It’s a great time to live in the premium ultrabook market segment. It’s in this segment where laptop manufactures set trends and redefine consumer expectations. For the past few years, the Dell XPS 13 sat calmly on the Windows 10 ultrabook throne, only occasionally challenged by lesser ultrabooks that never quite managed to earn its place. But the reign of the Dell XPS 13 is now over because HP has updated their Spectre x360 2-in-1 convertible ultrabook, fixing everything that was wrong with the previous version and outshining the also updated Dell XPS 13 in nearly every way.
Dell XPS 13 vs HP Spectre x360
|HP||HP Spectre x360 Laptop||1539|
|Dell||Dell XPS 13 Laptop||1299|
Design and Build
Both the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 measure just 0.54 inches in the thickest part. The Dell XPS 13 is slightly lighter because its body is made from carbon-fiber instead of solid aluminum. Using carbon-fiber comes with a few advantages and disadvantages over aluminum. First, there’s the aforementioned weight reduction. Hundred or so grams may not be much, but, in this laptop category, every gram counts.
Second, the carbon-fiber body never deviates too much from room temperature, sparing your palms those few seconds of cold that you get when you first lay hands on an aluminum laptop and saving your crotch from excessive heat.
The most noticeable disadvantage is the absence of the polished, premium feel you get with high-end laptops such as the HP Spectre x360. Though carbon-fiber is a premium material, its premium nature comes mostly from its physical properties—not from how it feels.
Neither the Dell XPS 13 nor the HP Spectre x360 have gotten the 360-degree hinge just right. The Dell XPS 13 is too stiff, although we expect it to become less resistant with use, and the HP Spectre x360 is too limp and bouncy.
Where the HP Spectre x360 first shines are the available ports. There’s a single USB Type-A port, two USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3 and power delivery, and a 3.5mm audio port for headphones and microphone. The Dell XPS 13 has just a single USB Type-C port and a Thunderbolt 3 port. It does also have a microSD card slot, though, which the HP lacks.
The last version of the HP Spectre x360 was held back by its display, which, while better than most laptop displays, was a few steps behind other ultrabooks. In this regard, the newest version of the laptop is a real game-changer. The newly available 4K display covers 131.5 percent of the sRGB spectrum and has a respectable peak brightness of 305 nits. With the top bezel large enough to house a Full HD webcam with IR sensor and Windows Hello support, HP has left it up to Dell remind users to trim their nose hair.
The awkwardly placed camera aside, Dell’s 13-inch InfinityEdge display is a real beauty, with nearly non-existent bezels and 3200 × 1800 pixels. It’s slightly brighter than the HP Spectre x360, but its color accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. The panel can reproduce 107.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut, but its Delta-E score is just around 6, far from the ideal score of 0.
Both the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 use different Intel processors. With the Dell, you get to choose between several Intel Y Series processors (formerly known as Core M processors). These processors come with a feature called Dynamic Power Mode, which temporarily delivers more power to help Intel Y Series processors better cope with usage spikes. In practice, the Dell XPS 13 is a snappy ultrabook suitable for professionals who want to get things done.
The HP Spectre x360 features Intel 7th-Gen Kaby Lake processors, giving consumers the choice between a Core i5 processor or a Core i7 processor. Regardless of which of these two processors you select, you can expect the Spectre to fly. Yes, it won’t be as quiet as the Dell XPS 13, but the added performance is noticeable when editing video or post-processing hundreds of pictures.
You can get the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 with up to 16 GB of RAM and very large SSDs. The Dell XPS 13 comes with a smaller battery than the HP Spectre x360—46 Wh compared to 57.8 Wh respectively—but the battery life of both ultrabooks is almost the same because of the high efficiency of Intel Y Series processors.
The Dell XPS 13 has two 1-watt speakers with above-average sound quality and excellent sound clarity even at high volume levels. Speakers in the Spectre x360 were provided by Bang & Olufsen, and there are four of them located between the keyboard and the hinge and on the bottom. The speakers can get very loud and they have a surprising amount of bass.
Neither of the two ultrabooks has left us wanting better input devices. Both keyboards were accurate and comfortable to type on, and both touchpads were smooth and pleasantly large, although the HP Spectre x360 has a slightly larger touchpad.
For $49, Dells offers their Active Pen stylus as an optional accessory for the Dell XPS 13. The stylus has 2,048 levels of sensitivity, built-in palm rejection, and a rear button that can launch the Windows Start menu. HP also offers a stylus—this time with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and multiple buttons for various shortcuts. Neither of these two pens feels as good as Microsoft’s Surface Pen, but both work just fine for use with OneNote and other note-taking applications.
Verdict: The King Is Dead, Long Live the HP Spectre x360
The Dell XPS 13 is still an impressive ultrabook, especially since it now supports multiple modes. However, HP has come up with a convertible ultrabook that’s even more spectacular in nearly every way. The HP Spectre x360 is more than sum of its parts. The way its design combines with its stunning performance is inspiring and guaranteed to reassure you that the Spectre is worth every dollar you spend on it.