Tech review: HP Spectre x360 big on privacy

A physical switch to enable or disable the camera of the latest Spectre x360 shows that HP is doubling down on privacy.
A physical switch to enable or disable the camera of the latest Spectre x360 shows that HP is doubling down on privacy.PHOTO: HP

The term "cutting edge" applies to the HP Spectre x360 - literally.

The bottom corners at the back of this convertible laptop have been sliced off while its sides are not flat, but angular. The edges though, are not actually uncomfortable to touch, despite looking rather sharp.

Launched late last year, the latest Spectre laptops are premium, high-end models. The x360 variant switches between tablet and laptop forms and is available in 13.3- and 15.6-inch sizes.

My 13.3-inch review set clocks in at around 1.3kg. Its re-designed matt aluminium chassis now comes in a dark blue shade that shows up fingerprints and other smudges prominently. The dark copper accents of previous models have been replaced by pale brass flourishes.

As for the cut-off corners, the idea here is to improve cable management. Located at the right cut-off corner is a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port for charging. Thus, the power cord extends from this corner to the electrical outlet at an angle and does not get in the way of plugged-in devices or accessories at the side.

The power button, which took me a while to find, is located at the other cut-off corner. It lacks an HDMI port, with a second Thunderbolt 3 port available for display output, though most monitors will require a dongle, which is helpfully included in the package.

But I was pleased to find a full-size USB Type-A port. It meant I did not need a dongle to transfer files from my USB hard drive.

HP is doubling down on privacy with the latest Spectre x360. There is a physical switch at the side for the front-facing camera. Toggle it to enable or disable the camera - a camera icon appears momentarily to indicate the status of the camera.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,799

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8565U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 61 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In addition, it comes with HP's Sureview privacy screen, which obscures the contents of the display from nosy neighbours. Pressing the F1 key turns on the privacy mode - the screen appears opaque from the sides and is visible only to those directly in front of it.

However, its glossy display is very reflective. Even at maximum brightness, which is rated at an average 300 nits, the display is not the easiest to read off.

The keyboard has more depth than I expected, given the Spectre's thin chassis. The Function keys, by default, trigger important functions such as the keyboard backlight, screen brightness and multimedia controls.

You can log into the Spectre using either your fingerprint or through facial recognition. I prefer the fingerprint method, though HP has improved the field of view for the front infrared camera used to recognise faces. I could be slightly to one side of the screen and the camera can still detect my presence, recognise my facial features and log into my account.

Along with the new design is a new Intel Core i7-8565U processor that slightly improves on the general performance of the previous model. In the PCMark 10 system benchmark, the Spectre scored 4,215 compared with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (3,970), which is powered by the older i7-8550U chip.

The new chip is also more power-efficient. The Spectre lasted 8hr 40min in our video-loop battery test with the screen set at maximum brightness.

Verdict: The latest Spectre is re-designed to improve privacy and cable management.