HP Spectre x2 review: Like the Surface Pro 4, only cheaper

Fresh new ideas are in short supply in the tech industry, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve seen the HP Spectre X2 somewhere before – perhaps with a shiny Microsoft logo on the back. However, the big difference between HP’s latest hybrid and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is the price.

With the cheapest model in HP’s range including a Core m3 processor, detachable keyboard and stylus for £699, the Spectre x2 is £160 cheaper than its Microsoft-branded rival. HP, you’ve got my attention.

HP Spectre x2: Design and keyboard

Sadly, the Spectre x2 doesn’t get off to a great start. Where Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 looks every bit the modern tablet – all crisp, straight edges and millimetre-perfect curves – the Spectre x2’s design is achingly bland.

You can tell it’s definitely not a cheap, budget tablet. The metal unibody construction and Bang & Olufsen logos give that away. However, there’s nothing about it that’s going to make people snatch their credit card and buy one at first sight. Moreover, there’s something about the flat metal rear, softly curved edges and thick bezels that look rather clunky and dated alongside Microsoft’s rival tablet. The nicest thing I can say? It’s inoffensive.

It’s a touch larger and heavier than the 766g Surface Pro 4, too. Despite measuring a mere 7.8mm thick, the Spectre x2 weighs 820g and has a noticeably larger footprint. Sadly, though, the extra weight doesn’t translate into rock-solid build. There’s a little bit of flex in the tablet, and it’s nowhere near as rigid as the Surface Pro 4. HP’s “unique” kickstand design also leaves a little to be desired. It’s inset neatly into the tablet’s rear, but although the button on the tablet’s side releases it, it also flips outwards if you flex the tablet from side to side. I’m guessing this isn’t an intentional feature.

The detachable keyboard adds another 370g and is very much a carbon copy of Microsoft’s Type Cover – except that here it comes free of charge. In every other regard, it’s pretty similar; and particularly in the fact that it works well on a desk, and is unnervingly unstable on your lap.

The keyboard connects magnetically to the tablet and – just like the Type Cover – folds back along the tablet’s lower edge to tilt the keyboard up a notch. There is a bit of bounce to the keyboard, but the metal keyboard surround and base keep that to a minimum and, thankfully, it’s every bit as comfy as the Surface Pro’s Type Cover – perhaps even a touch better. The super-wide touchpad works well, too, and with palm rejection dialled right up, does a good job of ignoring when you brush it with your palms while typing.

HP Spectre x2: Touchscreen and stylus

The Spectre x2’s touchscreen follows in the gloriously squared-off 3:2 footsteps of the Surface family – a wise decision. The 12in display isn’t quite as pin-sharp as it uses a lower 1,920 x 1,280-pixel resolution, but it’s still sharp enough by most standards, and good viewing angles mean images only drop off slightly in brightness and contrast as you move away from head-on.

Brightness hits a respectable 297cd/m2, and the contrast ratio of 963:1 lends images a lovely, solid look, but the panel doesn’t reproduce colours with great aplomb. Everything looks a bit pale and lacking in vibrancy, which is a shame for a £700 tablet. Further testing with our X-rite colorimeter revealed why: the Spectre x2’s panel reproduces a mere 72% of the colours in the sRGB gamut, which compares poorly with the 97.5% of the Surface Pro 4. Side-by-side, the difference is night and day.

As a touchscreen, however, there are no quibbles at all. The panel supports full ten-point multitouch, and as HP has opted for Wacom’s active stylus technology, you can use the supplied pen or any Wacom-compatible stylus you might have to hand. What’s more, the Wacom stylus tech allows the Spectre x2 to provide dramatically improved pressure sensitivity, tracking 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity to the Surface Pro 4’s 1,024. Writing and sketching is smooth and predictable and works very nicely, indeed.

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