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MacBook Air (2022) vs HP Spectre x360 13.5: What’s the best 13-inch laptop?

2022 has been a pretty big year for laptops, with many devices from all kinds of brands getting brand-new designs, features, and processors. One such laptop is the HP Spectre x360 13.5, a successor to the Spectre x360 14. More recently, Apple also introduced a major refresh for the MacBook Air, and both of these laptops are fantastic premium devices. If you’re looking at the best laptops you can buy today, both of these are going to be common recommendations, but which one should you choose? In this article, we’ll be comparing the HP Spectre x360 13.5 and the 2022 MacBook Air to find out.

To be clear, there’s never going to be a definitive answer that applies to everyone. Both of these laptops have great strengths, and one will excel at some things, while the other will be more appealing in other ways. Perhaps the most notable factor here is the operating system, since one laptop runs macOS and the other runs Windows 11. That alone could make the choice for you, but there’s a lot more. Let’s take a closer look.

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MacBook Air (2022) vs Dell XPS 13 (2022): Specs

MacBook Air (2022) HP Spectre x360 13.5
Operating system
  • macOS Monterey (upgradeable to macOS Ventura)
  • Windows 11
CPU
  • Apple M2 (8 cores, unknown speeds)
  • 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)
Graphics
  • 8-core GPU
  • 10-core GPU
  • Intel Iris Xe graphics (up to 96 EUs)
Display
  • 13.6-inch IPS, 2560 x 1664, 500 nits, True Tone, P3 Wide Color
  • 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
Storage
  • 256GB SSD
  • 512GB SSD
  • 1TB SSD
  • 2TB SSD
  • 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
  • 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
  • 2TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
RAM
  • 8GB unified memory
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 24GB unified memory
  • 8GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
  • 16GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
  • 32GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (soldered)
Battery
  • 52.6Whr battery
    • Up to 67W USB-C power adapter
  • 4-cell 66Whr battery
    • Up to 65W USB Type-C power adapter
Ports
  • 2 x USB4 / Thunderbolt (USB-C)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • MagSafe 3
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C)
  • 1x x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card reader
Audio
  • Quad-speaker audio system with Dolby Atmos
  • 3-microphone array
  • Quad speakers by Bang & Olufsen
  • Dual-array digital microphones
Camera
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • HP True Vision 5MP IR camera with camera shutter and temporal noise reduction
Biometric authentication
  • Touch ID in power button
  • IR webcam
  • Fingerprint sensor
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211
  • Bluetooth 5.2
Color
  • Silver
  • Space Gray
  • Starlight
  • Midnight
  • Nightfall Black with Pale Brass accents
  • Nocturne Blue with Celestial Blue accents
  • Natural Silver
Size (WxDxH)
  • 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 in (304.1 x 215 x 11.3 mm)
  • 11.73 x 8.68 x 0.67 in (297.94 x 220.47 x 17.02 mm)
Dimensions
  • Starts at 2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)
  • Starts at 3.01 lbs (1.37 kg)
Price Starting at $1,199 Starting at $1,249

Operating system: macOS or Windows

As we mentioned above, the biggest factor you’ll probably be looking at when choosing between these two laptops is the operating system. This is the core of the experience, and if you’re more used to either one of these, that’s probably what you’ll prefer. It comes down to familiarity, at least for most people. But if you don’t have a preference already, there are still valid reasons to choose one or the other.

Windows is the most popular operating system in the world when it comes to PCs, and that has advantages in itself. Most apps you could ever want exist for Windows, so you’ll have a much easier time with compatibility, whether with specific apps or devices that require special drivers. Windows 11 is the latest version of Windows, and in addition to the long-standing compatibility with all kinds of apps, it has a new design language that looks beautiful, and it’s a bit more beginner-friendly than previous versions. It’s getting even better with Windows 11 version 22H2, too.

macOS vs Windows

On the other hand, macOS is generally considered the best OS for content creation, and that’s thanks in big part to Final Cut Pro. This is a video editor developed by Apple, and it’s often considered one of the best on the market, if not the very best. And because of its popularity with creators, many other content creation apps offer great support for Macs, so it’s a great device for that. Some also consider macOS to be more friendly to new users, so it might be a good choice if you’re new to computers as a whole. Just like Windows 11, macOS also gets big updates every year, such as the upcoming macOS Ventura.

Performance: The Apple M2 processor is powerful and efficient

Performance is one area where Apple has truly pulled ahead since the introduction of Apple Silicon back in 2020. The Apple M2 is the second generation of Apple Silicon, and now it offers even more performance, both on the CPU and GPU fronts. It still has an 8-core CPU, but it offers 18% more performance than the previous generation, which was already very fast.

Of course, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 also comes with the latest Intel processors, and that brings some big performance improvements over the previous model. It comes with 10 cores and 12 threads, and it’s plenty fast for day-to-day use, too. We don’t have benchmark numbers to compare these two laptops directly yet, but according to Apple’s internal tests, it’s clear that the M2 pulls significantly ahead. The graph below compares the Apple M2 to the Intel Core i7-1255U, which is the most powerful model available in the HP Spectre x360 13.5.

Graph comparing the CPU performance of the Apple M2 and Intel Core i7-1255U, showing that the Apple M2 has 1.9 times more performance at the same power level of 15W

As you can see, at the same 15W power consumption the Apple M2 is almost twice as fast as the Intel Core i7-1255U. And even when the Intel processor is allowed to use more power, it still can’t match the performance of the M2.

That’s even more true when it comes to the GPU side of things. Comparing the Apple M2 to the Intel Core i7-1255U again, Apple’s processor has an even bigger advantage, achieving 2.3 times the performance of Intel’s at the same power level. And even when the Intel processor uses more power, Apple pulls far ahead.

Graph comparing the GPU performance of the Apple M2 and Intel Core i7-1255U, showing that the Apple M2 has 2.3 times more performance at the same power level of 15W

It’s worth mentioning here that the Apple M2 does have two variants of its GPU – one with 8 cores and one with 10 – and this comparison uses the more powerful one. However, the same can be said for the Intel Core i5 compared to the Core i7, so things should balance out when comparing the same pricing tier.

It’s not just performance itself, though. Something else that’s apparent in the comparisons above is that the Apple M2 achieves these fantastic levels of performance while using far less power than the Intel processors. So, even though HP’s laptop has a physically larger battery, it may end up not lasting as long on a charge, or it may be more balanced than it initially seems based on battery capacity alone.

The HP Spectre x360 can have up to 32GB of RAM, but it won’t be as fast.

As for the rest of the specs, the HP Spectre x360 13-5 pulls out ahead in terms of RAM capacity, which can go up to 32GB instead of the 24GB of the MacBook Air. On the flip side, since the RAM in the MacBook Air is built into the M2 chip, it can offer faster speeds and it’s accessible by the CPU and GPU as needed, which can greatly help with tasks where the GPU needs to load assets from memory. As for storage, both laptops go up to 2TB, but the HP Spectre x360 has a 512GB SSD in the base configuration, which gives it an advantage over the MacBook Air’s base model.

Display and sound: The HP Spectre x360 13.5 has an OLED option

Moving on to the display, this is a situation where your budget plays a big role in which laptop is the better option. The MacBook Air only has one display configuration – it’s a 13.6-inch panel and it comes in a unique 2560 x 1664 resolution, giving it a slightly taller aspect ratio than 16:10. That’s the standard across the board, and for a base configuration starting at $1,199, it’s a fantastic display. It’s very sharp for this size, and it can reach 500 nits of brightness, plus it supports P3 Wide Color. One downside here is that the screen has a notch at the top for the webcam, which some people may not like.

Comparatively, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 is a bit less impressive in its base configuration, at least when it comes to the visual experience. The 13.5-inch screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is taller than the MacBook Air’s, making it even better for productivity. But the base configuration is “only” Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) resolution, which is a big step down compared to Apple’s offering (to be clear, it’s still more than sharp enough for this size). That’s just the base model, though. HP gives you the option to upgrade to a 3K2K (3000 x 2000) OLED panel, which is a stunning display that’s both sharp and vibrant. OLED means you get true blacks, more vivid colors, and a high contrast ratio, making for a stellar visual experience.

That’s just the visual side of it, though. The HP Spectre x360 has another potential advantage, which comes from being a convertible laptop. The display supports touch and pen input so you can use it in more intuitive ways. It also makes it easy to take notes or draw. Also, if you work with sensitive information, the Spectre x360 gives you the option for an integrated privacy screen (HP Sure View Reflect), which blocks the people around you from seeing what’s on your screen while you’re working.

HP Spectre x360 13.5

The HP Spectre x360 comes wih Windows Hello facial recognition.

As for the webcam, both of these will give you a great experience. Apple is using a 1080p camera for the first time in the MacBook Air, and that’s backed by an advanced image signal processor inside the Apple M2. Meanwhile, the HP Spectre x360 13.5 uses a 5MP camera with 1080p video, plus smart features like auto framing and lighting correction. On paper, it looks like HP’s webcam is better, but both are great either way. The Spectre x360 also has the benefit of supporting Windows Hello facial recognition, in addition to a fingerprint reader. The MacBook Air still only has Touch ID despite having a notch on the display.

Finally, in terms of sound, both laptops come with a quad-speaker stereo setup, which is pretty good for a 13-inch laptop. You’re bound to get a great audio experience with either one, but Apple has typically had some of the best speakers on any laptop, so if that stays true with the MacBook Air, it might come out on top in that department.

Design: One is a convertible, one is not

Design is one area where HP pulls ahead in terms of functionality and looks. Functionality-wise, the Spectre x360 ahs the benefit of being a convertible, as we’ve already mentioned, That means the hinge can spin 360 degrees so you can use it as a tablet, but also in a variety of positions in between, such as “tent mode”. Of course, the screen also supports touch, so you can use the PC as a tablet, too. Comparatively, the MacBook Air is a simple clamshell laptop, which makes it less versatile.

HP Spectre x360 in tent mode

The HP Spectre x360 is also more interesting in terms of looks. It uses a dual-tone design, which means the surfaces of the laptop are one color, but the edges are colored differently. The Nightfall Black model has “pale brass” accents along the edges, and the Nocturne Blue version has light blue accents. If you want something more subdued, the Natural Silver variant is also available, and it’s a single color.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air looks much simpler, though there are new colors this year. You can get it in Silver, Space Grey, Starlight, or Midnight. These are all fairly subdued colors, though they still manage to cater to different users. Still, we’d certainly give the point to HP in this department.

All four color options for the M2 MacBook Air

However, the convertible design of the HP Spectre x360 comes with a downside, and that’s portability. This laptop weighs 3.01lbs, which isn’t super heavy, but it’s not that light either. The MacBook Air weighs 2.7 lbs, making it slightly more portable. The MacBook Air is also significantly thinner, measuring 11.3mm compared to the 17.02mm of the HP Spectre x360 13.5.

Ports: The HP Spectre x360 13.5 has a more capable setup

Finally, we come to the ports, where the Spectre x360 manages another victory. HP’s laptop doesn’t have a ton of ports, but it does give you two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-A port, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. That means you should be able to plug in most of the basic peripherals you’d want, and Thunderbolt support means you can use things like Thunderbolt docks and external GPUs, too.

The headphone jack on the MacBook Air supports high-impedance headphones.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air also has two Thunderbolt ports, plus a headphone jack and a MagSafe charging connector. There are some differences here, though. On one hand, the headphone jack on the MacBook Air is more powerful, meaning it can actually support high-impedance headphones without an external amplifier. On the other hand, the Thunderbolt ports are limited by the Apple M2 chip. You can only connect one external display via Thunderbolt (regardless of resolution), plus there’s no support for external GPUs this way. That takes away a lot of the versatility of Thunderbolt.

As for wireless communication, the two laptops are similar, though the MacBook Air still doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6E, the new standard with a higher 6GHz frequency. HP’s laptop does support it.

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

As with anything, choosing a laptop is ultimately up to your personal preference. Both the MacBook Air and HP Spectre x360 13.5 have clear advantages in certain areas, and it’s up to your needs to determine what you value most. If performance and mobility are your priority, the MacBook Air is the best choice. Plus, if you want a great display without having to spring for a very expensive configuration, it also gives you that option.

On the other hand, the HP Spectre x360 has a more premium OLED display if you have the money to spend, plus it has the major benefit of being a convertible, which makes it more versatile. That alone could be a reason to choose HP’s device – personally speaking, that’s the biggest reason I’d choose the Spectre over the MacBook Air. Plus, it has a more visually unique design, and potentially the best webcam of the two.

HP Spectre x360 13.5 with the lid at 90 degrees and seen at an angle

HP Spectre x360 13.5

And even with all of that, there’s a good chance that your decision is entirely up to the operating system – if you want macOS, you get the MacBook Air, and if you want Windows, you get the HP Spectre x360 13.5. For many, that’s probably all you need to consider.

If you’ve made your decision, you can check out both laptops below. The HP Spectre x360 13.5 is already available to buy, but the MacBook Air (2022) is expected to launch in July.

    MacBook Air (2022)

    The 2022 MacBook Air is powered by the new Apple M2 chip, plus it has a new taller display and an all-new design.

    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.

The post MacBook Air (2022) vs HP Spectre x360 13.5: What’s the best 13-inch laptop? appeared first on XDA.

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