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HP's Spectre x360 is a powerful new MacBook Air competitor

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HP is introducing what it's calling its "most premium" computer yet: the Spectre x360, a high-end laptop that's able to flip its display around to work as a tablet, too. The Spectre x360 has an aluminum body that's 15.9mm thick and weighs 3.3 pounds. It has a simple, silver-gray style that probably won't draw too many glances, but it's the power inside that counts.

An optically bonded Quad HD touchscreen at the top configuration

The Spectre x360 comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 Broadwell processor and a 13.3-inch touchscreen with 1080p or Quad HD resolution. It also includes either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and an SSD ranging in size from 128GB to 512GB. Perhaps most notably, HP says that it'll be able to power all of that for anywhere from 10 to 12.5 hours, even with the high-res displays. Part of the reason for that, it says, is that the Spectre x360 only refreshes parts of the display that are actively changing, thus using less power.

During a briefing, HP emphasized the laptop's battery life, particularly in comparison to the MacBook Air. It's no secret that the Spectre line is HP's attempt to take on Apple, and this time HP claims to have about matched Apple on battery life. HP says that the Spectre x360 can play back 1080p video for 11 hours straight. In its tests, the MacBook Air — which still doesn't have a 1080p display — was able to display 720p video for 12 hours straight. If accurate, those are favorable results for HP. That said, a video test like that isn't entirely reflective of average use: not many people are going to watch Lord of the Rings straight through.

Still, battery life is one of the areas that the Air has been dominating, and being able to match it is a big deal. No one ever loved having to pull out their charger at a coffee shop, and with how great laptop batteries have become, it's even worse having to do that nowadays. Making it work with a high-res display is even better. (But, of course, it remains to be seen how the Spectre x360 performs outside of HP's labs.)

The Spectre x360 also has three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI port, and a Mini DisplayPort. HP has put one of its "extra wide" trackpads on it and includes a backlit keyboard. The laptop's touch panel is also optically bonded to its display, which should result in a much nicer look and, while using it, a feeling more like you're actually touching the pixels. That should be a big help in selling the x360's ability to work as a tablet. It'll ship running Windows 8.1.

HP realizes that selling a laptop in 2015 requires more than specs. It says that design and size were key focuses for it while building the x360, and while it isn't necessarily a shining example of those two principles, it gets the job done and backs it up with all of the specs you'd want on the inside. The Spectre x360 goes on sale today, with configurations starting at $899 and running up through $1,399.