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HP Spectre x360 13 aw0205tu (Late 2019) Review
It’s been a long wait for Intel’s 10nm processors to show up in products we can buy, and our now we have with us the latest revision of the HP Spectre x360, a premium, ultra-slim 2-in-1 laptop that features a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU from the 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ family. We reviewed the previous generation of this laptop in mid-2019, and not much has changed apart from the internal hardware, so it will be interesting to compare the two. With prices starting just shy of Rs. 1,00,000, this is a laptop for those who want the an extremely portable machine for work entertainment, which they can also show off.
The new HP Spectre x360 13 aw0205tu is a 2-in-1 with an integrated LTE data modem. It claims to offer extraordinary design, class-leading battery life, and of course plenty of processing power. It goes up against Dell’s XPS series, Lenovo’s slick Yoga models, and Acer’s latest Swift ultraportables. Considering that this laptop weighs less than 1.3kg, has HP managed to deliver on all its promises?
HP Spectre x360 13 aw0205tu (Late 2019) design
The sharp, angular look and the warm copper-gold accents of the previous-generation Spectre x360 have been retained, with a few refinements. HP says this iteration is 13 percent smaller than before, thanks largely to a reduction in depth. What you’ll notice first is are the “gem-cut” rear corners which really make this device stand out. On closer inspection you’ll notice the bevelled yet tapering metal edges and clever placement of ports and buttons.
We aren’t really fans of sharp edges and corners on portable devices, but the Spectre x360 13 certainly has a unique personality. It also isn’t too uncomfortable to carry around or use as a laptop or tablet, which we had worried about at first. There’s a contrast here of subtle touches and attention-grabbing details.
The lid, keyboard deck, and bottom are a dark grey colour that HP calls Nightfall Black, and there’s also a Poseidon Blue option on some configurations. You’ll see HP’s ultra-modern minimalist logo on the lid. The device weighs 1.27kg and is just 169mm thick when closed.
Flipping the lid up requires more than one hand because of how light the base is. The hinges feel absolutely solid and there’s no flex to be worried about. Even when prodding the touchscreen with a finger, the lid doesn’t wobble much. When folded back fully in tablet mode, the two halves of this laptop don’t sit perfectly flat against each other. It isn’t very easy to hold this device as a tablet because all those angled edges that line up so nicely when the laptop is closed are in exactly the opposite position, creating a big gap.
When folded all the way, the lid blocks the intake vents that are on the bottom of the lower half. The Spectre x360 x13 exhausts hot air through a slit between its hinges which is unfortunately where your palm is likely be because this is the best way to hold the unit. It won’t be a problem when doing something casual like reading a Web page, but touchscreen games are a different story.
HP boasts that it has reduced the borders around the screen compared to the previous generation, and indeed the thick chin is gone. The edges aren’t the narrowest we’ve ever seen but the look is still very modern. There’s a webcam in its natural position above the screen, plus an IR sensor for Windows Hello face recognition.
On the lower deck, the keyboard stretches across the entire width of this laptop and we’re happy to note that the layout isn’t cramped at all. There’s a column of dedicated paging keys which is impressive considering how compact this laptop is. The arrow keys are a little crowded together, and the one issue we had is that there’s a raised spacer right in front of them. It’s necessary to protect the keyboard when using this device with the base folded facing downwards, in what’s usually called “stand mode”, but it does slightly get in the way.
Our palms rested on the front edge of the Spectre x360 13 when typing but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The keys have decent travel and are not too stiff or too spongy. You can choose between two levels of white backlighting, which is very even. The trackpad is wide but not very tall and might take some getting used to, but there is of course a touchscreen for quick selections and interactions. We wish there weren’t so many stickers on the wrist rest though – they do slightly cheapen the look of this laptop.
The power button is on the upper-left corner cutout, next to the hinge. This is highly unusual but makes sense because you can get to it whether the device is being used as a laptop or tablet. On the left you’ll find a 3.5mm audio socket and a unique collapsible USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A port – similar to how some manufacturers squeeze an Ethernet port onto slim laptops. This is an excellent compromise between ditching convenient ports and maintaining slimness. Next to that, you’ll find a Nano-SIM tray if you choose a version of this laptop with LTE data.
There are also two Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) Type-C ports on the right – one mounted diagonally on the upper-right corner cutout – both of which support Power Delivery and DisplayPort video output. HP is targeting security-conscious users with another unusual feature, a physical switch to disable the webcam. Finally, there’s a microSD card slot on the right.
Overall, HP has done an impressive job, and we expect nothing less from a laptop range priced between 1-2 lakh rupees. This feels like a luxury product, and no core functionality has been removed because of style. Every time you notice a new detail or look at the Spectre x360 13 from a different angle, you’ll be impressed by the design, materials, and construction quality that HP has pulled off here.
HP Spectre x360 13 aw0205tu (Late 2019) specifications and software
The Spectre x330 13 is available in several variants priced starting at Rs. 99,990 in India. The version we’re reviewing costs Rs. 1,58,990. For this price, you get an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and integrated LTE – this is the only variant currently listed by HP in India with LTE.
Intel’s CPU naming schemes have become unnecessarily convoluted. The chip in question here is based on Intel’s more modern ‘Ice Lake’ 10nm architecture, whereas other laptop CPUs also marketed as “10th Generation” use the 14nm ‘Comet Lake’ architecture. Ice Lake stands apart primarily for its support for AI acceleration and the beefy ‘Iris Plus’ Gen11 integrated GPU. Intel also promises improved power efficiency and more modern connectivity standards, plus the usual generational performance bump.
What we can tell from this model’s name, Core i7-1065G7 is that it is a quad-core multi-threaded chip with base and turbo speeds of 1.3GHz and 3.9GHz respectively, and it is designed for a 15W thermal envelope. The G7 suffix indicates that this CPU features 64 GPU execution units, which is the most powerful graphics configuration in the lineup. Here too, you get more modern standards for hardware video encoding, variable rate shading, and adaptive sync than you would with 10th Gen Comet Lake processors.
As for the rest of the hardware, HP hasn’t really skimped anywhere. The RAM is soldered and not upgradeable. HP seems to have used Intel’s Optane Memory H10 hybrid PCIe SSD, which is a replaceable M.2 module, but curiously neither the spec sheet nor any publicity materials make any mention of this feature.
Our review unit has a 13.3-inch full-HD touchscreen. There’s an optional 4K panel on some variants, but we don’t mind this resolution at this size, and it’s more power efficient. We would have liked HDR, though. The screen itself is made using Corning Gorilla Glass NBT.
The battery capacity is surprisingly high at 60Wh for a laptop this size. There’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, plus Intel’s XMM 7560 LTE modem. You also get an accelerometer, gyroscope and e-compass for tablet-optimised use cases. Finally, there are stereo speakers and dual microphones.
HP included a stylus and a nice-looking protective sleeve with our unit. The 65W Type-C charger is fairly small and comes with an extension lead.
This variant of the Spectre x360 13 ships with Windows 10 Pro. HP includes quite a bit of software including its own Jumpstarts dashboard app which we found quite pointless, a Support Assistant which shows troubleshooting and warranty information, an HP printers utility, and an HP Command Centre for performance-related settings, amongst many others. Preinstalled apps include Dropbox (with 25GB of free space for a year), ExpressVPN, LastPass, Amazon’s Alexa assistant, Microsoft Office Home & Student, and McAfee Livesafe.
HP Spectre x360 13 aw0205tu (Late 2019) performance
Although this is a super-premium laptop, what you get in this segment is portability and style more than raw performance. You can expect to get through all your day-to-day tasks such as browsing the Web, editing documents, and streaming video, but heavy content creation and gaming are not realistic expectations. This is a pleasant laptop to get work done on – one thing to note is how quickly it resumed from sleep when we flipped the lid open.
The keyboard is comfortable and takes no time to get used to, and the trackpad gave us no trouble despite being a little vertically constrained. Fingerprint and face recognition do make life easier, and there’s nothing like having a standard USB port on such a portable device. HP says the screen is non-reflective despite being glossy, but we did have trouble with overhead lights. We quite enjoyed watching videos. The stereo speakers are loud and exceptionally crisp for voices. The sound is spacious and doesn’t distort, but is almost completely lacking in bass.
The most compelling feature of the Spectre x360 13 for us is integrated LTE, and we don’t know why this isn’t more common on laptops. It’s super convenient to be able to just flip the lid open and get connected no matter where you are, without the bother of tethering a phone. It required no setup whatsoever – we just popped a Nano-SIM in and Windows told us that it would fall back to cellular data when Wi-Fi wasn’t available, which it did flawlessly.
Benchmarks showed good performance figures for a thin-and-light laptop. PCMark gave us 4,263 and 3,724 point respectively in its standard and Extended runs. Cinebench R20 managed 295 and 1,179 in its single-core and multi-core tests, and POVray took 2 minutes, 59 seconds to run its built-in ray tracing benchmark.
In our real-world task-based tests, the HP Spectre x360 13 took 3 minutes, 9 seconds to compress a 3.24GB folder using 7zip, and 1 minute, 52 seconds to transcode a 1.3GB AVI video file to MKV. We also checked out the performance of the hybrid Optane Memory H10 SSD using CrystalDiskMark, which showed excellent sequential read and write speeds of 1436.5MBps and 354.9MBps respectively.
As for graphics, 3DMark returned scores of 759 in the Time Spy scene and 1,385 in the Fire Strike Extreme scene. We weren’t able to run any heavy games – Rise of the Tomb Raider, which isn’t too demanding, repeatedly crashed while loading.
We should note that the middle of the keyboard did get quite warm when we were running heavy tests, and this might become uncomfortable if you’re trying to run sustained workloads that push this system’s limits. There was also audible fan noise, which would start up rather suddenly but also drop out now and then. This isn’t usually a problem for casual use, but random background processes might suddenly cause a spike which is distracting.
We were able to use the Spectre x360 13 for a full workday without needing to plug it in to charge. We used LTE data for about half an hour, and the rest of the time we had an active Wi-Fi connection and spent most of our time typing documents, streaming music and video, and reading Web pages. The Battery Eater Pro benchmark impressed us with a runtime of 3 hours, 57 minutes which is much more than we would have expected from an ultraportable.
The HP Spectre x360 13 is extremely compact and relatively powerful. The brand new 10th Gen Intel ‘Ice Lake’ processor is a welcome upgrade, especially in terms of battery life and graphics power, but it doesn’t exactly bring about a revolutionary leap in performance – at least in this case. You won’t be able to play AAA games or run heavy creative software. What you do get is a nimble, responsive system for everyday productivity in a very small package.
While we do appreciate a touchscreen and 360-degree hinge, this isn’t a comfortable device to use as a tablet. The design is excellent for a laptop and almost nothing has been compromised in terms of usability – it’s just not as practical as an iPad or Android tablet when folded back all the way.
That said, the Spectre x360 13 looks unique and is undoubtedly high-end, with excellent construction quality and finishes everywhere. The keyboard and trackpad are both very good, the screen is more than adequate, and we love having a full-sized USB port. Integrated LTE is also something you won’t ever want to live without.
HP has made a different set of tradeoffs compared to Dell with its XPS 13, the most obvious competitor to the Spectre x360 13. We like this approach and we think a lot of business travellers, corporate execs and even students will be pleased with this laptop, just as long as they have no budget constraints.
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