HP Specter x360 13.5 vs.  Apple MacBookAir M2

HP Specter x360 13.5 vs. Apple MacBookAir M2

HP’s Specter x360 13.5 is the most refined convertible 2-in-1 available today and one of the best laptops overall, while the Apple MacBook Air M2 is an excellent, updated version of Apple’s venerable machine. Both are outstanding laptops that should be on anyone’s shortlist for their next upgrade.

If you’re shopping for a premium 13-inch laptop, you’ll run into these two. It’s a tough choice, but one of them is a better overall choice than the other.

Specs

HP Envy x360 13.5 Apple MacBookAir M2
Dimensions 11.73 inches by 8.68 inches by 0.67 inches 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches by 0.44 inches
Weight 3.01 pounds 2.7 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-1235U
Intel Core i7-1255U
Apple M2 eight-core CPU, eight-Core GPU
Apple Me eight-core CPU, 10-Core GPU
graphics Intel Iris Xe Apple M2
RAM 8GB LPDDR4
16GB LPDDR4
32GB LPDDR4
8GB
16 GB
24GB
display 13.5-inch 3:2 WXUGA+ (1920 x 1280) IPS touch
13.5-inch 3:2 WXUGA+ (1920 x 1280) IPS touch privacy screen
13.5-inch 3:2 3K2K (3000 x 2000) OLED touch
13.6-inch 16:10 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina IPS
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive (SSD)
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD
Touch Yes No
Ports 2x USB-C 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4
1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x microSD card reader
2 USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm audio jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
webcam 5MP with infrared camera for facial recognition 1080p
Operating system Windows 11 macOS Monterey
Battery 66 watt-hour 52.6 watt-hours
Price $1,250+ $1,199+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Price and configurations

HP’s pricing changes regularly, with both sale prices and changes to list prices a common theme. Right now, the Specter x360 13.5 starts at $1,250 for a Core i5-1235U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 13.5-inch 3:2 WUXGA+ IPS touch display. When configured with a Core i7-1255U, 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and a 13.5-inch 3:2 3K2K OLED touch panel, the laptop costs $1,810. You can also configure the Specter with up to 32GB of RAM, but for some reason that’s not available with the OLED display.

The Apple MacBook Air M2’s pricing is fixed in stone, at least when purchased from Apple. The base model is $1,199 for an 8-core CPU/8-core GPU Apple M2 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Max out the MacBook and you’ll spend $2,499 for an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M2, 24GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD.

Overall, the Specter x360 13.5 is a less expensive laptop except at the entry level, where HP twice includes the storage for an additional $50.

Design

For two laptops aimed at the same market, the Specter x360 13.5 and MacBook Air M2 couldn’t be more different. The former is a 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 with an elegant “gem-cut” aesthetic that’s toned down from earlier models. It’s constructed from CNC-machined aluminum in one of three colors, Natural Silver, Nightfall Black, and Nocturne Blue and its build quality is truly premium with zero bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere in the lid or chassis. The latter adopts the blockier design of the larger MacBook Pro models, dropping the MacBook Air’s historic tapered form, and its unibody chassis is insanely thin at just 0.44 inches compared to the Spectre’s 0.67 inches. The MacBook Air M2 is available in Midnight, Space Gray, Silver, and Starlight, and while the chassis is as rigid as the HP’s the lid is slightly bendable.

Both are attractive laptops that represent the pinnacle of premium machines. Which is right for you depends on whether you want the flexibility of a 2-in-1 that can convert to clamshell, tent, media, and tablet modes, with support for touch and an active pen, or if you’re looking for a traditional laptop.

We found the MacBook Air M2’s keyboard to be superior. It’s an Apple Magic Keyboard with slightly shallow switches, but a snappier and more precise feel. The Specter x360 13.5’s keyboard is also excellent, and it’s deeper, but it’s just the slightest bit behind the MacBook’s. Both will let you type comfortably at full speed, though. The MacBook’s Force Touch touchpad is much better than the Spectre’s mechanical version (which is a solid example of the type), with support for clicking anywhere on its expansive surface and a haptic mechanism that closely mimics physical buttons. As mentioned, the Specter x360 13.5 has a touch display with active pen support, so it supports tapping and inking with aplomb.

The MacBook Air M2 includes a notch to accommodate a 1080p webcam, something that bothers some people. HP managed to include a 5MP with an equally small bezel, and so it’s curious why Apple felt the need to utilize a notch. In any case, both laptops provide excellent videoconferencing quality. The Specter x360 13.5 also includes an infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello passwordless support to go with its fingerprint reader, while the MacBook Air M2 relies on a Touch ID power button for logging in.

Finally, connectivity favors the Spectre, which includes USB-A for legacy support and a microSD card reader to go with its equal number of Thunderbolt 4 ports. The HP also includes faster Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 compared to the MacBook’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Performance

The lid and keyboard of the MacBook Air.

We reviewed the Specter 360 13.5 with a 15-watt Intel Core i7-1255U with 10 cores (two Performance and eight Efficient) and 12 threads. That’s up against the MacBook Air M2 with the 8-core CPU/8-core GPU M2 ARM processor. Apple’s chip is an excellent performer, but it wasn’t significantly faster than the Spectre’s Core i7-1255U in our CPU-intensive benchmarks. The Specter kept up in these benchmarks when set in its performance mode, although that spun up the fans whereas the fanless MacBook Air M2 remained completely silent. Both laptops got warm during intense use.

Where the MacBook Air M2 gets the strongest win is in creative applications that can utilize the GPU. The M2 includes optimizations for various processes used by apps like Adobe’s Creative Suite. It scored a strong 497 in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Adobe Premiere Pro, for example. That’s about 50% faster than laptops that run Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics such as the Specter x360 13.5.

For productivity tasks, both laptops are equally fast. But for creative workflows, the MacBook Air M2 is the winner. Neither laptop is a particularly good gaming machine.

HP Specter x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Apple MacBookAir M2
(Apple M2)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1.566 / 7.314
Performance: 1.593 / 7.921
Ball: 1.925 / 8.973
Performance: N/A
Handbrake
(seconds)
Ball: 169
Performance: 120
Ball: 151
Performance: N/A
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1.623 / 5.823
Performance: 1.691 / 7.832
Ball: 1,600 / 7,938
Performance: N/A

Display and audio

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The MacBook Air M2’s Liquid Retina IPS display is outstanding, with plenty of sharpness, brightness, colors, and contrast. It’s great for both productivity workers and creators, although the most demanding creative professionals would likely prefer slightly wider colors. The Specter x360 13.5 we reviewed came with a sharper OLED panel that’s even better, with robust color gamuts and excellent accuracy to go with OLED’s inky blacks. It’s a creator’s dream, as well as an excellent media consumption laptop. Note that you can also choose a privacy screen with the HP, which is great for people with sensitive data to protect.

HP Specter x360 13.5
(OLED)
Apple MacBookAir M2
(IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
380 486
AdobeRGB gamut 97% 90%
sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.61 1.08
Contrast ratio 28.230:1 1.310:1

Both laptops feature quad speakers that pump out excellent audio. Apple’s sound is slightly better thanks to some specific optimizations.

portability

A side of the MacBook Air showing the ports.

The Specter x360 13.5 is a bit heavier than the MacBook Air M2 at 3.01 pounds versus 2.7 pounds, and it’s a bit thicker. Both laptops are easy enough to carry around, though.

Where the MacBook Air M2 really shines is in its battery life. Even though the Specter has a larger battery, the MacBook achieves almost a day longer in longevity. The HP can be configured with a lower-resolution and less power-hungry display, but even at its best, it will fall behind the Apple.

HP Specter x360 13.5
(Core i7-1255U)
Apple MacBookAir M2
(Apple M2)
web browsing 9 hours, 58 minutes 17 hours, 59 minutes
Video 13 hours, 59 minutes 21 hours, 9 minutes

Flexibility is the key

While the MacBook Air M2 gets better creative performance and battery life, it’s not quite as rigid as the Specter x360 13.5. And the HP has a better display option on a laptop that provides more flexibility.

If you’re only looking for a clamshell, then the MacBook is a solid choice. But for anyone wanting a laptop that can perform as a tablet and as a clamshell, then the Specter wins out.

Editors’ Recommendations






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