Best Windows Ultrabook 2020 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The HP Spectre x360 13.
Photo: Michael Hession

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HP Spectre x360 13

The HP Spectre x360 13 has a stylus and a touchscreen and can flip into tablet mode, but it’s heavier than our top pick. While our preferred configuration is unavailable, we recommend the Core i7-1065G7 model linked here.

Recommended configuration

Processor: Intel Core i5-1035G4 Screen: 13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch
Memory: 8 GB Weight: 2.88 pounds
Storage: 256 GB SSD Tested battery life: 10.5 hours
If our recommended configuration is unavailable, we recommend the Core i7-1065G7 model or the Lenovo Yoga C940 (14”).

If you want a laptop with a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the screen all the way around to use it as a tablet (or in any intermediate position) and you don’t mind carrying something heavier than our top pick, get the HP Spectre x360 13. It’s similar in size to the Dell XPS 13, with solid battery life, a reliable keyboard and trackpad, and a vibrant touchscreen. It looks and feels like a premium laptop, and it comes with a large active pen. The Spectre x360 13 also has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for connecting older devices, and a fingerprint reader. We prefer the XPS 13’s lighter body, taller screen, and standard-layout keyboard, but if you need a convertible laptop with a touchscreen, the Spectre x360 13 is the way to go.

The HP Spectre shown in tent mode.
The HP Spectre x360 13 has a 360-degree hinge that allows you to flip the screen all the way around for use as a tablet or in any intermediate position. (Tent mode is shown here.) Photo: Michael Hession

The HP Spectre x360 13 is similar in size to the XPS 13; the Spectre x360 13 measures 12.1 by 7.7 by 0.67 inches, half an inch wider and a bit thicker than the XPS 13, but less deep. It’s also heavier at 2.88 pounds versus 2.64 pounds. But compared with our previous favorite convertible laptop, the Lenovo Yoga C940, the Spectre x360 13 is more compact—thanks in part to its smaller screen—and a bit lighter. For a laptop that you’ll occasionally flip around to use in different modes, the Spectre x360 13’s size and weight are a distinct advantage.

Among the ultrabooks we tested in late 2019 and early 2020, the HP Spectre x360 13 had one of the best results in our battery life tests, lasting 10 hours 19 minutes. That’s superb battery life that’ll last a full workday.

The keyboard of the HP Spectre.
The Spectre x360 13’s white backlight makes the labels difficult to see on its silver keyboard. Photo: Michael Hession

Although the HP Spectre x360 13’s keyboard feels springy and responsive to type on, it has some quirks. First, the keyboard is offset to the left to make room for an additional column of navigation keys on the right. It took a few days and a whole lot of typos before I got acclimated to the location of the keys, but I did adjust. Second, the keyboard is silver with a white backlight, which makes the key legends impossible to read in a well-lit room. We recommend turning off the backlight.

In everyday use, the x360 13’s precision touchpad was smooth and enjoyable; the trackpad responded to all of our two-finger and three-finger gestures, and we never accidentally moved the cursor with our palms while we were using the keyboard.

The 13.3-inch, 1080p (1920×1080) IPS screen was vivid and enjoyable to use, and its colors looked a little closer to neutral compared with the XPS 13’s warm, slightly greenish tint. Like Dell, HP offers a 4K display option; we prefer ultrabooks with 1080p screens for their longer battery life. The Spectre x360 13’s touch display has more glare than the XPS 13’s screen, which makes this model less suitable for use in a sunny room. The Spectre x360 13 also has a thin bezel—though not as thin as the XPS 13’s—a webcam located in the top center above the display, and a hardware switch on the right side of the laptop to disable the webcam when it isn’t in use.

The Spectre x360 13 also comes with an active stylus for taking notes, drawing, and sketching, and it worked fine during our writing tests. It’s about the size of a normal pen, so it’s more comfortable to write with than the Lenovo Yoga C940’s tiny stylus, but that also means there’s nowhere to store it like the handy “digital pen garage” on the C940. (In fact, our pictures lack a photo of the stylus because I forgot to send it to our photo team.)

The Spectre x360 13 has a stylish aluminum chassis and feels solidly built. The lid seems durable, and the base has minimal flex. The hinge is tight and keeps the screen in place, but when the laptop is shut, there is a bit of a gap where crumbs and other gunk can get into the keyboard area. We didn’t have any problems with this during testing, even though there’s a lot of loose tea at the bottom of my backpack. (Thanks, TSA!)

  • The power button and left side ports of the HP Spectre.

    The Spectre x360 13’s power button is oddly placed on the back-left-corner edge. But the laptop does have a full USB-A port for older peripherals, as well as an audio jack. Photo: Michael Hession

  • The right side ports of the HP Spectre.

    On the right side, the x360 13 has a microSD slot, a webcam toggle, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which is inconveniently placed on a diagonal at the back. Photo: Michael Hession

The HP Spectre x360 13 has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports as well as a headset jack, a microSD slot, and one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port for older peripherals. I didn’t love the awkward port and power-button placement on the back corners of the laptop, but their location wasn’t problematic in everyday use. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports being on the right side of the laptop can be inconvenient, though, since you can charge the laptop only from the right side. (The Lenovo Yoga C940 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon can charge only from the left side, and the Dell XPS 13 has charge ports on both sides.)

Although the Spectre x360 13 doesn’t have any dedicated video-out ports such as Mini DisplayPort or HDMI, its Thunderbolt 3 ports can carry a video signal through the proper cable, adapter, or dock. The Spectre x360 13 supports Wi-Fi 6 with Bluetooth 5.0, and the company includes a one-year limited warranty with the laptop.

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