Review: HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook is a stylish machine that offers top performance

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
It bucks the trend of many of its competitors, but can it stand up to further scrutiny? Photo credit: Newshub

I still remember the first laptop I ever used, a brick-like device that seemed old-fashioned even back in the 1990s.

How things have changed. HP's Spectre has a futuristic, stylish look that almost made me feel like James Bond, and has tech specs that would put many desktops to shame.

Could the x360 Flip Ultrabook prove as adaptable as 007 would need in today's world, or would the Spectre prove to be as bad as its namesake organisation in the books and movies?

I've been using the HP Spectre x360 Flip Ultrabook for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

I was a bit unsure when unboxing the Ultrabook for the first time - it really looks quite different to the vast majority of modern laptops.

The angular design bucks the trend for curves and more rounded features for something that could feel boxy.

The saving grace is how thin and stylish the laptop actually is. Once I'd started using it, I came to appreciate the unique look that added to my overall satisfaction.

The laptop carries the Evo branding, introduced by Intel in September 2020 for high-end laptops. 

Eligible laptops must be extremely lightweight and offer great battery life and pass rigorous testing to be selected, and it's clear from my time using it that this device is worthy of the label. 

A large part of the Spectre's success is the stunning 13.5-inch OLED touch screen. With a maximum resolution of 3000x2000 pixels and a bright, sharp performance, this is right up there with the very best I've tried out.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

Not only was it great to use for work purposes, but when it came to gaming and streaming videos, I couldn't have been more impressed.

The audio when streaming both movies and music is pretty good too, courtesy of the Bang & Olufsen quad speakers.

The music comes from both the top of the keyboard and underneath, so while there's a little deadening of the sound when it's on your lap, it's not a bad experience. Too often this is ignored in laptops, so I appreciate it when it's not an afterthought.

Throw on some Guns 'n Roses, put the volume up to 11 and you even get some pleasant haptic feedback on your wrists as you type away.

The keyboard is great to use for long periods, with accurate touch typing not an issue. It doesn't have quite as much give in the keys as the other laptops I use regularly, but I find this preferable as it aids my overall accuracy.

I also need to commend the Spectre for providing multiple methods of logging on. Not only is Windows Hello supported for facial recognition, there's also a fingerprint scanner on the bottom row of the keyboard.

Of course I went with the camera option first - and in various types of lighting it remained quick and accurate to use.

The camera itself is okay, and was acceptable for video conferences. In video calls I could be heard easily with the dual array digital microphones ensuring no issues there. However we're fast getting to the point where a 720p camera really isn't all that impressive so I'd be hoping for a better one in the next iteration.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

I also appreciated the option to turn the camera off. My work ThinkPad has a slider to do so, but the aesthetics of the Spectre would make that hard here - so instead a button is provided on the top row of the keyboard to quickly toggle it off and on.

The button has a light, and if you look at the camera itself when switched off, there's a slash pattern which gives you multiple indications of when it's not on.

Of course all of that impressive performance is underpinned by the impressively quick Intel i7 1165G7 processor with 16GB of RAM.

If you're intent on cutting multiple 8K videos and doing some CGI work then it might not be quite enough for you, but for everyday use I found it quick, reliable and able to handle my multi-tasking without a problem.

There's an Intel Iris Xe graphics card integrated, so it's not going to blow you away with its performance for gaming - but I loaded a selection of Microsoft's Game Pass options onto it, including Forza Horizon 5, and I was able to play them just fine.

While I largely used it plugged in, the battery life was very good and I had no problem getting through an entire work day on that alone.

Again, I wasn't pushing it too hard but compared to the old days where you needed to charge them every hour or so, I have no complaints about having to juice it overnight after a long day's use.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

Finally, there were a couple of touches that show HP really do think about those who are buying the laptop.

First, there's a carrying sleeve included in the box, so you've got some added protection when you throw the laptop into your backpack.

Secondly, the pen is included too. How often do companies advertise such functionality, only for you to find out you're going to need to spend an extra couple of hundred bucks for the pen itself?

It may not be quite as good an experience as Microsoft's Slim Pen 2, and the lack of haptic feedback on the screen when using it wasn't ideal - but it still felt good to hold and use, and was accurate when drawing and signing documents with it.

For a silver-coloured machine, it had delivered a gold medal performance thus far.

The bad

Ah, bloatware - you are my nemesis. Every time I see you on a new laptop you manage to annoy me more.

Presumably HP gets paid for installing such rubbish on their devices, and I dare say a few people are even persuaded to fork out premium prices when some of the free trials end.

I find it abhorrent. The very least a company should offer when starting up a device for the first time is a vanilla Windows installation with only drivers and software to support any additional hardware.

I don't want Adobe offers, I don't want Alexa, or ExpressVPN. I certainly don't want McAfee's antivirus software on my brand new computer, especially when I couldn't find a way to avoid signing up for it when I set up the Spectre.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

Cue emails telling me how long I had left of protection and then emails saying how long it's been since the protection expired and how I could get special deals.

If I'm paying many thousands of dollars for a device, the last thing I want is for it to come loaded with unavoidable, annoying adverts, particularly ones that bug me multiple times.

Stop it. Please. I can't believe anyone likes this experience.

One of the selling points of the Flip Ultrabook is being able to convert it into a tablet. As that the performance is more than acceptable, and using fingers or the supplied pen on the screen is lag-free and more than acceptable.

However it just feels strange holding it when flipped. It's a touch heavier than you might want for carrying around in that style, and I couldn't help but feel awkward when my holding hand kept pressing keys on the keyboard.

Those presses don't register of course - that would make it truly awful - but it still made the whole thing feel slightly slippery and weird to use. It's less of a problem if you're using it on your lap, but if I'm doing that, I'd probably have it laptop mode.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

If you intend using it as a tablet on a regular basis, you might want to try out the feel for yourself to see if it's something you are comfortable with.

One final thing - due to the necessity of providing space for the pen to charge, all but one of the ports on the Spectre are on the right hand side, including both USB-C ports.

It's not a biggy - but it would have been nice to have had one on each side for plugging into charging outlets and external devices. Still, at least there's a 3.5mm audio jack so I shouldn't complain.

The verdict

It took a few moments to really appreciate the HP Spectre x360 Ultrabook, but the performance helped bring me around quickly.

Both the name and the styling brought up thoughts of the world's most famous spy and this may well be the closest I ever get to feeling like 007. 

At $3392 for the specification I tested, then some of the suave spy's salary might help there, but it doesn't feel overpriced for a laptop that will surely last.

The screen is absolutely brilliant, easily amongst the best I've seen on a laptop, and the Intel i7 processor ensured no lag while using it.

HP Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook
Photo credit: Newshub

I shall remain unconvinced of the value of using it as a tablet, however, with the feeling of holding it with the keyboard on the bottom all kinds of unsatisfactory.

But if I was in the market for a high-specification Windows laptop, capable of both gaming and all-day working performance, the Spectre would be right at the top of my list.

I might see if I can have a word with Q about all that bloatware on it, however.

Newshub was supplied with a HP Spectre x360 Flip Ultrabook with an  i7-1165G7 processor and 16GB RAM for this review.