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When the Thinnest Laptop May Not Be the Best Choice...and When It Is

When the Thinnest Laptop May Not Be the Best Choice...and When It Is

Tom Gerencer
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The slimmest of the HP thin laptops is the HP Spectre x360, which is a vanishingly-skinny 0.57-inches. There’s no doubt that thin is in as we get ever more unshackled from our desks and offices, but there are tradeoffs.
Should you buy a thin laptop? What will you sacrifice? We’ve all heard slimmer, lighter laptops won’t work as well for gaming and video editing, but is that still true? And what else should you consider before you make the switch?
The bottom line is that size changes everything, from power, price tag, and connectors to keyboard feel and storage. Let’s break down the differences between thin PCs and their big brothers to get at what matters. Read on to see if a thin laptop is the best choice for your daily needs.

What is HP’s thinnest laptop?

HP’s new thinnest laptop is the HP Spectre. It comes in two alluring versions: the power-packed HP Spectre x360 and the stylish, business-savvy HP Spectre Folio. The Folio’s full-grain leather finish comes in cool, professional Bordeaux Burgundy or Cognac Brown at just 0.6 inches thick.
Leading the best thin laptops on the market, both models are beautifully-designed and have a professional feel that’s a delight to use. Both come with impressive specs as well, including powerful Intel® Core™ i5 and i7 processors and touch screen capability. They also work in several modes, from laptop to touch screen tablet. But will they keep up with your busy lifestyle at work, at play, and on-the-go?

Think before you go thin

The attraction of an HP thin laptop is understandable. It’s fun to forget you’re carrying a mobile office in your bag. It’s even nicer to pull it out with ease and bang off a few important emails or jot down inspiration on the fly. But don’t make the leap without considering whether a thin laptop can withstand everything you dish out in your daily grind.

1. Power

Processing power is often the most important factor when buying a thin laptop. How much do you need and will you feel the difference? The raw truth is that thinner laptops dial back their power usage with long-term use of high-demand applications. Those include gaming and heavy video editing.
The good news is that the HP Spectre’s robust Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors handle mainstream apps like MS Office and streaming video just fine.
Better still, the HP Spectre Folio’s fanless design creates a quiet-as-a-smartphone work environment you’ll fall in love with. Plus, the HP Spectre x360 sets you up to edit and render 4K video with surprising speed. Are these the world’s thinnest laptops? No, but they’re plenty thin, and the extra power will put you in the thin-meets-workhorse sweet spot.

2. Size

Is “small” a drawback? It can be. It’s nice to slide a thin laptop effortlessly from a purse or attaché case, but a 13.3-inch screen is not for everyone or every situation. Will you have to squint to see reports or movies? Not with the HP Spectre’s selection of Full High Definition (FHD) and 4K screens, which are plenty clear and bright even for outdoor use on bright days.
Also, the included privacy screen feature means you can work with confidence that nearby peepers won’t get an eyeful. At your desk, dock the laptop with an external monitor like the HP Z display for a full desktop feel by plugging in with the optional onboard HDMI port.

3. Battery life

Ready for some good news? The best thin laptops score shockingly high on battery life, and the HP Spectre x360 and HP Spectre Folio are at the head of the class. Both are ENERGY STAR® devices that rack up to a spectacular 19 plus hours of off-the-grid performance.
You can leave the cord at home without a care, or stuff it in stowed baggage on long flights. Why does thin translate to longer-lasting power? It’s the heat - or lack thereof. HP thin laptops waste little energy as heat, and that means more computing time.

4. Touch screen and pen

We’re all getting used to touch screen functionality. The freedom to flip the HP Spectre’s screen around and use it in full tablet mode opens up new browsing, gaming, and collaborating options.
This is one place thin and light feels wonderful, especially because the HP Spectre Folio’s all-leather casing isn’t much thicker than a smartphone in a case. For sketching and note-taking with a pen-on-paper feel, a stylus is included with certain models.

5. Keyboard size and feel

One drawback of even the best thin laptops is their smaller keyboard footprint, because low-profile keyboards typically don’t provide a good typing feel. This is an area where the HP Spectre shines. It has a full-size island-style keyboard that gets superb marks for feel in independent reviews.
The HP Spectre’s keyboard is cleverly backlit to keep you working in low-light situations like dark boardrooms or red-eye flights when everyone is sleeping around you. The HP Spectre x360’s keyboard comes in Dark Ash Silver or Poseidon Blue, both stylish enough to dress you for success.

6. Form factor

Form is freedom when it comes to thin laptops like the HP Spectre x360. That goes double for its mutable form-factor that lets you switch swiftly between laptop, tablet, tent, or stand modes.
The HP Spectre is all business in the traditional laptop orientation, but fold the screen back to transform it into a high-powered tablet with an optional stylus or without. During your downtime or for at-work media sharing, choose from two media modes. In tent mode, flip the keyboard down and tent the laptop to make a sturdy viewing platform. In stand mode, fold the keyboard out of the way so all you see is screen.

7. Price

A big complaint about the best thin laptops is their price. There’s no denying that you’ll pay a premium for small and light. Surprisingly, you’ll shell out at or below average desktop-replacement prices for the HP Spectre x360 and HP Spectre Folio.
That’s especially true with the x360 base model, which comes in at the low end of the average laptop cost range [1]. That said, even with good prices on the HP Spectre models, you’ll pay less for similar specs in larger units like the HP Pavilion.

8. No DVD-ROM

Do people still care about DVD-ROMs? Yes, they do. Some users still subscribe to DVD-in-the-mail services like Netflix’s non-streaming option. Others have big movie collections stored on DVD or Blu-ray.
They’re also an excellent archive format, and some programs still use them as emergency boot tools. Even HP thin laptops have had to toss the ballast of the optical disc drive, but concerned aficionados can always buy an external DVD drive for about $25.

9. Fewer ports

Will thin laptops leave you in the lurch without enough connectors? What if you have to sync up with an overhead projector at a conference or plug into an external monitor or hard drive? It’s well-known that more compact laptops have ditched a robust port selection, but that’s not to say we’re completely free of cables. It’s a good thing that the HP Spectre x360 comes with plenty of ports, like 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, a microSD slot, and USB Type-C ports.

10. Built-in storage

Some thin laptops skimp on storage, but not the HP Spectre. It can pack in up to 2TB of massive solid-state drive (SSD) storage in its 0.6-inch cross-section. The PCIe® or Intel SSD technology has no spinning parts, which means a quieter, lower-power laptop that sits cool and comfortable on your lap.
One downside: Massive hard drives cost extra. If you’re on a budget, you may want to stick with a still-spacious 512GB SSD drive. That’s enough for about 250 FHD movies. Need more room? External SSD drives have come way down in price, and the HP Spectre’s Thunderbolt ports can power them and give you access to unlimited digital elbow room at lightning speeds.

11. Unbelievably light

It’s hard to overstate just how remarkable thin laptops like the HP Spectre feel. Lugging a heavy laptop around all day can be a pain, especially on airplanes or in coffee shops where space is at a premium. When it comes right down to it, a laptop that’s not much thicker than a smartphone in a case is incredibly freeing. You’ll hardly know it’s in your backpack or your folio, and if you’ve got the HP Spectre Folio, your laptop is your folio.

When not to buy a thin laptop

Let’s get down to the gritty underbelly of when you shouldn’t go for thin. Let’s be clear that the HP Spectre x360 packs in the processing power to edit video and render 3D graphics with its optional Intel Core i7 processor. Even so, power users of high-demand programs like Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects motion graphics software will benefit from a bigger chassis laptop with larger fans, better cooling, and more room for high-end processors to breathe.
Doing some video editing here and there? You’re fine with a thin laptop. Going at it 8 hours a day? You may want to stick with thick. Here’s a list of apps that draw lots of power. If you’re using these for long durations every day, you might want to avoid HP thin laptops. For these apps, to misquote Chief Brody, “You’re going to need a bigger laptop.”

1. Gaming

There’s a reason game machines look chunky and industrial. Games draw a lot of power, and that means gaming laptops generate more heat and need more and bigger fans and heat sinks. If you live and breathe Fortnite or Dota 2, don’t go thin to win. Run with an HP OMEN gaming laptop instead.

2. Video editing

The HP Spectre edits and renders 4K videos swiftly and effortlessly. It’s fantastic as an on-the-go machine for video pros. But if you’re a full-time producer crunching video at all hours, you’ll definitely want a thin laptop as your backup and not as your main machine. Refocusing toward the HP EliteBook x360 is your best bet.

3. CAD

Computer-aided design apps put a heavy load on your computer’s processor. An 8th Generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor in an HP Spectre can handle CAD just fine. But for all-day use, a thicker laptop is the right choice.

4. 3D animation

3D rendering with animation apps like Autodesk or Cinema 4D will use a lot of system power. Again, on a plane or in a coffee shop, you’ll do well even with high-power apps like this on a thin HP laptop. But for all-day animation, you’ll want a bigger device with more cooling power or an outright desktop like the HP ENVY desktop.

When thin is in

If you’re not a full-time video editor, a heavy gamer, or professional CAD designer, HP thin laptops may be your new happy place. Thin computers like the HP Spectre x360 and the HP Spectre Folio are super-skinny at just 0.6 inches and business-powerful with Intel Core processors inside. They’re stylish enough to look good with your business best, and so skinny you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying around a supercomputer that can handle all your highest-level creative tasks.

About the Author

Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
[1] Costhelper Electronics; How Much Does a Laptop Computer Cost?

About the Author

Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.

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