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HP Spectre x360 15 review: With Kaby Lake-G, this laptop can do almost anything

HP’s Spectre x360 15 adjustments the whole thing. Particularly, the model that wields Intel’s Kaby Lake-G CPU, fortified with Radeon RX Vega discrete graphics, upends the stereotype that 360-degree convertible laptops can’t ship peak efficiency. And we’ve confirmed it via evaluating the Spectre x360 15 with Kaby Lake-G in opposition to its dual working Kaby Lake-R, in addition to some high-end clamshell designs. The Kaby Lake G model is as speedy or quicker than all comers. 

The Spectre 15 x360 15’s adventure has been a protracted one. After we reviewed the primary technology in 2016, it used to be mainly designed to be a large ultrabook with a large display, quite than a dear powerhouse. 

To not throw coloration, however we’ve noticed different distributors stuff a lot warmer CPUs and far warmer GPUs into 15-inch convertibles, and the consequences were, neatly, not up to stellar. That’s unquestionably now not the case with the Spectre x360, which provides you with top-notch portions together with:

  • Intel Core i7-8705G
  • 16GB of DDR4/2400 RAM
  • 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (Toshiba in our construct)
  • 15.6-inch 4K contact display with energetic stylus beef up and 1,024 power ranges
HP Spectre x360 15 Adam Patrick Murray

The brand new HP Spectre x360 15 is available in Darkish Ash Silver with Copper Luxe highlights.

New glance

Externally, the Spectre 15 x360 may glance the similar to start with look, however that’s simply the Darkish Ash Silver colour. Glance nearer, and you’ll be able to see HP has given the Spectre x360 the similar sharply beveled traces of the 13-inch model. The display bezels have slimmed down at the aspects. HP additionally integrates an IR-based Home windows Hi-compatible digicam and a fingerprint reader strip.

We measured our overview unit at simply over 14 inches extensive via nine.75 inches deep. HP claims it’s about 19.45mm skinny (about three-quarters of an inch), which we showed. It’s relatively thicker than the former model, which used to be 17.9mm.

One grievance we unquestionably have is the load. Our unit sans energy brick got here in at four kilos, 10 oz. That’s in reality a couple of oz heavier than the former model. A few of that comes from the hefty 4K touchscreen and its glass protecting layer.

One just right aspect impact of the additional weight is the stiff chassis. Select up the Spectre x360 15 one-handed, and also you needn’t concern that you just’ll bend it. 

You’ll be able to have any show you wish to have so long as it’s 4K 

HP has jumped into 4K with each toes at the Spectre x360 15. Whilst maximum PC makers be offering a 1080p model to lower price and build up battery existence (higher-resolution displays inherently use extra energy), HP gives just a unmarried, 3840×2160 IPS-like panel choice.

As extra laptops be offering 4K presentations, you have to know that this spec is not a slam-dunk on the subject of high quality. Our unit’s panel is moderately vivid at a measured most output of 319 nits, however different high-end fashions can hit 400 to 500 nits.

Keyboard and mouse

HP Spectre x360 15 Adam Patrick Murray

Unlike Apple and Dell, who are busy taking away key travel, the HP Spectre x360 15 features a full 1.5mm of travel on its keyboard.

HP takes a new direction with the keyboard in this generation as well. The prior generation had speakers flanking the keyboard. In this new design, the speakers disappear and the backlit keyboard stretches edge to edge, allowing room for a 10-key numeric keypad. Yes, number-crunchers, it’s a properly designed 10-key, which Gigabyte and MSI still haven’t learned how to implement.

While Apple and Dell have been acting like airline carriers, taking away creature comforts like keyboard travel, HP gives you what feels like business-class service, with a plush 1.5 mm for your weary fingers.

Our only quibble is the half-height cursor keys for moving up and down. An inverted ‘T’ is always preferred. 

The trackpad is a glass-coated Synaptics ClickPad that’s slightly offset to align with the keyboard. We’ve had palm-rejection issues with some of HP’s extra-wide trackpads in the past, but this one we could not get to trigger. Good job.

HP Spectre x360 15 Adam Patrick Murray

A fingerprint reader, HDMI 2.0, and a pair of Thunderbolt ports adorn the right side of the Spectre x360 15.

What ports does the Spectre x360 have?

The Spectre x360 doesn’t skimp on connectivity. You get a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports and a full-size HDMI on the right side. On the left there’s an SD card reader, analog audio jack, standard barrel charger, and—wait for it—a USB Type A port! Yes, Internet, rejoice!

HP Spectre x360 15 Adam Patrick Murray

If you do a little dance because there’s still a USB Type A port on the new HP Spectre x 360 15, that’s perfectly fine with us.

The charger for the Spectre x360 15 is a beefy 150-watt unit. The Thunderbolt 3 ports with USB PD will also charge the laptop, but at a slower rate than you’ll get with the traditional barrel charger.

HP Spectre x360 15 performance 

Much of the excitement around Intel’s Kaby Lake-G CPUs stems from its once-unthinkable marriage of a custom Radeon RX Vega M with a quad-core 8th-generation Kaby Lake CPU. We expected strong graphics. The surprise for us came from the CPU side of things, though.

As with previous generations of its laptop CPUs, Intel’s 8th generation comes in two variants: low-power “U” chips and high-power “H” chips. The H chips usually rule the school, but Kaby Lake-G brings in some fresh, fast blood.

Intel has been pretty coy about exactly what’s inside the “G” series of CPUs. Sure, they’re 8th-gen, but are they low-power or high-power? Well, it turns out, they’re high-power for the most part. Intel said it’s using a new Dynamic Power Sharing feature that’s possible only with the unique design of the Kaby Lake-G CPU. As you might guess from the name, performance between the CPU and the GPU is shared based on workload. If the GPU is at rest, power and thermals can be used to push the CPU to higher levels.

Our performance tests, therefore, are really a battle between the established H and the upstart G (while the low-power U watches from the sidelines). Which will prevail?

First up is Cinebench R15, which tests multi-core CPU performance when rendering a 3D scene. We included results from the two other Spectre x360 15s in our performance chart: The Kaby Lake-R twin to our test unit, with the low-power quad-core Core i7-8550U, and the previous-generation low-power dual-core Core i7-7500U. The older unit comes in last, while the younger easily outpaces it.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g cinebench r15 nt IDG

The Core i7-8705G in the Spectre x360 15 performs far closer to an H-series-class CPU, thanks to a unique power-sharing arrangement between the GPU and CPU

As we expect given its Core i7-7700HQ H chip, the Dell XPS 15 clamshell outruns everyone…except the new Core i7-8705G. The Dell XPS 15 and the new HP Spectre x360 15 actually have the same basic CPU, but the 8th-gen Kaby Lake-G version in the Spectre x360 15 is more than 50 percent faster than the 8th-gen Kaby Lake-R version in the XPS 15.

One other result we want to point out above is from the Lenovo Yoga 720. It’s another 15-inch convertible laptop with a high-power Core i7-7700HQ inside, plus GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. But it’s a good example of the performance you give up when you try to stuff a 45-watt CPU inside a convertible laptop with a 75-watt graphics card. In this CPU test, the Spectre x360 15 is more than 30 percent faster.

Single-core performance for the Spectre x360 15 also sings, as you can see from our results in Cinebench (below) using a single CPU thread. These numbers are more indicative of what you’ll see in most real-world use, given that few applications will use all of the cores of a CPU.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g cinebench r15 1t IDG

Thanks to higher clock speeds, the 8th-gen CPUs outrun the 7th-generation CPUs.

Because all of the CPUs here use the same basic design, it comes down to how you can run the CPU. The newest 8th-gen chips take the lead, even over higher-power CPUs.

HandBrake performance

The Cinebench benchmark is very useful, but it usually takes just a couple of minutes to run on many laptops. That’s not long enough to see how prolonged heat affects a system. That’s why we run our HandBrake encoding test, which can push the CPU hard for more than 40 minutes on a quad-core. In theory, if a laptop isn’t adequately cooled, or if it decides to sacrifice performance for fan noise, the effects will show up here.

The results again put the new Spectre x360 15 ahead of the competition, but it’s really a tie. The good news for HP is it’s tied with Dell’s XPS 15, which is a standard clamshell design with fewer thermal compromises. What the test really tells us is the new Kaby Lake G is every bit as fast as a 45-watt H-series CPU.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g handbrake encode performance IDG

The Spectre x360 15 ties with Dell’s XPS 15 but’s a good thing.

HP Spectre x360 15 gaming performance

We’d stop most mainstream laptop testing at this point. But with the Radeon RX Vega inside Kaby Lake-G, we also want to see how it performs in games. 

The first result we give you is Futuremark’s 3DMark Sky Diver. The results are right where Intel claimed they’d be: Between GeForce GTX 1050 and GeForce GTX 1050 Ti.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g 3dmark sky diver IDG

Intel said the Kaby Lake G in the Spectre x360 15 would perform around GTX 1050 levels and we’re seeing that in spades.

3Dmark is a synthetic test which may or may not apply to actual games. The first real game we tried was Tomb Raider on the Ultimate setting.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g tomb raider 19x10 IDG

Tomb Raider puts the Core i7-8705G a lot closer to a GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q than we expected.

The test is a little sensitive to CPU performance, which propels the Spectre x360 15 a little higher than you’ll see in a more graphics-intensive games. It’s entirely likely that older games will see the graphics power of the Spectre x360 15 creep up a lot closer to GTX 1060 Max-Q.

If you hoped the Spectre x360 15 would run with gaming laptops in all games, we return to reality in Rise of the Tomb Raider, where the Spectre x360 15 is slightly slower than a GeForce GTX 1050 laptop.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g rise of the tomb raider 19x10 IDG

Load the “low power” version of the Kaby Lake-G in the Spectre x360 15 up with a more intensive GPU task, and you can see it drop back to GTX 1050 territory.

HP Spectre x360 15 battery performance

Our last test is likely the most important one for those who buy a laptop: battery life. We loop a 4K video at a relatively bright 250 to 260 nits, with the laptop set to airplane mode, and with earbuds connected. 

The results for the Spectre x360 15 are fairly impressive, but not the winner. The winner is its near-twin, the Spectre x360 15 with a Core i5-8550U and GeForce MX150. Remember: Both laptops have the exact same-size battery and the exact same screen. Still, for a laptop with this much CPU and GPU performance, this is an impressive result.

This still doesn’t mean you can play a game on batteries for nine hours. It means you can probably watch movies on the SSD for that long. Browsing, gaming, and other CPU-intensive tasks will use far more battery.

hp spectre x360 15 kaby lake g video playback battery life IDG

Considering where the Spectre x360 15 with Kaby Lake-G falls in the power curve, this is very impressive battery life.

Conclusion

There’s two conclusions to be made here. The first is the HP Spectre x360 15 itself. The high-end laptop has been around for two years now, but it took Intel’s Kaby Lake-G to make it sing, delivering plenty of performance to go with the looks.

HP Spectre x360 15 Adam Patrick Murray

We have few quibbles with the Spectre x360 15 design. But we were hoping it’d be lighter rather than heavier.

The slender profile hides our biggest disappointment, though: the weight. Blame the 4K panel, or look on the bright side and appreciate the sturdiness, but bottom line, this is a heavier laptop than we’d like. 

The second conclusion is that Intel’s Kaby Lake-G Core i7-8705G is a pretty impressive package (A lengthier write-up is coming on the CPU itself.) It’s not enough to threaten Nvidia’s dominance at the high-end of gaming laptops, but the truth is, the lion’s share of gaming laptops sales are actually in the GeForce GTX 1050 range. The Spectre x360 15 can hold its own in this crowd, further blurring the line between mainstream and gaming machines.  

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