of my favorite laptops period. We just shot the review for EliteBook 1040 G5. Amazing laptop, but different level of expense. Starts at $1,900.
  • I'm just mad HP didn't put a USB-C charging port on each of those gem-cut corners. Then you can charge from either side of the laptop, without adapter cables getting in your way. With business laptops, you're never supposed to pay the full price. I got my x360 1040 30% off during an arbitrary discount period. Had to check HP's US website every week since the release. Lenovo is a lot more generous and reliable with their quarterly 30-50% off on Thinkpads. I haven't got a chance to try C930 yet, though it seems like the best convertible ultrabook for ~$1k. I really do wish it had a MX250 GPU, being a non-Thinkpad consumer laptop and all.
  • Not sure about EliteBook but business laptops you should buy on a sale (e.g. There is currently a 30/35% sale on Dell business laptops now which should be their normal price, while contrast on consumer flagship laptops you can get a sale of 10% or 15% perhaps, excluding sales on high ssd/ram upgrades which are often over priced anyway).
  • Sadly, the Lenovo Yoga 730 suffers from an incredible hardware issue that Lenovo doesn't seem to be doing much to address. Just Google "yoga 730 flickering" to see the chaos but it seems as though the wiring or hardware that connects the display to the rest of the unit - is not very durable. It seems related to bending it into Tablet mode and back. Too risky of a purchase for me until they address that in future models. It's a shame too because it's great bang for the buck!
  • 100% correct...ordered one and cancelled...additionally dealing with Lenovo was challenging to say the least.
  • But with yoga there were quite a bit of Superfish/adware scandals a few years ago (installed on the bios, so a fresh Windows install didn't work) and the screen hardware issues currently. So than a Thinkpad (on sale) would be more reliable and smarter long-term choice I think. Furthermore iirc the non-4k screens are too dark on yoga's too. And with 4k it is and more expensive and you get crap battery life, and for what advantage really on a small laptop? I mean do people almost kiss their 13-14 inch laptop or such to see the difference? 😏
  • I don't think Geekbench is good to measure gpu speed; UHD 620 is not ~20% faster than Iris 640, it should be the other way around (even if you take into account some variation because of different laptop cooling solutions it is to different compared to real world test and other benchmarks -> https://www.notebookcheck.net/UHD-Graphics-620-vs-Iris-Plus-Graphics-640...).
  • Thank you Dan for once again an excellent and consistent review. I am seriously considering getting this PC. I have eliminated all other makers of 13" laptops simply because HP has the dedicated home row on their keyboard. It is beyond me why Windows PC would get rid of this. Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn are staples of Windows editing. I currently have a laptop with a Symantic touchpad and I have the Surface Go (which I love). There is something that the Symantic touchpad can do that a Precision one cannot. You can configure cursor coasting. You can flick the cursor and it will coast on it own and you stop it by touching the touch pad again. I was really disappointment when I couldn't do this on the Surface Go. When you read this, you may be thinking this doesn't sound all that great, but once your brain get good at using it, it is vastly superior to having to keep touching and dragging the touchpad to move the cursor. Also, with a touch screen, I would never use the touchpad for pinch gestures. I would just use the screen.
  • Iirc Windows moves the cursor/pointer very fast if you make fast mouse movements and slower pointer travel if you move the mouse slow (for more accuracy). I would suggest just increase the cursor/pointer speed a bit for your Go (to compensate for the smaller touchpad too).
  • I would say the one big flaw is its name “x360 13t”
  • article title reminded me of those ads about "one BIG thing they don't want you to know"
  • I recently purchased the X360 15" version and can tell you the criticism of synaptic drivers is spot on. So much to like about the 15", ruined by awful Synaptic trackpad drivers. I have to restart the computer almost every time I fire it up to get the two finger scrolling to work. And restarting works about 3 out of 5 times. What a shame. And puzzling since HP uses Microsoft Precision drivers on their business high end computers.
  • Can't you install Precision drivers?
  • I can only report on the 2017 version, but on that one, yes, and it works like a charm. I don't see why it wouldn't work here, too.
  • I'm still wondering why the Surface Book is still the only device in this class with a dedicated GPU. Since i want to so some light gaming, this would be great to have some more options.
  • Spectre x360 15 with GTX
  • It is heavier though, almost 0.5 kg. Might as well buy a 15 inch Surface Book for the 1060 if you have the cash (it is lighter).
  • Yeah only mx150 / vega8/10 variants but those are almost twice as slow as a 1050 gpu. mx250 will be only (max) 10% faster to mx150 according to notebookcheck. Perhaps the new vega chips will be better, probably same level as m150/mx250 though. Maybe Ryzen H series in laptops will get better vega performance because of more power, I doubt if oems will put that in compact (touchscreen) laptops but it would be interesting to see.
  • Hey Dan, do a review of N9P 15 (2019 Samsung Notebook 9 15 Pen). It's a pretty unique device being the only 2 in 1 ultrabook with MX150. You'd like it.
  • HP just added Precision Touchpads to their new Envy x360 so I'm thinking they'll bring them to the table in the Spectre with the next release. Really hoping they shrink at least the bottom bezel with the next release.