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HP Spectre x2 review - the latest Surface Pro 4 rival

Michael Passingham
13 Feb 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
699
inc VAT

A well-judged 2-in-1, but there are a fair few compromises in the push for a cheaper Surface Pro 4 rival

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Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 was one of our favourite 2-in-1 tablets of 2015, but its premium price put it out of reach for many consumers. Luckily, the HP Spectre x2 is here to fill in the gap, bringing similar specifications, a familiar form factor and, more importantly, a much lower price to the table.

As the least expensive of the two devices, HP has obviously made some compromises in its design, but they're easily forgiven when it's so much cheaper than the Surface Pro 4. The kickstand, for example, is inelegant and difficult to flip out of the rear of the tablet. Instead, you have to flip a switch on the left-hand side of the tablet, which physically releases the stand from captivity, but even then you still have to pry it out with two fingers in order to ease it into a more useful position.

The tablet is left wanting when it comes to ports, too. Aside from the 3.5mm headset jack, there are just two USB type-C connectors, one of which will be occupied whenever you're charging the Spectre x2. Thankfully, HP supplies a USB-C to USB-A adapter if you don't have any USB-C peripherals, but you'll need to buy a dock if you want to connect the Spectre x2 to anything else, such as an external display, for example.

This is where the USB-C specification comes in handy. While the Spectre x2's ports only have USB3 speeds (not USB3.1), there's still a dedicated video lane for displays. This means you can connect a third-party dock, such as Sandberg USB-C Mini Dock (£40 from www.ballicom.com) to connect the Spectre x2 to an additional display without it slowing down the USB peripherals you have connected as well. It also helps cut down on the number of wires trailing away from your device, a problem with the Surface Pro 4 when it's fully hooked up to monitors and peripherals. Still, you'll need to factor in the purchase of a dock if you plan on using the Spectre x2 as your main work machine.

The Spectre x2 has the edge over the Surface Pro 4 when it comes to weight, too, although this can largely be explained by the Spectre x2's slightly smaller screen (12in versus 12.3in). The tablet portion is both lighter at 800g and thinner at 8mm than the Core m3 version of the Surface Pro 4. With the keyboard attached, these figures increase to 1.2kg and 13mm respectively, but this is still a very svelte device.

Keyboard and touchpad

The grey, wool-like material that lines the bottom of the keyboard dock looks and feels great, and HP has kept things classy with its classic metallic silver keyboard tray, touchpad and buttons. The keyboard is backlit and its buttons provide a decent amount of feedback - easily comparable to that of the Surface Pro 4 - and they just enough travel and a very usable layout, with few compromises in the form of smaller buttons.

I do wish the touchpad was slightly larger, though. It's plenty wide enough, but its rather squat height makes it slightly awkward to use when executing large, two-fingered scrolling motions. You can increase the scrolling sensitivity, but there's nothing quite comparable to a nice, sweeping scroll. Otherwise, the touchpad is very good, with lots of built-in gestures and multi-fingered support. The physical click action is responsive, although it only works from roughly a third of the way down the touchpad.

The keyboard dock clips to the tablet using magnets and feels secure, but you shouldn't be tempted to pick the Spectre x2 up by the keyboard; the weight of the tablet is enough to release the magnets and send it tumbling.

Thanks to its lightness, the tablet portion is very pleasant to take away from the desk and into meetings. The included stylus means taking notes in Microsoft OneNote is possible, although not always easy. The stylus doesn't feel as precise as Microsoft's Surface Pen and there are some definite problems with palm rejection; you can't always trust the touchscreen will ignore your hand resting on the screen when drawing and writing, although this is something you can work around as you get used to its idiosyncrasies. There's also nowhere to store the stylus, which is a bit of an oversight. You'll probably lose it very quickly unless you keep a close eye on it.

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