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HP Spectre x360 2022 review: From Bond villain to accountancy

The HP Spectre x360 (2022) is a compact laptop that no longer has the charisma of what this series began with. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy it

Keeping up with the times, HP has stretched the display to reduce the bezels. (Picture by Shouvik Das)

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The ‘Spectre’, in laptop-speak, first surfaced in HP’s portfolio exactly a decade ago — in 2012. Back then, every company in the world was making bulky, inconvenient laptops made mostly of plastic and some metal. Then, in 2012, the HP Envy 14 ‘Spectre’ entered the market — a laptop that was made of glass and metal, rather than plastic.

Naturally, when HP spun Spectre off into its own brand of a then-new category of laptops called ‘ultrabooks’, it was clear that the Spectre sat top of the pile when it came to its premium-ness. You didn’t need to look at the price tag — one glance at its design, and it was clear that this laptop would cost a pretty penny.

Also read: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a new take on convertibles

My first tryst with a Spectre was back in 2015, when I found it to be every bit as premium as what it was billed up to be. I don’t particularly remember its performance, but at least in terms of looks, it ticked the chart. The drama was heightened even further with the release of Spectre — the 007 film of 2015.

Seven years down, and the Spectre doesn’t feel even nearly as dramatic. In fact, in comparison to all the drama that all the sleek gaming laptops in the market pull off today, the HP Spectre is a humdrum affair.

Don’t get me wrong — the HP Spectre x360, in its 2022 avatar, is not sub-par. It’s built well — in about a month’s usage, I neither heard nor felt any hint of a hiccup in its hinge mechanism. I do struggle with fingerprint smudges in this dark navy-coloured avatar of the laptop, because of which I spend at least 10 minutes every day cleaning it thoroughly, once I’m done with work for the day.

It’s built of soft-finished metal, which looks tame upon first glance, but feels reassuringly solid in the long run. That is the first identifier of a premium device — when it feels like it’ll last you a while. Neither the laptop nor its charger are too heavy, and the 1.3kg body weight (battery included) isn’t intrusive if you carry your laptop around a lot.

Keeping up with the times, HP has stretched the display to reduce the bezels. But, this is where the Spectre starts feeling humdrum — in comparison to a number of competitors that are finding ways to stretch laptop displays to the literal cutting edge, the bezels around the Spectre’s display are rather large and evident. Given that this is a laptop whose name will remind you of a James Bond super-villain outfit, thick bezels are definitely a no-no when it comes to the user experience you would (and should) expect.

But the keyboard is well-spaced (thank the powers that be for this), which means that if you type really fast, the Spectre’s keyboard will comfortably keep up with you. Key pitch (the amount that the keys depress when you hit them) is good for a membrane keyboard, and travel (the distance between two keys) is great, too. I definitely found it quite comfortable for fast-typing close to 2,000 words every day of the week.

The laptop is built of soft-finished metal, which looks tame upon first glance, but feels reassuringly solid in the long run. That is the first identifier of a premium device — when it feels like it’ll last you a while.
The laptop is built of soft-finished metal, which looks tame upon first glance, but feels reassuringly solid in the long run. That is the first identifier of a premium device — when it feels like it’ll last you a while. (Picture by Shouvik Das)

The trackpad is large, and quite good at recognizing gestures and multi-touch inputs. Given that Windows laptops have been categorically horrible at gesture-based trackpad navigation, it’s a relief to see things work as intended here. I suspect Windows 11 has its bit to play here, but from a hardware-end, HP has done the needful.

The only qualm — if you put a lot of palm pressure on either end of the trackpad when typing, the pointer tends to register clicks. This is a problem that I’ve faced with many laptops, so the Spectre 2022 is hardly the first. But, since it is expected to be a poster-boy of sorts for design and build quality, such anomalies are very easy to notice.

There’s nothing wrong with the laptop’s performance — with 12th gen Intel Core i7, 16GB memory and a 1TB SSD, you get what you expect with a business-class laptop. If you have two browsers open with over 15 tabs (including Google services) in each, you would see a hint of stutter every now and then. In the month that I spent with the Spectre x360 2022, I faced such hiccups twice, noticeably.

The Spectre has nice speakers that attempt to offer some semblance of depth to the playback. I’m not sure if that is down to Bang & Olufsen’s inputs, but either way, the audio quality is not unbearable for a quick viewing of last night’s football highlights at lunchtime.

Battery life, for the browser-based workload that I mentioned above, is decent — you’ll stretch your usage to nearly seven hours with the display at around 70 percent brightness. It’s not great, but it’s not unacceptable, either.

But… you see, this is where the Spectre loses its once-lofty credentials. Its initial avatar was of a laptop that heralds the cutting edge of design and form factor. Sure, it’s not practically possible for a commercially viable laptop line to reinvent the wheel every year, so in 2022, the Spectre is an iterative upgrade over the past two years.

Unfortunately, in this process of iterative refinements, the Spectre for this year doesn’t feel like it bears a definitive character. There is not a single area where the Spectre is sub-par, and it must be credited for that — being a premium laptop that does everything functionally right. After all, in the long run, you should always value reliability over glittery funk.

Verdict: Would it instantly draw your attention if you’re on the hunt for a laptop that costs 1.5 lakh? No.

Would you like using it in the long run, if you choose to buy it anyway? Almost certainly.

Also read: Review | HP Omen 15: This gaming notebook keeps it sleek and simple

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