HP Specter x360 16 review: A big, beautiful convertible laptop

Deepak Gupta February 22, 2022
Updated 2022/02/22 at 2:25 PM

The last time we saw one of HP’s premium Specter x360 convertible notebooks, we were impressed by its style, powerful hardware, and excellent keyboard. But this was just a 13-inch model — what if HP took all that goodness and crammed it into a massive 16-inch laptop? That’s basically what the company is offering with its new x360 spectrum 16. It’s big. It’s beautiful. And this time, it comes equipped with NVIDIA’s new RTX 3050 GPU. If you’re looking for a notebook with a big screen that can also handle a little gaming and creative work, the x360 16 is an attractive option.

Interestingly, HP doesn’t have much competition when it comes to powerful, big-screen convertibles. Dell hasn’t updated the XPS 15 2-in-1 in years, and LG’s comparable Grams aim for more lightness than power. It could be that other companies were scared off having heavy laptops with swiveling screens – the 4.4-pound x360 16 is absolutely beefy compared to the 3-pound 13-inch model. But it’s not far from the £4.3 MacBook Pro 16. If you’re looking for a big screen, you’ve probably relegated yourself to carrying a heavy machine. (And at least it’s lighter than the XPS 17, which weighs up to 5.5 pounds!)

pros

  • Attractive and robust design
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Gorgeous 16-inch screen with optional OLED
  • NVIDIA RTX 3050 adds more 3D power

cons

  • Too big to use in tablet form for a long time
  • Battery performance is average

In terms of design, the Specter x360 16 is more glam than Dell’s minimalist XPS lineup. Both companies have opted for sleek, all-metal cases, but HP’s hardware features metallic accents along its edges (even the hinges get a little shine). The Specter line used to lean more heavily towards a jewel look, but now HP is trying to smooth things over while still offering some style. Little things like the case’s cut corners and slightly smoother edges give the x360 16 a handcrafted quality. It doesn’t look like a cookie cutter PC, and that’s the point.

Like many 16-inch notebooks we’ve seen recently, the x360 replaces a 15-inch model. HP was able to fit a larger display into a similarly sized case, reducing panel sizes and moving towards a higher 16 by 10 aspect ratio. This results in a 22mm taller screen with 11% more vertical viewing area, according to HP. Our review unit featured a 4K+ OLED display that looked just plain gorgeous no matter what I was looking at (although I’m a sucker for the OLED’s deep black levels and stunning colors). There are also 3K+ LED displays available if you don’t want to pay a premium for OLED.

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

Unfortunately, the x360 does not support HDR and Dolby Vision like Dell’s XPS line, or a fast refresh rate of 120Hz, as we saw in the Surface Laptop Studio. For some, not having these features can be an issue, especially if you plan on watching a lot of HDR videos or are intrigued by the smoothness of having a high refresh rate screen. But if you’re upgrading from an older PC, the x360 display is still a significant step forward.

HP’s convertible hinge makes it easy to open the x360 16 with one hand. Rotating it in a tent or tablet mode takes a little more effort due to the size of the system. As with every convertible PC, the tent formation is a good way to prop up the x360 if you’re just lounging in bed. You can also flip the keyboard upside down to make the screen stand on its own, which can be useful if you just need an additional screen next to a desktop. But I didn’t find the x360’s tablet mode very useful; it’s just too heavy to hold for too long, and it’s just awkward to use. But actually having a bigger screen for productivity work and the Netflix marathon makes up for it.

HP Specter x360 16

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

Speaking of work, typing this review on the x360 made me fall in love with HP’s full-size keyboard even more than the 13-inch model. It’s wide enough for me to spread out my fingers comfortably, and there’s a satisfying amount of travel for each key. It’s like a concert piano begging to be played. My only gripe is that it’s a little non-standard: there’s a fingerprint sensor instead of a correct control key, plus a variety of specialized function keys to discover. On the plus side, the touchpad is now 39% larger and still feels incredibly smooth and reliable.

Our review unit was the high-end $2,030 configuration: you get an Intel Core i7-11390H processor (no 12th Gen support yet), 16GB of RAM, NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 GPU, and a 1TB NVMe SSD with 32 GB of Intel Optane memory. The x360 had no issues with basic productivity tasks – which isn’t a surprise considering its hardware – and I appreciated how lively it made Windows 11 look. It opened apps quickly and showed no signs of slowing down as I piled up more and more browser tabs.

The only disappointing thing was the disk speed. According to the ATTO bank, it had average write speeds of around 2GB/s and significantly slower read speeds than most notebooks we see today. This is honestly surprising for an NVMe drive. When we asked HP about these issues, a representative noted that Optane drives can sometimes show lower performance numbers, especially when you are testing large amounts of data. (We ran the ATTO benchmark with a 4GB file configuration.)

PC Mark 10

Geekbench 5

3DMark Night Attack

ATTO disk speeds (superior read/write)

HP Specter x360 16 (Intel Core i7-11390H, NVIDIA RTX 3050)

4,785

1,518/4,200

16,927

1.1GB/sec/2GB/sec

Surface Laptop Studio (Intel Core i7-11350H, NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti)

5,397

1,445/5,430

26,566

3.2GB/sec/3GB/sec

Razer Blade 14 (AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, NVIDIA RTX 3080)

6,551

1,443/7,226

35,812

3GB/sec / 2GB/sec

Surface Laptop 4 15″ (AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Surface Edition, Radeon)

4,620

1,048/6,551

15,517

1.9GB/sec/985MB/sec

When it comes to overall system benchmarks, the x360 16 scored similar to last year’s Surface Laptop 4 15 and ASUS’ ZenBook Duo. I expected higher numbers, however, as it has a more powerful GPU than any of these systems. This RTX 3050 is the lowest entry among NVIDIA’s current offerings, but it’s still better than what you’d get with Intel’s integrated Xe graphics. It was also useful for basic 1080p games: I had no problems playing a few rounds of Infinite Halo with medium graphics settings. The x360 16 is a solid option if you want to play a few titles every now and then, perhaps during a monotonous work trip when you don’t want to carry around a heavier gaming notebook.

Big screens come with huge power demands, so I wasn’t surprised when the x360 only lasted 10 hours and 55 minutes during our battery test. HP claims it will last up to 17 hours with mixed-use performance, but it’s unclear how they tested this. Our benchmark relies on looping an HD video, so it’s not exactly stressful. I wouldn’t expect a 16-inch notebook to easily achieve the 15 hours of battery life we’ve seen on smaller machines, and the x360 still delivers enough power for a day’s work.

HP Specter x360 16

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

Being flexible in more ways than one is a major selling point for convertibles. The x360 16 is equally at home while you’re curled up in bed and in a business meeting. The included stylus, which attaches magnetically to the side of the laptop, is also useful for taking notes and simple illustrations. And considering the importance of video calling these days, the x360 is also well equipped with a 5-megapixel webcam and some software features to beautify your face. It’s certainly a step up from the 720p cameras we’ve seen in recent years. For those concerned about privacy, you can also physically lock the camera by pressing a function key, as well as muting the microphone.

Unlike many other style-focused notebooks, HP also includes a wide range of ports, including two USB-C connections, a USB Type-A port (in a stylish overhead slot), a full-size HDMI socket, and a USB port. microSD card. And yes, the headset is still there too; HP isn’t giving up on it like Dell did with the new XPS 13 Plus. While the x360 can be charged over USB-C, it comes with an AC adapter that plugs into a barrel connection.

HP Specter x360 16

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

As much as I love our review model’s OLED display, the best deal x360 16 is the $1,700 LED-equipped model with the same CPU, RAM, and RTX 3050 GPU. It has a smaller 512GB SSD, but you can always update it in the future. If you’re less concerned about gaming performance, the $1,500 entry-level model drops the RTX 3050 for Intel’s Xe graphics.

As the only big-screen gaming convertible in town, HP could have easily hooked it up with the Specter x360 16. Instead, it gave us a powerful premium notebook that can do some gaming amid a barrage of Zoom calls. and look good while doing it.

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