HP Spectre x360 14 review: Luxurious, with long battery life

The latest Intel CPU and Iris Xe graphics make all the difference.

Credit: Ben Patterson/IDG

General performance

We ran our performance benchmarks twice for the HP Spectre x360 14: once using its default Smart Sense power mode, and a second time in Performance mode. Overall, we managed to wring impressive—and in some cases, stellar—results from the Spectre in Performance mode, particularly when it came to lengthy processor-intensive tasks. The laptop’s Smart Sense mode is no slouch either, managing to scare up some solid scores while keeping the CPU’s temperature down, quieting the cooling fans and extending battery life.

PCMark 8 Professional

Our first benchmark simulates such day-to-day desktop duties as web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet tinkering, online shipping, and web chat. Because none of these single-core activities is particularly taxing, CPUs with four or more cores won’t necessarily have an advantage over dual-core processors. A PCMark score over 2,000 means you can expect smooth Microsoft Office performance.

hp spectre x360 14 1q881av pcmark 8 Ben Patterson/IDG

Unsurprisingly, the HP Spectre x360 14 cruised through our PCMark 8 test without any trouble, essentially tying with the similarly spec’d Acer Swift 5 and Dell XPS 13 at the top of the chart. Given that all of the laptops in our comparison cleared the 3,000 mark, their relative rankings are moot--each of these systems should be able to run Office without breaking a sweat. We’re also not surprised to see the neck-and-neck results from the Spectre’s Smart Sense and Performance modes, although that will change once we move on to our next benchmark.

HandBrake

Nothing puts a strain on a CPU quite like video encoding does, which is why we use the free HandBrake utility to transcode a 30GB MKV file to a format suitable for Android tablets. Even with the fastest processors, the task can take an hour or more to complete, with CPU fans spinning furiously to compensate for soaring chip temperatures.

hp spectre x360 14 1q881av handbrake Ben Patterson/IDG

In Performance mode, the HP Spectre x360 14 takes the cake in our HandBrake benchmark.

Well, here we go. In Performance mode, the HP Spectre x360 14 shreds most of the competition, including the Porsche Design Acer Book PS, another crazy-fast Tiger Lake-powered system. Dialing down to Smart Sense power mode, the Spectre still turns in a solid HandBrake performance, sitting comfortably in the middle of our chart. Lagging behind the rest is the dual-core Lenovo Yoga C640, which demonstrates the difference a quad-core or better CPU can make when it comes to video processing and other processor-intensive tasks.

Cinebench

If HandBrake is a marathon, Cinebench is a sprint, tasking the CPU with rendering a 3D image in real time. Because it’s over so quickly, CPUs with the fastest boost clocks tend to have the advantage.

hp spectre x360 14 1q881av cinebench Ben Patterson/IDG

The HP Spectre x360 14’s Cinebench result isn’t bad, but we’ve seen better.

he HP Spectre x360T 14’s 700 score in Performance mode is solid, but the other Tiger Lake-powered laptops in our chart all score north of 900. The Spectre x360 14 won’t peel rubber like, say, the Acer Swift 5 does. Then again, it scored a decisive win over the Swift 5 in our HandBrake test, meaning the HP is the faster laptop over the long haul.

3DMark Sky Diver

Like the other Tiger Lake-powered laptops in our roundup, the HP Spectre x360 14 comes with an integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics core. It won’t yield silky-smooth gaming graphics (you’ll have to tinker to wring anything higher than 30 fps even for older games, such as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor), but it should pack enough horsepower to please content creators working with Adobe Premiere or Illustrator.

hp spectre x360 14 1q881av sky diver Ben Patterson/IDG

Thanks to Intel’s Iris Xe GPU, integrated graphics aren’t a joke anymore.

Looking at our chart, the HP Spectre x360 14’s result (with Performance mode enabled) lands pretty much where we expected it would, neck-and -neck with the Porsche Design Acer Book RS and a little behind the Acer Swift 5 and the Dell XPS 13. Notably, the Iris Xe-powered Spectre outdistanced the HP Envy 17, which boasts a discrete GeForce MX330 graphics card. That just goes to show how far integrated graphics technology has come in just a few short years, especially compared to Intel’s lowly UHD integrated graphics core.

Battery life

We test battery life on laptops by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with screen brightness set to about 250 nits and volume dialed to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in.

hp spectre x360 14 1q881av video rundown Ben Patterson/IDG

The HP Spectre x360 14 might be a bit heavy, but check out that battery life.

With its hefty 65-Watt-hour battery, we’re not surprised at the strong showing from the HP Spectre x360 14--more than 14 hours, beating every system in our chart save for the dual-core, power-optimized Lenovo Yoga C640 and its 60-Watt-hour battery. (The nearly identical results on both Smart Sense and Performance settings also aren’t surprising, given that video playback is a single-core task.

Our chart also illustrates the trade-off between battery life and weight. The sub-two-pound Dynabook Portege X30-L and its diminutive 41.5-Watt-hour battery trails far behind the heavier Spectre x360 14. While the Dell XPS 13 and its 49.5-watt-hour battery comes awfully close to the Spectre’s battery life score, both tip the scales at close to three pounds each.

Bottom line

Yes it’s a little heavy, but the HP Spectre x360 14 delivers the goods when its comes to sheer performance and battery life, handling crushing CPU loads with ease while serving up all-day battery life. The Spectre’s 3:2 display will also make your life easier while you’re toiling in Office, and its biometric options and physical camera shutter help seal the deal.

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Ben Patterson

PC World (US online)
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