Reviews

HP Spectre X2 Review: Form over function?

It’s beautiful but there are some sacrifices

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Can a tablet actually replace your laptop? If it has a detachable keyboard, a couple of standard ports, good-sounding speakers, and runs a full version of Windows 10 with top-of-the-line specs packaged into a slim body, it could. Everything I mentioned is found on the HP Spectre X2. Although, the company doesn’t really market it towards power-hungry users, but rather to anyone who is looking for a new portable computer with style.

One of the best-looking PCs

When I first saw the Specter X2 in person, I thought that it’s probably the most handsome Windows 2-in-1 I’ve seen in a while. Who can blame me? After bringing it to the office and cafes, everyone around me stared at the Spectre X2 for a bit. The body of the device is crafted from a single piece of aluminum with a matte finish. My review unit comes in black with gold accents — a staple HP Spectre line color combination that looks elegant and sophisticated.

The new HP logo fits the Spectre X2’s body perfectly

The Spectre X2 is primarily a 12-inch tablet with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 293ppi. Its display is as sharp as a smartphone thanks to its high-resolution panel with 3000 x 2000 pixels.

Since it’s a tablet, it’s got to have a stand to make it usable on a desk. The device has a gold kickstand (not actual gold, of course) neatly tucked into the body of the tablet when not in use. Unlike with other similarly designed detachables though, the kickstand of the Spectre X2 is slim and looks like a jewelry accessory for the tablet due to its color.

The kickstand stays in its position thanks to its firm hinge, but it doesn’t prevent the tablet from sliding across the tablet since it has no rubber feet

There are two USB-C ports on both sides of the tablet; either can be used for charging the tablet, connect external displays, and attach peripherals with support for USB 3.1 speeds. The pin-ejectable microSD card slot and 3.5mm audio port are on the left while the volume keys are on the right. The power button sits lonely on the top side and there’s virtually nothing at the bottom — just the magnetic latch for the keyboard.

It’s best to work with the Spectre X2 on a table or a desk

Speaking of, the detachable keyboard also has an aluminum body and acts a protective cover for the tablet’s display when closed. It attaches magnetically to the slate and has two typing angles: flat and inclined. It has a white backlight to help while working in the dark and it’s a full-sized keyboard with function keys and shortcuts. If you’re familiar with HP’s island-style chiclet keys, you’ll feel at home. The glass trackpad is fairly smooth and responsive even with multi-finger gestures, but it doesn’t use Windows Precision drivers.

Thin and light, yet fast and responsive

It sure is a good-looking piece of hardware and also a grand engineering feat. The Spectre X2 is purely a tablet, just like the Surface Pro from Microsoft, yet it has the horsepower of a typical Ultrabook. Despite the 7.7mm thinness (13.2mm with the keyboard cover), the tablet has two spinning fans inside which means it uses the same processor as a normal laptop and not a fanless, under-powered processor like with other ultrathin devices.

The Spectre X2 can still be used on my lap, although it’s not that comfortable

The heat dissipates upwards, so you don’t feel the stress of the tablet when it’s standing on a table or your lap. Even though you can occasionally hear the fan when the tablet is under heavy load, it’s not as loud as a regular laptop’s. When it’s time to pick it up though, the top portion of the tablet gets pretty warm.

The configuration of my Spectre X2 is the highest with a seventh-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory. It also has a spacious 512GB SSD to store all my documents, videos, and applications. I use it mainly for work which mostly involves typing all day, browsing with multiple tabs open, and photo editing. Suffice to say, the specs I have are quite an overkill for my everyday tasks but I am not complaining.

The HP Pen works with well Windows Ink

I never had any issues performance-wise. The Spectre X2 boots up quickly and Photoshop loads fast whenever I need it without hiccups. Windows 10 is also a breeze to use even in tablet mode, but the learning curve is still cumbersome compared to using an iPad or any Android tablet.

What’s up with the battery life?

Before the Spectre X2, I’ve been using an ultra-slim notebook to get stuff done wherever I go. Despite the notebook’s slim waistline, I never had an issue with its battery performance. With the HP Spectre X2 though, I am surprised that it can only last as long as a typical Windows notebook.

You can work with the Spectre X2 on the go, but not for long

During my first week of use, I could do four straight hours of writing with Wi-Fi turned on and brightness set at around 50 percent on a single charge. I expected to get at least six hours with it since I’m just using the browser (specifically Microsoft Edge to get the most out of the battery life) to get stuff done. When I used the tablet offline, it was able to last almost eight hours with mixed usage from Word processing and binge-watching downloaded episodes on Netflix.

There are also some issues with the charging times of the Spectre X2. Using the included 65W charger, it would take three hours to fill up to 100 percent. Not exactly the best charging times around, but charging via USB-C makes it future-proof.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Going back to the initial question, I’d say the HP Spectre X2 can hold its own. It’s a great option if you’re due for an upgrade and have extra cash to spare. If you’re bored with the usual laptop form and want something more than just a work tool, the Spectre X2’s detachable keyboard instantly transforms it into a tablet you can easily carry and place on a table.

Thanks to its wonderful stereo speakers, I don’t always need a pair of headphones when watching Netflix

It’s also pretty handy for those who need a Windows 10 machine for sketching. The HP Pen comes bundled in the box at no additional cost. I wasn’t able to fully test the stylus to create a masterpiece, so I can’t say how good it is compared to an actual Wacom tablet for making art.

All in all, the HP Spectre X2 is a complete package that can battle the Microsoft Surface Pro in terms of value. It’s also more widely available than the Surface Pro since Microsoft doesn’t sell their hardware in many markets.

Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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Drones

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review: 1 month in

Not a perfect drone, but…

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We won’t bore you with a rundown of its specs, but instead, we’ll give you the lowdown on DJI’s new drone — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s there to love. This is our DJI Mavic 2 Pro review.

 

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Reviews

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review: Not just a laptop replacement

It can be so much more

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Apple’s new iPad Pro is more beautiful, more powerful, and more useful. In this review, we answer the question in everyone’s head: Can it replace your laptop?

To see the iPad Pro as merely a possible laptop replacement is an injustice to the purpose it serves. It’s already a given that this is a great tablet, but this is a pro device and is more than just that. Its premium price tag can be justified by what it can enable creative professionals, business people, and even journalists to accomplish.

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