Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: HP Spectre x360 Convertible

It is now over 4 years since I bought my Lenovo U430 laptop, and have used it frequently.  But technology has moved on so far that Marcus believed he deserved an upgrade.

So after months of comparing and analysing I saved up enough money for the HP Spectre x360 Convertible.  This review tells you why and gives my impressions months after purchase.

Some Unboxing

All pretty fancy.   I say to myself it does not matter, only the laptop matters, but then I do get impressed by a nice presentation.   Well it was good.

A good place to start right.  Rather than 'it just looked nice' or 'the salesman / 40 second TV advert convinced me'.

Marcus and Agata wanted a portable powerful laptop that would be used in the home, wherever that might be, and on the road in our Motorhome, and whilst otherwise travelling.

As such it needed

- A large screen so Marcus, eyes fading can read it, sans spectacles
- A touch screen, so you can interact when needed
- Backlit keyboard to be usable in bed
- 16GB or more memory to run Virtual machines
- USB C connectivity for future proofing
- Decent webcam for conference calls that other people can see me in quality video
- M2 Disk with > 1000 MB/sec read rate
- Big Hard disk to allow for Virtual Machine storage and development whilst travelling

- Graphical BIOS,  I never had one on a main computer
- Convertible screen allowing for tent mode movie watching
- USB C power not manufacturer specific power plug
- 4K Screen, because for over 4 years my current laptop didn't even have full HD and I deserve better!

Like most things in life, if you have an infinite budget, choice becomes easy.  We do not, and our laptop budget was about 1500 GBP  (2000 USD or 2000 CHF)

The Competition

In the end it came down to a match between the Dell Inspiron 7773, 17" laptop vs the HP spectre x360.

Here is why the Dell lost, despite the fact that when HP was ordered, Dell had a promo making it about 30% cheaper  (so it was an excruciating decision!)

- 1920x1080 display not 4K and on a 17" canvas might look weak
- Dell build quality and Hardware compat issues on other (XPS) laptops did not fill me with confidence
+ Can have 32GB ram memory easy
+ room for 2 HD  (which I really wanted!)
= Hard drive was 512GB and the HP was a bonkers 1TB.
+ Dell has a variety of docking solutions that HP does not

The lack of 4K display was the real deal breaker
Doing the Job Well
I don't publish a review just a few weeks after purchase because over time issues popup.  Or hopefully not.  In the case of the HP Spectre x360 convertible:  all is going great

Nitty and Gritty

Let me review in more detail

To be specific I invested in the HP Model Spectre x360 15-bl1XX.  This is an Intel 8th generation i7 processor, 4 cores and 8 logical processors, with 16GB RAM memory, and a fast 1TB M2 PCI connected hard disk.

This means away from home it really can pull its weight as a do everything PC for all but the toughest tasks.  Above it is handling scanning at 600 dpi and then OCR'ing just fine.

The 15" inch display has a 4K resolution, it is also a touchscreen.  It is a total joy to use.

There is a large trackpad with so many options as to make me dizzy, plus a UK layout backlit keyboard.  I am sad that it was not possible to order a US keyboard when ordering from the UK.  

The laptop does not have built in Ethernet, however I have a dongle with 3, USB gen3 ports and an Ethernet which I got from Amazon for pennies.

As you can see from the Upload speed here at home in Switzerland, what is limiting my Internet access is now the Gigabit adapter.

On the right are 3 ports including a USB C I use for charging,  the USB C to the Ethernet/ISB dongle and the fullsize HDMI port that can drive a 4K monitor.

I'm driving an old  2560 x 1440 monitor right now, and this truly makes for a very convenient travelling configuration.  Although of course taking a massive monitor with you on the road is in fact non trivial.

You see the underside of the laptop is beautifully clean and also note the SD card reader.  This is useful for making SD card images for Raspberry Pi for example.

Oh, also note the full size USB 3 port, so you can connect USB Memory drives without any converter plugs.

My Supermicro server workstation is quicker at over 2000 MB/sec, however the speeds here for a laptop are still impressive to me.   And, after all I grew up with computer diskette speeds of less than 10K Bytes per second.  Now I am getting 1696 Mega Bytes per second.  Bonkers.

I've been too busy to test out VMware on all but a few Linux and other images.  But all seems to work fine.  Of course I can't run multiple non swapping in memory resident Linux machines like on my big memory server.  But practically speaking 1 VM at a time runs very fast, especially because here everything is running from a M2 fast disk.  You really can store a lot of VM's on a 1 TB disk.

Other Good Points

+ Battery life is all day

+ Screen has very thin bezels

+ Laptop is nice and subtle

+ Does the convertible thing, though I have never used it

+ Audio via the speakers is pretty decent

+ Suspend resume works Fantastically, never a need to shutdown really

+ I can set Poweron and other BIOS password for total Marcus paranoia.

Worst Points

What am I annoyed about?

Well the BIOS is character based, at least for Desktop motherboards this is unheard of these days.  What happened to your laptops HP?

There is no built in Ethernet, and the Dell competitor did have it.  Mildly annoying since I keep needing to configure devices so end up carrying a USB 3.1 to Gigabit Ethernet dongle around, and another one   (the above silver one with USB too) whilst travelling.  Never forgotten it yet, but there will come a day and I will start cursing.

Reports of a crappy webcam, lets just say the company I keep on webcam calls  means I am still in better resolution.  To be tested soon, overall I would have a liked a 4K webcam but only the standalone Logitech Brio is 4K.   No laptop has at time of writing an integrated 4K webcam.  so by my high standards all laptops are disappointing.

It maybe old age setting on but I ordered the laptop with a spec that did not need upgrading.  In fact though, inside this laptop has removable DIMM memory slots and also a user changeable M2 PCI hard disk.  However the configuration is currently powerful enough to prevent me from opening up the laptop.  I know!  Old age indeed.

Later I may plan to upgrade to 32GB RAM memory for more challenging VMware work, but for now it is sufficient.

Is it sad that Marcus is now too old to get excited about Laptops?   Well just a little.  But this HP laptop has so far been a delight to use, and done everything I have asked with consummate ease.