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Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina vs. HP Spectre 13t x2

Are you looking to spend a bit over a grand for your next laptop? If so, you’re probably considering the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina and its high-end ultrabook competition. But what about a Windows convertible which can serve as both a laptop and a tablet? Can such an option really serve both roles and provide better value than the Mac?

We pit Apple’s best against the HP Spectre 13t x2, one of the best 2-on-1s around, to see how this convertible holds up.

Design & Features: Mac Pro wins

The MacBook Pro 13 with Retina and HP Spectre 13t x2 have some similarities. They both have metal bodies, both have 13.3 inch displays, and they both prioritize portability. The HP is a convertible, however, and that provides it with one big advantage, and several small disadvantages, when compared to the MacBook Pro.

What’s the advantage? Why, it’s the tablet, of course. While a 13.3 inch tablet isn’t exactly ideal for travel, it’s reasonable for around-the-house use. And since the tablet is a dockable that can be completely removed from the keyboard, it’s lighter than a Dell XPS 12 or Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga in tablet mode.

HP Spectre 13t x2 keyboard detatched

There are some problems, though. A sturdy hinge is required to clamp the tablet to the keyboard for notebook use, and there are batteries in both the tablet and the dock. This drives weight up to almost 4.4 pounds, which is about a pound heavier than the Pro. A lot of that weight is in the display, too, which means the Spectre is top-heavy when the screen is fully reclined.

HP also loses the battle of connectivity. Both systems offer two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, a combo headphone/microphone jack and a Card Reader, but the Mac tacks on two Thunderbolt ports for good measure, giving it the win here.

Performance: Mac Pro wins

Another compromise made by the Spectre 13t x2 can be found under the hood, where a Core i5-4202Y processor lurks rather than a more common Core i5 U-series. The Y-series makes it possible for the Spectre to operate without a fan, but that comes at the cost of performance; the 4202Y has a base clock of 1.6 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost of 2 GHz.

The Mac Pro 13 with Retina has a Core i5-4258U with a base clock of 2.4 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost of 2.9 GHz. As you might expect, it easily outguns the HP. The 4258U also comes bundled with Intel Iris 5100 graphics, a huge leap over the minimalist Intel HD 4200 graphics found in the Spectre.

Both competitors offer entry level models with the same amount of RAM (4GB) and an equally large hard drive (128GB), but this hardly matters. The large gap in processor performance helps the Mac widen its lead.

Display: Mac Pro wins

MacBook Pro 13 2013 screen

While a few laptops now exceed the resolution of Apple’s Retina display, the MacBook Pro 13 still has a clear advantage over most competitors – including the Spectre 13t x2. The 2560×1600 panel looks sharp, offers great contrast, and works well with the operating system. Windows competitors, even those with higher-resolution displays, have difficulty matching its quality because of the insufficient scaling options found in Windows.

That’s not to say the Spectre’s 1080p touchscreen is a slouch, as it offers a contrast ratio of 620:1 and can render 99 percent of the sRGB gamut, results that beat most Ultrabooks. And then there’s the fact it is, well, a touchscreen; this enables tablet use and can occasionally be useful when using the system as a notebook.

Ultimately, the Mac wins, but the HP puts up a good fight.

Portability: Mac Pro wins

The Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina boasts a massive internal battery that can deliver up to twenty hours of endurance at idle. Of course, you’ll likely be using your laptop, but even the Peacekeeper web browsing test cut life down to an impressive six hours and twenty-three minutes.

Only a handful of competitors beat that number, and the Spectre 13t x2 isn’t among their number, though it does come close. We recorded six hours and four minutes of life in the same test, which is near enough that you wouldn’t notice the difference without a stopwatch.

With that said, the Spectre’s battery is split between the tablet and the keyboard dock, so this figure is only obtainable when using the system as a notebook. Battery life dwindles to just four hours and six minutes when used as a tablet, a number that many Android or iOS devices can double with ease.

Price & Conclusion

HP’s Spectre 13t x2 is not a bad choice for anyone who’d like a 2-in-1 device but has a preference towards the notebook experience. Though a bit heavy, this Spectre offers strong battery life and adequate performance when compared to other Ultrabooks, and the $1,099 price tag is reasonable for what HP delivers.

Still, it’s clear that the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina mops the floor with the Spectre. Apple’s system is superior by every measurable metric, from performance to battery life to display quality, and has extras that don’t easily fit into the comparison, like an excellent base software suite and a touchpad that remains the industry’s best.

You do pay for what you receive, as the Mac is priced at $1,299, a solid $200 more than the HP. Still, we think two extra Benjamins are well worth the extras Apple provides. The Spectre can only offer a bundled tablet, but poor battery life and awkward dimensions sink the value that it might otherwise provide.