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HP Spectre X360 15T review: It's sexy and thin, but comes with a performance cost

Gordon Mah Ung | March 11, 2016
Not everyone needs a burly quad-core CPU and discrete graphics. At least, that's what HP hopes.

The screen on our review unit is an 1920x1080 IPS panel with support for touch. (HP offers a 4K panel, but for most people, that option is overkill.) When comparing the display to that of the new Dell XPS 15 and the new Samsung Book 9 Pro, I found the backlighting to be even. There was some bleeding at the top left and right corners when I turned up the brightness in a dark room, but generally you won’t notice it.

Naturally, the HP's panel wasn’t as tack-sharp as the Samsung Book Pro 9’s 4K Ultra HD screen when viewing high-resolution photos. Most people would need bionic vision to see the difference, however.

CPU performance: Four is better than two

For all its good looks, the Spectre X360 15T has a steep task before it: to convince people that it’s worth giving up the performance that most companies are jamming into their top-end 15.6-inch laptops. Natural competitors like Dell’s XPS 15, Samsung’s Book 9 Pro, and Apple’s MacBook Pro 15 all sport quad-core CPUs and discrete GPUs, whereas the Spectre X360 15T packs a dual-core processor and integrated graphics.

Is that performance a big deal? In some tests, yes: It’s as big a deal as Ron Burgundy is in his own mind.

First up is Cinebench R15, a real-world test based on Maxon’s 3D rendering engine. Though the vast majority of people aren’t doing 3D rendering on a laptop, the benchmark is a good way to measure pure CPU performance. The more cores you throw at it, the more performance you get.

Compared to other dual-core laptops, the HP actually represents well. With its Core i5-6200U, it’s just a step back from a Surface Pro 4’s Core i5-6300U chip. But against the quad-core systems, the story’s different. The Dell and Samsung quad-core CPUs stomp the dual-cores into the dirt. But they are bigger and heavier, too.

For another practical test, we set Handbrake 0.9.9 to transcode a 30GB 1080p MKV video file to a 720p MP4, using the Android Tablet preset. Beyond giving you an idea of how long it’d take if you indeed used your laptop for video file conversion, this test is also a good indicator of video editing performance. As with Cinebench R15, you give up performance with that dual-core.

Graphics performance: Discrete > IGP

To get a quick look at the Spectre X360 15T’s graphics performance against the rest of the pack, I used 3DMark’s Sky Diver test, a well-respected synthetic graphics benchmark.

Again, the Spectre X360 15T does reasonably well, but it gets trounced by laptops with discrete graphics. The Surface Book, which has discrete graphics believed to be on par with a GeForce GT 940, does almost twice as well in Sky Diver. The Samsung and Dell boast even better discrete graphics chips, with the XPS 15 posting a score almost three times higher than the Spectre X360 15T. In general, that means you’ll see better performance in games and in applications that use the GPU for computing tasks from these competitors.

 

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