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November 29, 2017

Battle of the 15-inch 2-in-1s: HP Spectre x360 vs. Microsoft Surface Book 2

by John_A

If you’re looking for a powerful 15-inch laptop that is also ultra-portable, you’ve come to the right place. In this breakdown, we’re pitting the HP Spectre x360 vs. Microsoft Surface Book 2, to see which is best. Both of these versions come with 15-inch displays and strong internal hardware, but there is quite a leap in price between the two. Will that make this a weighted bout, or are there factors at play that will make you choose one over the other?

That’s what this head to head is going to find out, as we compare these two powerhouses in every category to weigh up which offers you the best bang for buck.

To see how the Surface Book 2 fares when pitted against the MacBook Pro 15, check out our head to head breakdown.

Specifications

HP Spectre x360 15

 Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch

Dimensions
14 x 9.88 x 0.7 (in)
13.5 x 9.87 x 0.56-0.90 (in)
Weight
4.42 pounds
4.2 pounds
Keyboard
Full-size island-style backlit keyboard
Full size backlit keyboard
Processor
Eight-generation Intel Core i7-8550U
Up to eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8650U
RAM
Up to 16GB
16GB
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce MX150 w/2GB of VRAM
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 w/ 6GB of RAM
Display
15.6-inch WLED-backlit touchscreen
15-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Resolution
3,840 x 2,160
3,240 x 2,160
Storage
Up to 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD
Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
Networking
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports
1 USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C, 1 USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 HDMI, 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, SD card reader
2x USB Type-A ports, 1 Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, 2x Surface Connect ports, SD Card reader
Webcam
HP Wide Vision full HD infrared Camera
5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Battery
79.2 watt-hour
90 watt-hour
Price
Starts at $1,400
Starts at $2,500
Availability
Now (HP Store)
Now (Microsoft Store)
Review
Full review: 8/10
Full review: 8/10

Design

Both the Surface Book 2 and Spectre 360 are premium laptops, and they exude that ethos in their look and feel. They each have a strong and sturdy frame, with a clean look. The Spectre is darker in hue than its Microsoft counterpart, which makes it a little more understated, but in the same breath very different from your average MacBook. The Surface Book 2, on the other hand, much like its predecessor, looks rather generic — except for the hinge, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

These are 2-in-1s, so they feature the ability to switch from laptop to tablet mode, and a few configurations in between. The way they do so is a little different though. The Spectre features an increasingly common 360-degree hinge. That means the screen folds all the way back until its flush with the bottom of the laptop, making it a tablet. However, since the base does not detach, you’ll be carrying around the full 4.42 pounds of device, which is unwieldy.

The Surface Book 2 utilizes a “dynamic fulcrum hinge,” which users of the original Surface Book will be familiar with. It allows for complete detachment of the base, leaving you with a much more portable tablet that weighs in at just 1.7 pounds. However, the unusual hinge does mean there is a small gap when the laptop is closed. It looks a bit odd, and makes the system thicker than it otherwise would be.

HP’s design basically gets the job done, and is useful in short bursts, but it leave the Spectre too heavy to be used as a tablet for long. The Surface Book 2 is featherweight by comparison.

Winner: Surface Book 2

Performance

As the more expensive of the two laptops, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Surface Book 2 has the stronger internal hardware. The 15-inch version comes with an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8650U processor, which has four-cores and supports eight threads thanks to hyperthreading. It operates at up to 4.2GHz when boosted and is paired with a mandatory 16GB of memory.

That’s not too dissimilar to the HP Spectre x360, though. It comes with an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8550U and either 8GB, 12GB, or 16GB of memory. The only difference between the two chips is that the Spectre’s has a slightly lower base frequency, and a boost frequency of 4.0GHz.

While the general processing capabilities of the two laptops are comparable, the big difference can be found in the graphics hardware. While the Spectre x360 has an Nvidia GeForce MX150 with 2GB of RAM (effectively a mobile version of the desktop GT 1030), the Surface Book 2 packs a GTX 1060 with 6GB of VRAM. That’s comparable to mid-tier gaming laptops, and in our testing, the Surface Book 2 was perfectly capable of high-detail 1080p gaming.

The Spectre’s MX150 has a fraction of the power. It can load and play most games, but often at low or medium detail settings. You may even have to drop the resolution below 1080p, which won’t look hot on the Spectre’s 4K screen.

In storage, both laptops offer between 256GB and 1TB of solid state storage, which makes both systems snappy and responsive. The Surface Book 2’s storage solutions are noticeably faster in read and write than the HP laptop’s, but it’s hard to ignore the effect it has on pricing. While upping the HP Spectre x360 to 1TB of storage increases its price by $300, the Surface Book 2 leaps a full $800 with the upgrade.

You have to pay for the performance, but the Surface Book 2 is clearly the faster machine overall.

Winner: Surface Book 2

Display

Both the Surface Book 2 and Spectre x360 are well beyond 1080p resolution at this point, though there are some differences in what they offer consumers. For the 15-inch model, the Surface Book 2 comes with a 15-inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 3,240 x 2,160. Although it’s not quite 4K resolution, the high pixel-per-inch count (260) means it looks fantastically crisp. It’s also incredibly bright, and features the best contrast of any laptop without an OLED display that we’ve ever tested.

It’s not perfect, though. The Surface Book 2 falls down when it comes to color accuracy, with an average color error double that of the Spectre. It may be a style-choice on Microsoft’s behalf, but it comes through a little over-saturated, a little too vibrant. It’s not unattractive, but it isn’t something that will appeal to photographers and video editors.

The HP Spectre x360 ups the ante on resolution with a true 4K display (3,840 x 2,160), with much more accurate colors than the Surface Book 2. However, it’s panel is not as bright, and its contrast isn’t anywhere near the Microsoft alternative (720:1 vs 1,410:1).

Although those looking for color clarity will probably prefer the Spectre’s higher-resolution display, to our eye, the Surface Book 2 offers the more attractive option.

Winner: Surface Book 2

Portability

In terms of size and weight when in laptop mode, the difference between the two isn’t particularly significant. The difference in hinge design means that the Surface Book 2 is a little thicker, and an argument could be made that the gap between the base and the screen when folded shut does present a potential scratch threat. The Spectre doesn’t have that at all, and is a little thinner due to its 360-hinge design.

The place where weight makes the biggest difference is in tablet mode. With its detachable keyboard base, the Surface Book 2 is able to slim down to just 1.7 pounds, whereas the Spectre x360 is still its full 4.4 pounds when folded flat.

Easily the Surface Book 2’s best and most defining feature, its battery life blew us away in testing. While the difference in watt-hours isn’t particularly extreme between the two, the Microsoft 2-in-1 lasts a very long time in practice. In our tests it managed 15.5 hours in our web browsing benchmark, 20 hours on our video loop test, and almost seven hours when running the Basemark test.

We don’t have battery life tests for the latest version of the Spectre as of yet, but previous iterations delivered a more typical 10 hours in our video test. However, it is important to note that the new version has a battery that’s around 20 percent larger and the eighth-generation Intel chips are notable for their improved battery life when running 4K content. We expect it’ll do well in our tests.

Still, there’s a difference between great battery life, and record-breaking battery life. The Surface Book 2 has the best battery life of any laptop at this size and power we’ve ever seen, it seems fair to say it takes this category. We’ll update it more when we have more concrete battery tests for the latest version of the Spectre notebook.

Winner: Surface Book 2

Pricing and availability

While the Surface Book 2 has taken a number of categories in this head to head, that all needs to be taken into consideration in the context of pricing. While the Surface Book 2 is available in a 13-inch form-factor which does start at a much more favorable price ($1,500), the 15-inch Surface Book 2 base model is $2,500. Our top of the line review model, with 1TB of storage, was even more costly at $3,300.

In comparison, the HP Spectre x360 starts at $1,400, and at the time of writing is available at a sizeable discount ($1,130). That version does only sport 8GB of RAM, but bumping it up to 16GB raises the price to $1,550 outside of the sale. With a terabyte of storage, it would set you back $1,850 at pre-sale prices.

That makes it harder to justify the Surface Book 2, even with its stronger hardware and impressive battery life.

There is also the question of availability to consider. All configurations of the Spectre are available at the time of writing. In comparison, the 15-inch Surface Book 2 is available in the U.S., but not in some countries as of yet. That’s also only in the 256GB storage configuration. The 512GB storage version will ship out on November 30, while the 1TB model will not begin shipping until December 15.

Winner: HP Spectre x360

Bottom Line

Although both the Surface Book 2 and HP Spectre x360 are premium laptops, with strong feature sets, powerful internal hardware and beautiful aesthetics, they are a world apart in a few key areas. The most obvious is price, and that’s likely to be the big deciding factor when it comes to picking which you want to go for, though there are some additional details to consider.

While $2,500 might seem like a lot — and that $3,300 price tag of the 1TB version makes us gulp — for that money you receive a much more powerful graphics processor and ridiculously good battery life. The Spectre might have a slightly higher-resolution display, and it’s available in all its guises right now at an attractive price point, but it would be a lie to say it’s the better machine of the two.

If you want a good 2-in-1 with a good display, good performance, and good battery life, then the HP Spectre x360 is a fantastic choice. If you want something uniquely powerful, and you’re willing to pay for it, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 is the clear winner.

Overall winner: Surface Book 2

Maybe the HP Spectre x360 will fare better when going head to head with the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy
  • HP Spectre x360 13 vs. Lenovo Yoga 920: Fighting for convertible 2-in-1 primacy
  • Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch Review
  • Is the Surface Book 2 a worthy sequel to the original? Here’s how it compares
  • Microsoft takes on Apple’s prestige: Surface Book 2 15-inch vs. MacBook Pro 15




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