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HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) vs MacBook Air: What’s the best premium laptop?

HP just recently launched the Spectre x360 2022 models, roughly one and a half years since the last refresh. In addition to an upgraded Spectre x360 16, the lineup includes the new HP Spectre x360 13.5, a successor to the Spectre x360 14. We’ve usually considered this to be one of the best laptops around, so you may want to know how this new refresh fares against other popular laptops on the market right now. In this article, we’re pitting the HP Spectre x360 13.5 against the latest MacBook Air, powered by Apple’s M1 chipset.

Right off the bat, there are some fundamental differences that might make the decision for you right away. If you prefer Windows over macOS (or vice versa) then you really only have one choice here. There’s also the fact that one of these is a convertible, meaning you can use it as a tablet or a laptop, while the other is a standard clamshell. Either way, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

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HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) vs MacBook Air: Specs

HP Spectre x360 13.5 MacBook Air
Operating system
  • Windows 11
  • macOS Monterey
CPU
  • 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1235U (10 cores, 12 threads, up to 4.4GHz, 12MB cache)
  • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1255U (10 cores, 12 threads, up to 4.7GHz, 12MB cache)
  • Apple M1 (8 cores, up to 3.2GHz)
Graphics
  • Integrated: Intel Iris Xe
  • 7-core GPU
  • 8-core GPU
Display
  • 13.5 inch IPS, Full HD+ (1920 x 1280), touch, 400 nits, 100% sRGB, anti-reflection
  • 13.5 inch IPS, Full HD+ (1920 x 1280), HP Sure View Reflect, touch, 1000 nits, 100% sRGB
  • 13.5 inch OLED, 3K2K (3000 x 2000), touch, 500 nits (HDR), 100% DCI-P3, anti-reflection
  • 13.3-inch 16:10 (2560 x 1600) IPS, 400 nits, True Tone, P3 Wide Color
Storage
  • 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
  • 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
  • 2TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
  • 256GB SSD
  • 512GB SSD
  • 1TB SSD
  • 2TB SSD
RAM
  • 8GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
  • 16GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
  • 32GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
  • 8GB unified memory
  • 16GB unified memory
Battery
  • 4-cell 66Whr battery
    • Up to 65W USB Type-C power adapter
  • 49.9Whr battery
    • 30W USB-C charger
Ports
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C)
  • 1x x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
  • 2 x USB 4 / Thunderbolt (USB-C)
  • 3.5mm headphone jac
Audio
  • Quad speakers by Bang & Olufsen
  • Dual-array digital microphones
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support
  • 3-microphone array
Camera
  • HP True Vision 5MP IR camera with camera shutter and temporal noise reduction
  • 720p FaceTime HD camera
Biometric authentication
  • IR webcam
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Touch ID in power button
Connectivity
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5
Color
  • Nightfall Black with Pale Brass accents
  • Nocturne Blue with Celestial Blue accents
  • Natural Silver
  • Silver
  • Space Gray
  • Gold
Size (WxDxH)
  • 297.94 x 220.47 x 17.02 mm (11.73 x 8.68 x 0.67 in)
  • 304.1 × 212.4 × 16.1 mm (11.97 × 8.36 × 0.63 inches)
Dimensions
  • Starts at 1.37kg (3.01 lbs)
  • Starting at 1.29 kg (2.8 lbs)
Price Starting at $1,249 Starting at $999

Operating system: Windows or macOS?

As we’ve already mentioned, the operating system is potentially the biggest deciding factor when choosing between these two laptops. There’s a very good chance you’re already familiar with Windows or macOS, and that’s what you want to stick with. Both are great platforms in their own respect, so you can’t necessarily go wrong. Plus, this is a very personal choice, so everyone will feel differently.

What we can say is that Windows is the most popular operating system in the computer world, and because of that, a lot more apps and software exists for it. If you can think of it, there’s probably a Windows app that can do it, and it even gives you room to fiddle around with some settings you probably shouldn’t touch. And while it hasn’t always been the case, Windows 11 brought a fresh and beautiful design to the table, so it actually looks great now – you can read our Windows 11 review if you want to learn more about that.

macOS vs Windows

On the other hand, macOS is sometimes considered more friendly for newcomers compared to Windows, so if this is your first laptop, it might be a good idea to go that route. macOS is also extremely popular among content creators, and that’s thanks in great part to Apple’s great software. Final Cut Pro is one of the most popular video editing tools out there, it’s very capable, and it’s developed by Apple, thus, exclusive to macOS. And if you want a free video editor, iMovie is also available from Apple, and it’s a much better tool than anything Microsoft is offering on Windows 11.

Performance: Both laptops are plenty fast

One of the big new things with the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is that it’s powered by the new 12th-generation Intel processors. Generational upgrades aren’t new – in fact, that’s what you expect with a new iteration of a product – but this time, it’s a pretty big deal. These new processors have a hybrid architecture, combining performance cores with efficient cores, in a somewhat similar fashion to Apple’s M1 processor. The HP Spectre x360 13.5 comes with processors from intel’s U15 series, meaning they have a 15W TDP. Specifically, you can go up to an Intel Core i7-1255U, which has 10 cores, 12 threads, and boost speeds up to 4.7GHz.

Comparing that to Apple’s 8-core M1 processor, which maxes out at 3.2GHz, it seems like Intel would have a big advantage, but the benchmarks tell a different story. The two laptops are actually fairly close, and the MacBook Air still pulls slightly ahead. We should note that these are early results for Intel’s processors and there haven’t been enough tests yet to determine the average performance, but this should give you an idea of what to expect. It’s also important to keep in mind that Geekbench strictly tests CPU performance, so other factors that affect overall performance aren’t taken into account.

Intel Core i7-1255U
(see test)
Intel Core i5-1235U
(see test)
MacBook Air, M1
(average)
Geekbench 5 (single/multi-core) 1,647 / 6.968 1,592 / 6,492 1,709 / 7,419

Apple should also have an advantage in terms of integrated graphics. The Apple M1’s 8-core GPU was significantly faster than the Intel Iris Xe GPU inside Intel’s 11th-generation processors. Intel didn’t deliver a significant upgrade to the GPU with its 12th-generation models, so that likely remains the same.

An advantage that the HP Spectre x360 does have is in the RAM, at least as far as the amount of it goes. You can get it with up to 32GB of LPDDR4x RAM, while the MacBook Air tops out at 16GB. Apple’s laptop does have the benefit of using unified memory, though, meaning the CPU and GPU can access that memory at will based on their needs. Again, that will help with GPU performance as well.

The MacBook Air’s M1 processor is a bit more power efficient.

One other area where the MacBook Air may pull ahead is battery life. The Arm architecture, which the Apple M1 processor is built on, is know to be extremely efficient, meaning it’s going to drain your battery considerably slower. On the flip side, the HP Spectre x360 has a much larger battery, so that may even things out.

Display and sound: The HP Spectre x360 has an OLED option

As far as the display goes, which one is better is heavily dependent on how much you want to spend. The base configuration of the MacBook Air comeswith a sharp Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. That’s the standard across the board, so for the starting price of $999, it’s kind of fantastic. Plus, it hits up to 400 nits of brightness and support P3 Wide Color, so it’s a great experience.

macos 12 monterey on macbook air m1

The base configuration of the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is slightly less impressive – starting with a Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio. However, it’s all in the upgrades here. For one thing, you can add an HP Sure View Reflect privacy screen to keep sensitive information safe if you’re working in public. But perhaps most importantly, you can also upgrade to a 3K2K (3000 x 2000) OLED panel, which is not only incredibly sharp at this size, but also has the benefits you’d expect from OLED – true blacks, vivid colors, and a high contrast ratio. On top of that, because it’s a convertible, the display supports touch and pen input in every configuration, something you can’t get with the MacBook Air at all.

Another major advantage for the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is right above that display – the webcam. Apple is still using a 720p FaceTime webcam on the MacBook Air, and while it’s enhanced by AI processing, it’s still not a great sensor. Meanwhile, HP has taken a big leap in quality by upgrading to a 5MP camera, which records 1080p video in addition to supporting features like auto framing, backlight adjustments, and appearance filters so you look your best during video calls and meetings. The Spectre x360 13.5 also supports Windows Hello facial recognition in addition to having a fingerprint sensor, while the MacBook Air only has Touch ID.

The HP Spectre x360 has a 5MP webcam with smart features.

As for sound, the HP Spectre x360 comes with a quad stereo speaker setup, which should deliver more immersive sound compared to the dual speakers of the MacBook Air. Conversely, the MacBook Air has one extra microphone, which could result in better audio quality during calls.

Design: The Spectre x360 is beautiful and versatile

This is a fairly subjective topic, but we can start with the parts that aren’t. In terms of dimensions, the MacBook Air is the more portable of the two devices. It’s not as tall or as thick, though it is wider than the Spectre x360. It’s also slightly lighter, starting at 2.8lbs, while the Spectre x360 13.5 starts at 3.01lbs. Neither of them is extremely light, but that’s the result of being premium laptops made from aluminum, and in the case of the Spectre x360, being a convertible laptop also adds to the weight.

But being a convertible is a major advantage for the HP Spectre x360, too. The MacBook Air is a laptop, and it’s always going to be just that – you can open and close the lid, and that’s it. The Spectre x360 has a hinge that rotates all around, meaning you can use it as a tablet if you want to draw or take notes, or you can use it in tent mode if you want to watch a movie and bring the screen closer to you. There’s a lot of versatility in this form factor, and – speaking personally – that can play a huge role in your decision.

Looks are the most subjective part of this, but we have to say we definitely prefer the Spectre x360’s appearance. It’s been tweaked from previous generations, but this model still comes with a beautiful dual-tone design – the Nightfall Black model has “pale brass” accents along the edges of the chassis, while the Nocturne Blue version has celestial blue accents. They don’t pop as much as previous models, but it still adds a bit of personality to the design. And if you want something really subdued, you can always go with the classic Natural Silver colorway.

macbook air colors

Meanwhile, the MacBook Air comes in three colors – silver, space gray (which is basically dark silver), and gold. All of these feel premium enough, but they’re also very subdued, and there’s not much in the way of flair here. You may enjoy that, but you may also find it boring considering that’s what almost every premium laptop tries to do these days.

Ports and connectivity

Rounding things out with ports, it’s a convincing victory for the HP Spectre x360. The MacBook Air has a total of three ports – two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt support (40Gbps) and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s it. And you might forgive the lack of more ports when you have Thunderbolt, but Thunderbolt is severely capped on the MacBook Air. For one thing, the laptop only supports one external display, so no amount of docks and adapters is going to change that. On top of that, there’s also no support for external GPUs, something else Thunderbolt is known for. All you can use these ports for is data, and that’s good to have, but this still isn’t a great setup.

The MacBook Air only has Thunderbolt ports, and they’re very limited.

On the other hand, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 has two fully-featured Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. That’s not overly impressive, but having the USB Type-A port means you can connect at least one legacy peripheral, and since the Thunderbolt 4 ports support all the features you’d expect, you can connect multiple displays or use an external GPU to turn your laptop into a gaming rig. There’s a lot more versatility in that.

HP Spectre x360 13.5 in Nocturne Blue

For wireless connectivity, the Spectre x360 13.5 also supports newer versions of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but that’s par for the course considering it’s coming out a year and a half after the MacBook Air did. Neither of the laptops offers options for cellular connectivity, which is also unsurprising.

HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) vs MacBook Air: Final thoughts

As we’ve already mentioned a couple of times, there are a couple of factors that might make the decision for you if you’re trying to choose between the HP Spectre x360 and the MacBook Air. Choosing between Windows and macOS, or choosing between a convertible or a clamshell laptop – those are pretty straightforward decisions.

But if you need to look closer, then it becomes a bit more nuanced. The MacBook Air might give you slightly better performance in some ways, as well as better battery life. And if you’re looking for a cheap option, you get top-notch performance and a fantastic display even with the base model of the MacBook Air, while the HP Spectre x360 has a slightly lesser screen and CPU to start with.

On the other hand, the HP Spectre has the option for a stunning OLED display that’s also incredibly sharp, it has a more appealing design (depending on who you are), and it has a more capable port setup. Plus, of course, benefits like having a touch screen that come naturally with being a convertible laptop. It can definitely give you a more premium experience, but you have to be willing to pay a bit more for it. And if you stick around the base price, the MacBook Air is a better choice in some ways.

Regardless of where your preference lies, you can buy either of these laptops below. If you’re still exploring other options, you can always check out the best HP laptops out there, as well as the best Macs. Both companies have a lot more to offer for different kinds of users.

    HP Spectre x360 13.5

    The 2022 HP Spectre x360 13.5 has a 3:2 display and 12th-generation Intel processors with 10 cores and 12 threads.
    MacBook Air

    The MacBook Air is powered by the Apple M1 chip, providing fantastic performance with low power consumption. It’s also got a premium design and a great display.

The post HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) vs MacBook Air: What’s the best premium laptop? appeared first on XDA.

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