Tech Review: HP Spectre x360 13-ac023dx

The following review is not sponsored not paid for by any company or other. I’m writing this out of the goodness of my heart and because I like reviewing things. I’ll be happy to answer any questions to the best of my knowledge in the comments section whenever posted, as soon as I see it.

School Use

The portability and versatility of this laptop makes it great for bringing around for anything. Thanks to its pen compatible touchscreen, I can pretty much put my whole backpack into this thing and bring it anywhere to study. I usually split my screen between my online homework (Mastering Physics or Sapling Learning) and OneNote (my workspace or scratchpaper).

The best part about this device is that it is a computer that can is as portable as a tablet. This means I don’t need to worry about compatibility issues with plugins, and my software is not restricted to an app store (although, Android is pretty lenient). I don’t use my Lenovo Tablet anymore because this laptop fits my needs, and that device is pretty slow.

I am currently working with my chemistry teacher to help her establish a paperless (as much as possible) classroom. Since buying the laptop, I have done all my worksheets and labs (in my own handwriting) on the computer and submitted them through Canvas. Some classes still require me to submit things the old fashion way- pencil and paper.

Gaming + Other Entertainment

When I bought this laptop, I made sure I got something that could do everything my Toshiba did (minus an optical drive) and more. That being said, Blade and Soul runs so much faster on my Spectre. It doesn’t lag, and the only problems I seem to have are related to my choppy internet.

However, I have a hard time playing DOOM (NOT the 2016 version. The classic version) on DOS Box. Also, I do not have an optical drive, so I will be playing DOOM and my Nancy Drew games on the Toshiba.

The laptop boasts audio from Bang & Olufsen. I don’t know who they are, and I have no idea if the sound quality is that big of a deal.

I’ve enjoyed drawing various pictures and edited a few photos using Paint.net and Krita Desktop. When drawing, I usually put the Spectre in tablet mode and draw with my pen.

In general, programs run much faster, thanks to its large RAM and high-end processor.

So many people told me I need to get a different laptop for gaming because Surfaces and Ultrabooks are not meant for that. If you’re a casual gamer, like me, then that will not be a problem.

Other Notes

I have two pens that work on my Spectre- the one that came with the laptop and a Surface Pen. Both work well. The Surface Pen (recommended and gifted from my friend. Thanks, Lawrence!) responds to the Spectre just as it would with a Surface, eraser and all. The only thing that I think doesn’t work is the end button functionality. Supposedly I can set the computer to respond to 1 or 2 clicks, but it does not seem to work.

I usually stay away from HP and Dell products because of the extra programs they add that slow down the computer (and as of recently, my family and I are done with Dell, an issue I may write about in the future). This computer runs fast, and the bloatware is minimal. The few HP programs it comes with are helpful, such as Tips and Orbit. Orbit lets me send files to and from my phone.

I know I have talked bad about Windows 10 in the past, but I really like how the operating system complements this computer. I prefer 10 over 8.1.

Cons

Sometimes the screen skips while I’m drawing/writing with a pen. I heard this is something that happens with a Surface, too. This seems to happen to me when my hand is close to the point I am drawing.

I’ve also had some weird mouse glitches recently where the computer interprets a single click as a double click. I assume this can be avoided using a different mouse that is not the ClickPad.

This computer only has 4 ports, 2 of them USB-C, 1 of them USB 3.0. I had to buy 2 hubs so I can use HDMI or plug more than one USB 2.0/3.0 peripheral. The USB-C hub I bought to plug the laptop into HDMI, another USB port, and another USB-C port cost about $16 from AliExpress. Basically, I need hubs and docks in order to use this like a regular computer.

The hinge is not as sturdy as I would like it to be. For example, if I put the Spectre at an angle between 270 and 360 degrees (raised tablet mode) and I write on it, I have to hold the screen on the other side, otherwise the screen will go down as I push it with the pen.

Unlike tablets and the Surface, I don’t think there is a case I can use to protect the Spectre. However, it comes with a leather case (with little padding) for carrying it around.

I’m still not sure how to turn off that setting that keeps the mouse from moving a few seconds after I use the keyboard.

I heard Best Buy is the only official retailer of Spectre x360s, other than HP themselves, so they almost have a monopoly.

Other Candidates

You can see my discussion on other candidates here.

Other candidates include the Surface Pro 4, Surface Book i5, Dell XPS, HP Spectre x360 15in, (future) Surface Pro 5, and (future) Lenovo Miix 720.

The biggest advantage this has over Microsoft Surface Pros and Surface Books is the price. A Surface Pro with similar specs (16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, i7 processor) would cost at least $1700, but I bought this at $1350. The Surface Pros and Books have better screen resolution than the Spectre.

Specs 

  • Windows 10
  • 13.3″ FHD Screen (1920×1080)
  • 2.7 GHz Intel i7-7500U Processor (Kaby Lake)
  • IR Camera that supports Windows Hello
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD Storage
  • 15 Hour Battery Life
  • Weighs 2.84 lbs
  • 2 USB-C Ports, 1 USB-A Port, 1 Headphone Jack
  • Bluetooth Enabled

Source

tl;dr I am so happy I got the HP Spectre x360 13in. I recommend this computer to everyone in the market for a Surface or similar.

Tech Review: Lenovo Tab A8-50F (2015 Edition)

School Use

I am a freshman in college, so I use this in lieu of heavy textbooks. This can also replace some of the uses of my laptop in school, but not all. For example, my chemistry professor assigns homework on Sapling Learning, and this website lacks support for mobile devices. Even with my favorite browser, Puffin, I cannot do basic things like drag and drop elements.

Tests on Blackboard are not optimized for the tablet, but it is possible to complete them.

Nonetheless, I use Adobe Acrobat for my PDFs, and I am extremely pleased with how well it works. All I do to read PDF textbooks is add them to my tablet storage via desktop computer and open them in the File Explorer.

Gaming + Other Entertainment

The Dolby Atmos technology absolutely makes the experience for this tablet. There is a button to turn it on or off, located in the drop down menu. When it is on, the tablet sounds more “whole” that makes me feel as if I am encapsulated in the environment.

I don’t have a problem with viewing YouTube videos or Netflix. The resolution is not the absolute best, but it does not look cheap or fuzzy. The exception is with low resolution videos, which is not controlled by the tablet.

My experience playing MMORPGs and other MMOs has been great. Often, the performance is smooth with minor delays, and the battery life does not run out too fast. I could play Forsaken World Mobile, Pocket Maplestory, or Vegas World for a few hours before the tablet reaches 50%. The only complaint I have is that the menu buttons may get in my way, so the tablet will switch to home if I accidentally swipe my palm on the bottom.

I downloaded the Amazon Underground store and purchased Spy Fox 3: Operation Ozone, which runs well on my tablet. Unfortunately, the Actually Free Goat Simulator would not install. I wonder if the installation would be successful (along with the many other apps I tried to download from Amazon)

Other Candidates

Before purchasing this tablet, I had my eye on the Samsung Tab A 8.0, which cost about $110 more than the Lenovo. While price was a small factor in my decision, the Lenovo had a slightly higher screen resolution and better speakers (the Samsung was noted for its bad sound). Screen resolution was important, especially if I planned to solely use this for reading textbooks. The Lenovo’s MediaTek processor was 1.3GHz, compared to the Samsung’s Qualcomm Snapdragon with 1.2GHz. I am not aware if this is a big difference. I was told the Samsung tablet came with Microsoft Office, but I was able to get the Office apps for free on my Lenovo through the Google Play store.

Specs 

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 8″ IPS Screen (1200×800)
  • 1.3GHz MediaTek 8161 Processor
  • 5.0MP back camera, 2.0MP front camera
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16GB Storage
  • 8 Hour Battery Life
  • Storage expansion via microSD

Source

tl;dr I would totally recommend this tablet. In fact, I would purchase another one for a family member if this fit their needs.

New Obsession: Orphan Black

Rarely am I intrigued by television, as I prefer the interactive environment of a computer. Perhaps it was fate that I would find Orphan Black, a show my television soulmate (Jack) follows. After I watched the first episode, I was pulled by the mystery of Beth Childs and watched one episode after the other. Though the story is somewhat unique, it is the cinematography and Tatiana Maslany’s acting that truly bring the show together.

Spoilers to come for Orphan Black virgins. Continue reading

Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

4/5 stars

Last semester, my English teacher assigned us free reading so we could enjoy reading for pleasure. After partially reading Winger by Andrew Smith, another teacher at my school, I stopped. Every single time a woman entered the scene, the protagonist just HAD to comment on how attractive they were. I barely remember anything else that pissed me off in this book.

But then I found The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, the book that brought me back to a time where I read instead of playing on the computer. Continue reading

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

5/5 stars

I have not read a book for pleasure since 9B (9th grade, second semester, 2012), but recently, I was asked to choose three books for the local library. I did not want to introduce anyone to sexist, traditional books, so I looked for teen feminist books. On a Saturday in March, I found The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, which I read in 6 hours. (My next book review will be on that.) The following Tuesday, I checked out Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and finished it two days later.

Spoiler Alert. Continue reading

Blue Mascara

If you have known me for the past year, you would know I am very basic as far as makeup goes. However, I do have a couple of #1 items I use; more recently, I wear them often. One of those is my CK One Color Mascara in Electrify (blue). I’m on the hunt to find a dupe (or something close) to this $18 favorite of mine. So far, nothing I’ve gotten has come close to the texture and formula of this holy grail mascara, but here are the contenders. Continue reading