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Why one of my favorite laptops still struggles against the MacBook Pro

HP Spectre x360 14 2023 front angled view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

HP released an updated version of its premier consumer laptop, the excellent Spectre x360 14, and it remains one of the best 2-in-1s you can buy. It’s well-made, offers a ton of flexibility, and is one of my favorite laptops I’ve reviewed.

But it’s going up against the Apple MacBook Pro 14, which sits alongside the HP on our list of best laptops. When it comes to laptops that are both portable and powerful, though, the Spectre x360 still falls behind the MacBook Pro in some important ways.

Specs and configurations

  HP Spectre x360 14 Apple MacBook Pro 14
Dimensions 12.35 inches x 8.68 inches x 0.67 inches 12.31 inches x 8.71 inches x 0.60 inches
Weight 3.19 pounds 3.5 pounds
Processor Intel Core Ultra 5 125H
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
Apple M3 (8-core)
Apple M3 Pro (11-core, 12-core)
Apple M2 Max (14-core, 16-core)
Graphics Intel Arc graphics M3: 10-core
M3 Pro: 14-core, 18-core
M3 Max: 30-core, 40-core
RAM 16GB
32GB
M3: 8GB to 24GB
M3 Pro: 18GB to 128GB
M3 Max: 36GB to 128GB
Display 14.0-inch 16:10 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED, 120Hz 14.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR (3024 x 1964), 120Hz
Storage 512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
4TB SSD
8TB SSD
Touch Yes No
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-A
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
SD card reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Webcam 9MP with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello 1080p
Operating system Windows 11 MacOS Monterey
Battery 68 watt-hour 70 watt-hour
Price $1,040+ $1,599+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Spectre x360 14 starts at $1,040 which is $410 off its normal price of $1,450) for an Intel Core Ultra 5 125H, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. With a Core Ultra 7 155H, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD, the Spectre costs $1,450 (also $410 off the regular price).

The MacBook Pro 14 starts at a higher price — $1,599 for a base M3 and 512GB of storage, but only 8GB of RAM. Apple charges $200 to get to 16GB of RAM, making it $759 more than a similar configuration of the Spectre x360 14.

You can get a MacBook Pro 14 with an M3 Pro 11/14, 18GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for $1,999, providing better performance than the high-end Spectre for $549 more. Fully configured with an M3 Max 16/40, 128GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD, the MacBook costs a whopping $6,899.

Design

The 14-inch MacBook Pro on a window sill.
Digital Trends

The Spectre x360 14 is a redesign of the Spectre x360 13.5, upping the display size by half an inch and smoothing the edges. It retains the notches cut into the bottom of the display and the rear chassis, which house a Thunderbolt 4 port and the 3.5mm audio jack. It’s a more elegant and streamlined design, available in Nightfall, Black, Slate Blue, or Sahara Silver — all of which make it more attractive than its predecessor.

The MacBook Pro 14 possesses the blockier and more minimalist aesthetic shared by all modern MacBooks. It is available in Space Gray, Silver, and Space Black, and boasts an elegance that few laptops can match. The MacBook has thinner bezels and a notch in the display to accommodate the webcam, while the HP’s bezels are slim enough except for the thick bottom chin that accommodates the 360-degree hinge.

As a 2-in-in laptop, the Spectre x360 14 offers a few advantages over the MacBook Pro 14. First, it has a pen-enabled touch display, whereas the MacBook has no touch options. Second, the display swivels around to work in clamshell, tent, media, and tablet modes. That offers a lot more flexibility than the clamshell-only MacBook Pro 14.

Both laptops are constructed from CNC-machined aluminum, and both are solidly built. The MacBook Pro 14’s hinge is smoother and allows opening the laptop with one hand, while the Spectre’s is stiffer to accommodate the 2-in-1 functionality.

HP Spectre x360 14 2023 top down view showing keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The MacBook Pro 14 sports the best keyboard on a laptop, the Magic Keyboard, with large keycaps, plenty of key spacing, and switches that are light, snappy, and precise. The Spectre’s keyboard also has large keycaps and excellent key spacing, but its deeper switches aren’t quite as precise due to a less comfortable bottoming action with less feedback.

The Spectre x360 14 has an excellent haptic touchpad with virtual clicks that feel natural and responsive, and it’s even larger than the MacBook’s equally excellent Force Touch touchpad. The MacBook Pro 14’s touchpad has the Force Click feature that provides additional functionality with more forceful clicks, which the Spectre x360 14 doesn’t offer.

The Spectre x360 14 offers the better videoconferencing experience.

Connectivity is mixed. The MacBook offers an additional Thunderbolt 4 port and an HDMI connection, with the Spectre having a legacy USB-A port. The MacBook Pro 14 has a full-sized SD card reader, while the Spectre omits an SD reader entirely. That favors the MacBook. On the other hand, the Spectre supports Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4, while the MacBook is stuck on Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

The Spectre x360 14 has a 9MP webcam that supports up to 2160p video, which is a higher resolution than the MacBook’s 1080p webcam. The Spectre’s webcam also has hardware-based lowlight correction and offers a variety of AI-enhanced features. HP also includes user presence-sensing technology that leverages an infrared camera to lock the laptop and put it to sleep when the user steps away, and wake it up and log back in when the user returns.

The MacBook Pro 14 has the Touch ID fingerprint reader in the power button, and that’s it. Note that the Spectre also has a fingerprint reader in the power button to go with Windows 11 Hello facial recognition.

Performance

The keyboard of the MacBook Pro 14-inch on a wood surface.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The Spectre x360 14 uses Intel’s latest Meteor Lake chipsets, specifically the 28-watt Core Ultra 125H (14 cores, 18 threads) and Core Ultra 7 155H (16 cores, 22 threads). We tested it with the latter and found it performs better than Intel’s previous 28-watt chips, but not remarkably so. The Core Ultra chipsets are notable for their new neural processing units (NPUs) and potentially improved efficiency. The Spectre is limited to Intel Arc integrated graphics, which are faster than the previous Intel Iris Xe graphics, but not as fast as entry-level Nvidia discrete GPUs. Unlike some other 14-inch laptops, no discrete graphics options are available, which limits its performance compared to the MacBook Pro.

Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 is available with various M3 chipsets, including the base M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max, with differing CPU and GPU core counts. We tested the highest-end M3 Max with 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores. That’s a very fast chipset in both CPU- and GPU-intensive tasks.

The MacBook Pro 14 with the M3 Max is significantly faster than the Spectre x360 14. It’s also much more expensive. We haven’t tested the MacBook with the base M3 processor, but the Apple iMac with that chip performs similarly to the Core Ultra 7 155H. The M3 is likely to provide similar performance in the MacBook Pro 14.

Geekbench
(single/multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single/multi)
HP Spectre x360 14
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
2,210 / 11,841 111 1,750/ 9,832
MacBook Pro 14 M3
(M3 Max 16/40)
3,174/ 21,137 53 1881/ 22,028
iMac M3
(M3 8/10)
3,075 / 11,994 112 1,905 / 9,754

Display and audio

HP Spectre x360 15 2023 tent view.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Spectre x360 14 is available with a 14-inch 2.8K OLED display running at up to 120Hz. That’s roughly the same sharpness as the Liquid Retina XDR Mini-LED panel on the MacBook Pro 14. Both displays run at up to 120Hz.

The Spectre’s colors are wider and more accurate than the MacBook’s, although both are good enough for serious creative work. Both displays have near-perfect black levels in incredible contrast, while the MacBook’s Mini-LED display has more standard dynamic range (SDR) brightness by default while providing a searing 1,600 nits for high dynamic range (HDR) video.

Both displays are excellent for productivity users, creators, and media consumers. The latter group will be much happier with the class-leading HDR performance on the MacBook Pro 14.

HP Spectre x360 14
(OLED)
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(Mini-LED)
Brightness
(nits)
391 511
AdobeRGB gamut 96% 89%
 sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.68 1.13

The MacBook Pro 14 has six speakers and force-canceling woofers that pump out the loudest and highest-quality audio you’ll find on a 14-inch laptop. Mids and highs are crystal clear, while there’s also plenty of bass.

The Spectre x360 14 has four speakers, including two woofers that fire out the front, and it provides some of the best audio short of the MacBook. It, too, produces plenty of volume, with clear mids and highs. The biggest difference is in the amount of bass to accentuate music and action TV show and movies. The Spectre is very good, but the MacBook is excellent.

Portability

HP Spectre x360 14 2023 left side view showing ports.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Spectre x360 14 and MacBook Pro 14 are similar in width and depth, with the former being slightly thicker and the latter slightly heavier. Both are highly portable machines.

The biggest difference comes in battery life. The Spectre x360 14 has an average battery life of around eight hours of web browsing and 14 hours of video. The MacBook Pro 14 will hit around 18 hours of web browsing and likely slightly more when looping video. If working a full day is important to you, then the MacBook Pro will last that and even more. Comparing these two laptops directly makes that difference painfully obvious.

Both are excellent laptops, and it comes down to budget and workflow

The port selection of the MacBook Pro 14-inch.
Digital Trends

The Spectre x360 14 is the best convertible 2-in-1 available today. It’s fast, well-built, has a beautiful OLED display, and has good battery life. The MacBook Pro 14 can be configured to be much faster (especially in the graphics department), and it has equally good build quality, a stunning mini-LED display, and the best battery life on a 14-inch laptop.

The difference comes down to whether you want the flexibility of a 2-in-1 or a traditional clamshell. Of course, price is also important because the MacBook Pro 14 is more expensive in all configurations. In the end, you can’t beat it on battery life, though — and that’s something no Windows laptop has been able to compete with.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
Mark has been a geek since MS-DOS gave way to Windows and the PalmPilot was a thing. He’s translated his love for…
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