Life with the Specter x360 13.5 (2022) | Panda Anku

Convertible or 2-in-1 laptops aimed at the high-end consumer are getting better and better, with HP’s Specter X360 13.5 for 2022 being a prime example. While I’ve seen several great-looking 2-in-1s lately, the Specter x360 13.5 shows how far the category has come, with the Specter bringing some improvements – including those to the display and camera – that make it stand out .

The most obvious of these is the display. The device I tested featured a simply beautiful 3,000 x 2,000 pixel OLED touch display. The resolution is great and the 3:2 screen ratio gives you more vertical screen real estate – it’s only a 6% vertical increase, but it’s appreciated nonetheless. Other display options include a more standard 1920 x 1280 IPS touch display or a 1920 x 1280 IPS display with the HP SureView Reflect privacy filter.

It’s a very solid laptop with an aluminum body and a foldable screen so you can use it as a traditional laptop, tablet or as a tent for presentations. The device I had was a silver aluminum color, although there are also “Nightfall Black” and “Nocturne Blue” options. The device itself measures 0.67 x 11.7 x 8.7 inches and weighs 2.97 pounds alone and 3.63 pounds with the included 65-watt USB-C charger and stylus.

In my view, the Specter x360 13.5 has the bare minimum of ports. There’s a headphone/mic jack in the back right corner, a single USB-A port that drops down a bit on the right side, two USB-C ports on the left side, and another in the back left corner. Putting ports on the corners is actually pretty handy, especially on a convertible device, although USB-C ports on either side would be more convenient. I missed a traditional HDMI port, even though HP ships the device with a mini-dock with one HDMI and two USB-A ports. It worked well with this dock and a few others I’ve tried recently, including HP’s latest Thunderbolt 4 dock (G4).

(Image credit: Molly Flores)

The keyboard seemed very nice, with a decent-sized touchpad. It has a button that physically covers the webcam, as well as lights that indicate when the microphone and speakers are muted, and a separate button on the bottom row that acts as a fingerprint reader. Another button brings up various HP applications such as Command Center, a gaming hub, and a photo app called HP Palette.

Of course, one of the things we’re all doing more frequently these days is video conferencing, and one of the big improvements is in the webcam.

The Specter X360 13.5 has a 5 MP IR camera “with AI” which I thought looked very good – better than I’ve seen on most of the competition. In the included HP Command Center app, there’s a camera control panel called GlamCam, which includes an auto-framing feature (which worked better than most other systems I’ve tried), lighting correction options, and an appearance filter (which I can’t tell did a lot for me). I also appreciated a separate Enhanced Lighting app that makes the screen work like a ring light. with many controls over temperature and intensity.

The login via Windows Hello worked quite well. Overall, this is perhaps the best built-in camera system I’ve used to date.

It has two bi-directional beamforming microphones with “AI noise reduction” and four downward-firing speakers. It includes a dynamic voice leveling feature and Bang & Oulfsen audio controls. I was very happy with the sound.

On the performance side, the device I tested had an Intel Core i7-1255U (Alder Lake) processor with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. The 1255U is a 15-watt processor with two performance cores and eight efficiency cores supporting a total of 12 threads, with 12 MB cache and a maximum turbo speed of 2.7 GHz. As such, it has two less performing cores and less cache than the Core i7-1260P that I’ve seen on a number of high-end laptops lately, like the competing Lenovo Yoga 9i. Both processors feature Intel Xe graphics, but the 1255U has a maximum frequency of 1.25GHz versus 1.40GHz for the 1260P. (The only other processor option for the Specter 13.5 is the slightly slower Core i5-1235U).

That’s probably why the Specter x360 underperformed the other Alder Lake systems I’ve tested on most basic benchmarks. But it still offers a notable improvement over last year’s systems.

In my toughest tests, it was slightly slower than the Yoga 9i when running a complex Excel model and a large handbrake compression. It was much faster than the Yoga 9i in my MatLab test, where the 9i I tested was held back by only 8GB of memory, but slower than other systems with 16GB of memory and the Core i7-1260.

With a new fan design, it is quieter than previous models in the series. The HP Command Center enables other nice options like “Smart Sense” which balances performance, temperature and acoustics based on the application and battery status. This includes controlling things like fan speed and temperature, as well as in-bag detection so you don’t accidentally leave the machine running in your bag to avoid overheating or battery drain. Of course, you can also control some of these settings manually. Overall, however, it makes it more convenient as a system for traveling.

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The device comes with a 5.5-inch stylus that supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt control. It has two buttons and a USB-C port for charging, and it attaches magnetically to the side of the machine, or you can carry it in the protective case that the machine comes with. It felt very good to use the stylus in tablet mode.

Other supported features include QuickDrop to move photos from your mobile device to the device and Duet to extend the display to a mobile device. Both work with either iOS or Android, although the Duet(Opens in a new window) The application only covers a wired connection (you need to subscribe for a wireless connection).

The device I tested costs $1749.99 with the OLED display; other models start at $1,250 on HP’s website as of this writing.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Specter x360 13.5 – it was light and fast, has a wonderful display, and the best webcam I’ve tested in this device class. Its biggest competitor is probably the Yoga 9i, another great 2-in-1 consumer device. Either way, you’re getting a fast, well-built, modern device (although I’m a bit disappointed that neither has an HDMI port.) The Yoga is slightly faster in most applications, and to my ears the audio was a bit better. But the Specter was lighter, had a better display, and a significantly better webcam. It’s clearly a top choice.

Here’s PCMag’s full review.

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