Once upon a time, Apple laptops had MagSafe power adapters, which magnetically clung to the side of its MacBooks instead of attaching to a plug. This mid-2000’s innovation was a godsend for people who used their laptops in coffee shops, airports, and other settings where someone might trip over a cord and yank the laptop off a lap or table if its cord didn’t disconnect.
Fast forward a decade. MacBooks and other similarly premium ultraportables, like HP’s Spectre x360, have greatly improved batteries that don’t need to be plugged in as frequently in public areas, so magnetic plugs have largely fallen by the wayside. But the newest Spectre x360, available now starting at $ 1,149, shows that there’s still a lot of innovation to be had when it comes to plugging cords into your laptop.
Actually, the idea of putting a USB-C port and a power button in the corners of the 2018 Spectre x360 was partially an afterthought. This unique port arrangement owes its existence to a design flourish: HP wanted its new 2-in-1 convertible to look more like a faceted-edge precious jewel. Based on the few minutes HP let me spend playing around with the Spectre x360, I’m not sure about this. It mostly just looks like a regular laptop with tiny bits cut out of the top left and right corners.
But the missing bits result in a very clever bit of port and button maneuvering. One of the main problems of plugging a peripheral into a sleek convertible laptop is that the cord will almost always stick out of the left or right edges where the ports reside, cluttering up your desk at best and impeding external mouse movements at worst. Ports typically can’t be relegated to the back edge, because the hinge needs that space to enable the 360-degree rotation that converts the machine into a tablet.
Placing the plug in the corner solves both problems. It won’t stick out and block your mouse movements, nor will it impede rotation. The power button, which is located in the other corner, is even more ingenious. Many 2-in-1s have side-mounted power and volume buttons to make the laptop easier to turn on and off in Tablet mode. The downside to this arrangement is that you’ll frequently push them by accident when you’re gripping the tablet. A corner-mounted button solves this problem while still making it accessible in Tablet mode.
If only there were more than two back corners, so HP could fit the rest of the ports and and buttons into them. For now, they’re located in the traditional spots along the laptop edges.
Other new features for the 2018 Spectre x360 refresh include 4G LTE connectivity thanks to a gigabit modem and dual eSIM support. This places the x360 in the same class as Windows tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Book2, but the modem’s usefulness will depend on whether or not US carriers make it easy to sign up for data service.
One of the screen options is an extremely power-efficient full HD display that consumes just a single watt of power. This display tech, which Intel unveiled earlier this year, is partly responsible for HP’s claim that the new 13-inch Spectre 13 x360 will get up to 22 hours of battery life. Other screen options include a 4K display and SureView, an electronic built-in privacy filter that reduces the display’s viewing angles.
Processor options include Intel’s latest Whiskey Lake-generation CPUs, such as the quad-core Core i5-8265U. Other processor and configuration options will arrive in December.
HP also refreshed the Spectre x360’s business equivalent, the EliteBook x360 1040 G5 (shown above). Notable new features include an incredibly bright, anti-glare 700-nit display that HP says will be comfortably viewable outside in daylight. The EliteBook, which starts at $ 1,499, also includes SureView and gigabit LTE options, though not the unique corner-mounted power button and USB-C port.
Finally, HP also introduced a new $ 329 EliteDisplay monitor, complete with retractable webcam, and a $ 49 USB mouse with a built-in fingerprint reader. Both will be available in December.