It’s not easy to create truly beautiful laptops that become visual outliers. It’s doubly hard to carve out a large-screen laptop to look good. The problem of carving metal or plastic with a wide footprint is not easy. HP is attempting just that, with the largest Specter series laptop ever. It has to be said that HP’s Specter laptops haven’t had any real competition to match the beauty. Dell XPS series, you say? Not really.
The HP Specter x360 16 for 2022 goes all the way, with a 16-inch display. Unlike the predecessor which had a more conventional (at least in the laptop world) 15.6-inch display. Changing aspect ratios helped. Be warned, this won’t be an OLED display as the variants HP sells in India use IPS, or in-plane switching technology instead. The biggest takeaway is that if you really want a laptop with a big screen, you don’t necessarily have to lug around a heavy machine.
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Money and value matters
Let’s talk about pricing, before the specifics of performance and experience. There are two variants of the HP Specter x360 16 laptop that will go on sale in India. Similarities include the same processor series (it’s the latest generation Intel Core i7 chip, but in different variants) and 16GB of RAM. The differences – storage (512 GB or 1 TB), graphics (Intel Iris X or Intel Arc A370M) and colors (Nightfall Black or Nocturne Blue). The price tags are ₹1,39,999 and ₹1,69,999.
This gives the HP Specter x360 16 a significant advantage over the Dell XPS 15 and Dell XPS 17, which start out with the downside of being conventional laptops anyway. The “2 in 1” range has not been updated for sale in India, for a while now. The price of the XPS 15 is higher than ₹2,37,900 as XPS 17 prices start from eye watering ₹3,34,900.
Beautiful design and display: intertwined factors
HP was able to swap the 15.6-inch screen for a 16-inch screen while saving a few millimeters on the overall footprint. That 3072 x 1920 resolution screen (marked as 3K+) is quite sharp and the colors are really well distinguished. HP has cleverly added a utility that even lets you dim application windows that are in the background – we think this helps focus more on what you’re currently working with.
There’s more with the Display Control utility, which lists a number of supported color profiles. You can choose to enable automatic mode, which means the laptop will intelligently switch to a more precise mode when you open a photo or video editing app, for example. Or manually select for apps. This is a very bright screen, but the maximum brightness will vary somewhat between different profiles.
The display has Corning Gorilla Glass NBT (specifically for touchscreen laptops) which should help it resist scratches and bumps, especially when using touchscreens. It can also transform into a tablet (the 1.34kg weight isn’t as heavy as you might imagine), and it’s a detailed use case for the touchscreen.
Whether or not you find this too heavy to use as a tablet is subjective. Specifically, we really like the anti-reflective coating, which does its job pretty well at preventing ambient lighting from reflecting into your eyes.
The well-recognized cut edges near the screen’s hinge are definitely there, but overall there’s a very clear toning down of some visual cues. More edges and curves are rounded than sharp angles. The colors too, the ‘bling’ if you will.
For example, on this Nocturne Blue review unit we had, the inserts aren’t gold, which you’d expect by default on Specter laptops a few years ago. Instead, an even more subdued blue tint is used. This should make the HP Specter x360 16 more attractive and less alienating.
Performance and experience: dictated by the latest generation specifications
There’s no downside to the spec sheet, except maybe the graphics – but that’s to be expected, on an ultra-slim laptop. Depending on the variant, you will get the Intel Core i7-12700H or Intel Core i7-1260P processors. It’s good in a way that HP has kept this product line simple, without the complexity of Core i5 or Core i3 chip options thrown in for good measure. This is HP’s flagship Specter laptop, and it’s ready to perform like one.
The HP Specter x360 16 has absolutely no issues with typical productivity apps and workflows. In fact, it doesn’t even need to rev up the fans, that’s how much efficiency cores on either Core i7 chip will be able to handle most applications (which should theoretically have a positive effect on battery life as well). Pile on extensive multitasking, and this laptop shows no signs of feeling the pressure of careless opening by Google Chrome’s sleepy tabs.
It might have been prudent to offer a variant that included a dedicated graphics card, perhaps something from the Nvidia RTX 3000 series, to at least have the option of occasional gaming. None of the Intel graphics can honestly do this very well right now, and we wouldn’t make a spurious recommendation along those lines. They won’t.
We noticed that when system cooling is set to Smart Sense (that’s the name of automatic mode; you’ll find it in HP’s system utility app) it tends to anticipate system load and speed up fans for a short time. while. It would be best to manually switch to one of the four options if you have an idea of the workflow. Energy saving can be ideal for quiet rooms, so that fan noise does not cause disturbances.
Large-screen laptops have historically made a slight trade-off with battery life, due to the larger screen requiring power. And generally, large-screen laptops tend to be used for more complex workflows, which involve multitasking that’s a notch higher than not. In our tests, the HP Specter x360 16, when used as a primary work laptop, lasted just under 10 hours on a single charge. This is with the brightness manually set to 30%.
It might be strange to expect a laptop with such a large screen to last around 15 hours on each charge cycle, but getting close to 10 hours is still very creditable. This means you can make it last through a whole working day, without having to take the charger out of the backpack.
The question of a 16-inch laptop: OLED and graphics will be missing
The HP Specter x360 16 laptop has a uniqueness that no rival has yet. It’s a convertible, which alternatives including Microsoft’s Surface Pro series do, but in smaller screen sizes. HP is giving choice regardless of the demographic size of that use case, for now.
Design improvements, latest gen specs with a streamlined lineup, and some clever software just add value to the experience. But it’s also missing a few potentially crucial pieces.
You should bear in mind, however, that graphics capabilities are limited (16-inch laptops also tend to conjure up ideas for casual gaming), and there’s no option for this scenario. Second, there is no OLED display option for India yet. These are glaring omissions from the HP Specter x360 16 wallets. But all things considered, the evolving personality of HP’s Specter laptops is a welcome change.