If there is one overarching theme that’ll be more prominent with laptops this year, it’ll be the intersection of ultra slim form factors but with larger than usual display sizes. The best of both worlds? Take the 2024 edition of the HP Spectre 16 x360, which as the name suggests, has a 16-inch screen size. Long gone are the days when ultra slim laptops (remember the ‘ultrabook’ era defined by Intel?) played safe with dimensions. But footprint isn’t the only generational step forward that this Spectre premium laptop assimilates. This is also the coming of age for Intel’s latest generation chips, the Meteor Lake family, and AI’s growing influence that draws power from a neural processing unit (NPU).

The HP Spectre 16 x360. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)

We may as well discuss the AI functionality, and its promises. There are, for now, two distinct sides to this coin. One is the here and now. The second, a forward-looking position, with hope and anticipation. With an NPU on board, on-device computation will be possible faster and more accurately. That’ll become increasingly relevant, as AI models make the transition towards on-device processing of AI tasks to reduce the need to send everything to the cloud (there’s the privacy aspect too, which necessitates it). You don’t have to wait for the future though.

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Take for instance the a 9-megapixel webcam, somewhat still rare in laptops, which in addition to its own hardware driven advantages of better light processing and pixel-binning for details is using an AI algorithm that allows the webcam to keep you in the middle of the frame during a video call. Even if you’re moving around a bit. Then there’s the ‘eye contact’ functionality that uses AI to monitor the frames around your eyes and generate a look (if needed) to give the impression you’re looking at the other participants. And not reading off a sheet of paper laid on the table. Background blur, is also processed locally, as is any alteration to the skin tone or low light adjustment.

There’s more too. A screen distance reminder monitors you through the camera and raises a red flag if you’re too close. Walk away lock does, as the name suggests, locks the desktop if you’ve gotten up and aren’t near the laptop anymore (quite useful at work, as you may get engrossed in a conversation). This is, what I’d call, the tip of the iceberg that’s waiting to reveal itself.

For the 1,79,999 you will part with for HP’s most premium convertible laptop, this indeed will be the top-spec variant. Intel Core Ultra 7-155H chip, 32GB RAM, 2TB solid-state storage, a 16-inch OLED touchscreen display (2880 x 1800 pixels) and 100-watt adapter alongside fast charging (we noticed a fully discharged HP Spectre 16 x360 reach 50% charge, whilst in use, in about 50 minutes). Despite multi-tasking load from time to time, it is noticeable that this slim laptop remains quite cool. This is an incredibly powerful laptop, and if you’re to choose the optional Nvidia graphics (the test machine didn’t), it would unlock some level of casual gaming too.

When I removed this from the charger to use this as the primary work laptop, it returned a close to 11 hours on a single charge (that’s with brightness at 30%, but no let up on application load). For a big screen laptop, and thus many more pixels to illuminate (all drawing from the battery power), the ability to leave the adapter at home and head out to work, is a convenience that still has its uniqueness.

Since the display size does free up some physical space around the keyboard, HP’s gone ahead and placed the speakers on either side of it. These are tuned by Poly Studio, and the addition of front-firing woofers means the on-board audio is more than usable for video calls and meetings. That said, the standout visual (and subsequently experiential) element is the massive touchpad – it is the biggest touchpad real estate I’ve seen on any laptop, in all these years. That’s great news for your fingers deploying swipe gestures but takes a bit of getting used to initially. More to the point, the horizontal spacing, as your hand retrains memory for right and left click keys.

It may not seem as though from the outset, but the HP Spectre 16 x360 alongside Intel’s new chips collectively focusing on AI enhancements, signifies a new era for laptops. It’s needed if they’ve to remain relevant. A much as the Slate Blue colour is, to freshen things up. There are neat additions that show up at every step as you begin to use the HP Spectre 16 x360. The large touchpad has slide controls on either side for brightness and volume. As is the touchscreen that does well enough to reduce the distraction from reflections. While price tag of 1,79,999 does demand you consider the options (of which there are many) before spending the cash, it’ll be well spent if you do decide to.

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