HP Spectre x360 15 (2020) review: beauty at the expense of battery life

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HP Spectre x360 (15-inch) 2020 specs

Price: $1,849
CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB of SSD storage
Display:15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160-pixel, 4K, AMOLED
Battery: 2:51:07
Size: 14.17 x 8.91 x 0.79 in
Weight: 4.23 pounds 

The HP Spectre x360 15 (starting at $1,599, reviewed at $1,849) must have approached Satan and said, “I want to have the most beautiful display in the world.” In response, the devil said, “I can do that for you, but in return, I want all of your battery life.” The Spectre x360 15 then shook Satan’s hand and said, “You’ve got a deal!”

“Two hours and 51 minutes?!” That’s what I shouted when our Laptop Mag lab testers informed me about the Spectre x360 15’s less-than-impressive battery life. It seems as if the sleek and sexy HP convertible sold its soul for beauty and attractiveness, but strangely, I can’t help but think, “Perhaps it was worth it?”

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

The Spectre x360 15 has a luxurious aesthetic with its black-and-gold motif. It’s the type of laptop you’d expect to be in the hands of a wealthy Millennial who owns a private jet. Carrying this modern beauty around will certainly turn heads and attract envious glances that say, “I want that!” 

The HP 2-in-1 — equipped with a six-core Intel Core i7 H-series CPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU —  is ideal for photographers, digital artists and video editors seeking a color-accurate, speedy notebook with a 4K panel that will widen your eyes with awe.

The Spectre x360 15 will appeal to stylish, professional content creators, but they’ll have to make some sacrifices, especially when it comes to battery life.

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) price and configuration options 

The HP Spectre x360 15 base model costs $1,599 and comes with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160-pixel (4K) display.

For an additional $110, you can bump up your RAM and storage to 16GB and 512GB, respectively.

My review unit, priced at $1,849, upgrades your system to 1TB of SSD storage with 32GB of Intel Optane memory; the 4K display gets spiced up with an AMOLED, ultra-wide viewing angle screen. For all configurations, you can choose between two color options: Nightfall Black with copper-luxe accents or Poseidon Blue with pale-brass accents.

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) design 

“Luxe!” That’s the first word that came to my mind when I first unwrapped the HP Spectre x360 from its black-and-gold package. The lustrous HP logo and golden dual hinges are striking against the Nightfall Black chassis. Rose-gold accents cloak all four sides of the sophisticated Spectre x360 15.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

Open the lid, and you’ll discover slim bezels that offer a 90% screen-to-body ratio, or 10% more than its predecessor. The HP Spectre x360 15 is the only notebook in the HP lineup with this much screen real estate. HP whittled down the Spectre x360 15’s bezels by implementing the world’s smallest IR webcam; the last-gen Spectre x360 15 featured a six-millimeter webcam, whereas the current-gen model sports a 2.2mm webcam.

Two 360-degree golden hinges allowed me to easily transfigure the Spectre x360 15 into four different modes, including tablet and tent mode.

The Nightfall Black deck features angular, beveled edges known as the Spectre series’ signature “gem-cut design.” Above the keyboard, you’ll find an edge-to-edge, Bang & Olufsen speaker with diamond-shaped grilles. The keycaps, wrapped in an ebony finish, match the chassis’ color scheme. Below the space bar, you’ll discover a touchpad with a subtle rose-gold trim. On the bottom-right corner of the deck, you’ll find an unassuming square-shaped fingerprint reader.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

On the bottom of the Spectre x360 15 is a large vent that intakes cool air while the vents on the side of the chassis expel hot air.

At 4.2 pounds and 14.2 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches, the Spectre x360 15 is thicker than its competitors: the Dell XPS 15 (4.5 pounds, 0.7 inches), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3 pounds, 0.6 inches) and the Asus ZenBook Flip S (2.4 pounds, 0.4 inches). 

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) ports 

At first, you’ll say, “Where’s the power button on this thing?” Power buttons are typically found somewhere on the top portion of the keyboard deck or somewhere on the side, but on the Spectre x360 15, the power button is camouflaged on the left beveled edge of the HP convertible.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

Moving on to the ports, the Spectre x360 15 has a decent selection of connection options that will satisfy your needs. On the left side are an HDMI 2.0 port and a headset jack. On the right side, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 3 ports (one on the beveled edge opposite the power button), one USB Type-A port and a microSD card slot. 

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) display 

The Spectre x360 15 sports a 15.6-inch, 4K, AMOLED display that will take your breath away. The panel features VESA-certified true-black HDR, which is a fancy way of saying that the display offers richer shades of black, which increases contrast for better visual vibrancy. The colors really pop! 

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

I watched The Croods: New Age trailer in 4K, which follows the animated adventures of kooky cavemen navigating through a vibrant prehistoric paradise. Bright pinks, verdant greens and rich purples popped as I watched the Croods explore a lush, fruitful Eden. I could spot intentional details created by the animators, including the fluffy fur of a colorful Siberian tiger and the highly defined hair strands atop the Croods’ heads.

It’s worth noting that you can tweak the display to your liking using the HP Display Control app. It features five modes: Default, sRGB (optimized for web browsing), Adobe RGB (best for printing and imaging work), DCI-P3 (ideal for photo and video editing) and Native (no optimization applied). Native is my favorite mode because it provided the most vivid colors while sRGB is my least favorite because it seemed to strip away the display’s saturation. While experimenting with some light editing work in Adobe Photoshop, DCI-P3 mode was the best option, providing crisp, color-accurate visuals.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

According to our colorimeter, the Spectre x360 15 covered a whopping 146.7% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which crushes the 84% color-coverage score of the average premium laptop. The 4K displays of the Dell XPS 15 (93.7%), Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (133%) and Asus ZenBook Flip S (113.1%) paled in comparison to the Spectre x360 15’s vivid, AMOLED panel.

With a 0.3 Delta-E score, the Spectre x360 15 shares the same color-accuracy score as the category average, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the Asus ZenBook Flip S (the closer the score is to zero, the better). However, the Dell XPS 15 is more color accurate than all three 4K laptops with a Delta-E score of 0.26.

The Spectre x360 15’s 339-nit display is dim compared to the Dell XPS 15 (434 nits) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (488 nits). The Spectre x360 15 is also dimmer than the average premium laptop (380 nits), but it is more brilliant than the Asus ZenBook Flip S’s paltry 254-nit display.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

The Spectre x360 15’s display has a super responsive touchscreen panel that kept up with my gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom and left-to-right swipes to return to previous pages. 

Lastly, the Spectre x360 15 has an eye-safe display, which means it reduces harmful blue light without hurting color accuracy. This is beneficial for productivity users who spend countless hours on their laptops.

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) audio 

The Spectre x360 15 sports a mediocre Bang & Olufsen edge-to-edge speaker that takes up a quarter of the keyboard deck. You’ll find additional dual speakers on the laptop’s undercarriage.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

I listened to “Diamonds” by Sam Smith at max volume, and while the snappy, vocal-heavy tune sounded decent, I wish it got a bit louder. Still, the sound was amplified enough to fill my medium-sized testing room. When I listened to music with more bass, however, the lows in these songs sounded too muddy for my taste.

There is a Bang and Olufsen Audio Control app, but it doesn’t offer any options to tune the speakers.

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) keyboard and touchpad 

I enjoyed typing on the HP Spectre x360’s edge-to-edge, white-backlit keyboard. On the 10FastFingers.com typing test, I reached a 93 word-per-minute average, which is far higher than my typical 85-wpm typing speed. In fact, this is the fastest I’ve ever typed on a review unit. The quiet keys are springy and provide clicky, tactile feedback that allowed me to tap away on the keyboard as if I were a masterful DJ with turntable dexterity. The HP Spectre x360 15’s keyboard also features a full-sized numpad.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

While I love the HP Spectre x360 15’s keyboard, I’m not a fan of the touchpad. It has a silky-smooth texture, which feels nice, but it’s not optimal for cursor navigation. Touchpads need a bit of friction for a highly responsive cursor experience and I noticed that I needed to exert a tinge more energy than usual to direct the cursor around the display (but it’s nothing too alarming). On the plus side, Windows 10 gestures, such as three-finger tabbing and two-finger scrolling, worked like a charm. 

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) performance 

The Spectre x360 15, equipped with an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU and 16GB of RAM, stood firm against my attempts to wear it down as I flooded it with 40 Google Chrome tabs. I launched Adobe Photoshop and I edited a photo of a tiger without experiencing any lag.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

On the Geekbench 5.0 overall performance benchmark, the Spectre x360 15 achieved a score of 3,353, which is less than the category average (4,029). The Spectre x360 15 also was outpaced by the Dell XPS 15’s Core i7-10750H CPU (6,174), Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s Core i7-10610U CPU (3,878) and Asus ZenBook Flip S’s Core i7-7500U CPU (3,880).

The Spectre x360 15 took 18 minutes and one second to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, which beats the category average (18:26). The HP convertible is also speedier than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (19:22) and the Asus ZenBook Flip S (22:05). However, the Dell XPS 15 blew the Spectre x360 15 out of the water with a lightning-fast time of 10 minutes and six seconds.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

The Spectre x360 15’s 1TB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in four seconds, which translates to a file-transfer rate of 1,161.3 megabytes per second. This is far speedier than the category average (747.55 MBps). The HP Spectre x360 15 also kicked butt against the Dell XPS 15’s 512GB SSD (726 MBps), Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s 512GB SSD (978.7 MBps) and the Asus ZenBook Flip S’s 1TB SSD (145.4 MBps).

On the PugetBench Photoshop test, a benchmark that analyzes how well laptops can handle an onslaught of image-manipulation tasks, the Spectre x360 15 offered a score of 588, which is lower than the premium laptop average (601). The Dell XPS 15 and the Asus ZenBook Flip S sport the same GPU as the Spectre x360 15, but those two laptops smoked the HP convertible with scores of 787 and 626, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the Spectre x360 15 outperformed the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s Intel UHD graphics (530).

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) graphics and gaming 

The HP Spectre x360 15 is electrified with a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU with 4GB of VRAM, which is ideal for graphics-intensive tasks, including light gaming and video editing.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

On the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark, the HP Spectre x360 achieved a stellar score of 7,518, beating the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (1,223) and the Asus ZenBook Flip S (967), but the HP 2-in-1 could not keep up with the Dell XPS 15 (8,397).

If you want to enjoy some light gaming on the HP Spectre x360, you must reduce the resolution on the 4K panel. On the Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Spectre x360 produced 60 frames per second, which sailed past the category average (27 fps). The HP 2-in-1 also crushed the Dell XPS 15 (48 fps), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (9 fps) and the Asus ZenBook Flip S (15 fps).

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) battery life 

The HP Spectre x360’s 15’s battery life is laughably short. On the Laptop Mag battery life test, which involves surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the Spectre x360 15 lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes, which is nearly seven hours less than the average premium laptop (9:56).

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

On one hand, I feel the need to excuse the HP Spectre x360 15’s poor battery life. After all, it’s packing a power-consuming 4K, AMOLED, touchscreen display with a discrete graphics card and a powerful processor. However, last year’s 4K model lasted 7 hours and 46 minutes on our battery life test. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (7:28), Dell XPS 15 (8:01) and Asus ZenBook Flip S (8:35) — all laptops with 4K displays — also offered at least 7 hours of battery life, so I am not quite sure why the Spectre x360 15’s battery life is significantly shorter.

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) webcam 

The HP Spectre x360 15 sports the smallest IR camera in the world at 2.2mm and this is bound to come with some drawbacks. The 720p webcam is grainy with poor clarity and subpar definition. Laptop cameras are usually pretty awful, but there’s more visual noise on this webcam than usual. A vibrant royal blue-and-yellow book on my nightstand looked washed out on the HP Spectre x360 15’s camera.

Webcam selfie on HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

Although I’m dragging this webcam to hell and back, HP does deserve some praise for its camera security features. On the right side of the chassis, you’ll find a webcam kill switch. This kill switch impedes the webcam from being acknowledged by your PC. A hacker can’t hack your camera if your laptop doesn’t think it has one. Win!

Check out our best webcams page for something that won’t make it look like you’re joining video calls on your grandpa’s decades-old phone. 

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) heat 

The HP Spectre x360 is hot — and I’m not just talking about its sexy aesthetics. After the HP convertible streamed a 15-minute, 1080p video, the center of the keyboard hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five degrees higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold. The underside of the Spectre x360 15 was the hottest location, climbing up to 111 degrees. The touchpad, on the other hand, remained cool at 85 degrees. 

HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, 2020) software and warranty

The Spectre x360 15 ships with some useful software, such as the HP Command Center, which has a dedicated key between F12 and Delete for quick launching. It offers a Thermal Profile section, which lets you set your temperature and cooling preferences. There are three thermal profiles: Default, Performance and Comfort. Default is best for web browsing. Performance is optimal for CPU and GPU-taxing activities such as gaming and video editing. As the system gets hotter, the fans will kick in. Comfort mode reduces performance and allows the system to run cooler and quieter. 

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

There’s also a Network Booster tab that lets you determine which apps should receive bandwidth priority. For example, if you’re running more than one program, you can tell the HP Spectre x360 15 which app you’d like to prioritize.

The Spectre x360 15 doesn’t come with too much pre-installed bloatware. There’s no Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga or Microsoft Solitaire Collection, but you’ll find Netflix, Skype and Groove Music. The black-and-gold HP convertible ships with free 30-day trials for ExpressVPN and LastPass.

The Spectre x360 15 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how HP performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Laptop Brands ranking. 

Bottom line

The HP Spectre x360 15 is a work of art with its black-and-gold accents and angular-cut chassis. With this gorgeous convertible under your arm, you’ll turn heads. However, as the old saying goes, “Outer beauty attracts, but inner beauty captivates.” And, well, the Spectre x360 15 is having some difficulties with its inner-beauty captivation.

HP Spectre x360 15 2020 (Image credit: Future)

The Spectre x360 15 offered mixed, inconsistent performance on our benchmarks. When we tested its file-transfer rates and video transcoding speeds, it blew its rivals out of the water. It also did well on our gaming benchmarks. However, on the Photoshop and overall performance tests, the Spectre x360 15 did not impress. The Dell XPS 15 crushed the Spectre x360 15 in most categories so I’d recommend the Dell over the Spectre even though it will cost you about $200 more.

The next best laptop would be Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, offering five more hours of battery life and impressive performance, but it lacks a discrete GPU.

Still, the Spectre x360 15 shines when it comes to its 4K display, covering more ground on the DCI-P3 color gamut than all of its competitors. If you’re a photo or video editor seeking a sexy productivity machine with a slamming screen and kickass graphics, I’d recommend the HP Spectre x360 15 in a heartbeat. However, you’ll have to accept that you’ll be tethered to an outlet all day.



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About the Author: Chris Jenny

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