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Thursday, 20 July 2017 16:43

Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 versus HP x2 Spectre 2017– shootout


And the winner is – sorry, you will have to read the article to find out. But HP’s new x2 Spectre raises the bar in some areas, as does Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2017.

The purpose of a shootout is to objectively measure, “Apples for Apples” and declare a winner. Spoiler alert: they may look similar and do a similar job, but I suspect both have slightly different markets — enterprise and consumer/small business — in mind.

Bondwell 1The real hybrid, two-in-one, tablet and detachable keyboard device started showing up around 2012 with the Surface RT.

But for more than 30 years, manufacturers have been trying to achieve the same — maximum compute power in a minimum size — Bondwell, Toshiba, IBM, Osborne, to name a few. All that held them back was the available technology.

Well, today you have devices that are 7-8mm thin, weigh under 1kg, and have enough compute power to send a man to the moon thousands of times.

The real question is has the hybrid market proven itself as a thoroughly useful computing device that fills a real need? The answer is yes!

First, we need to compare specifications – boring, but necessary.

Shootout 1


Microsoft Surface Pro 2017

HP x2 Spectre 2017


M3-7Y30 1-2.6GHz, Intel HD Graphics 615

i5-7300U 2.6-3.5GHz Intel HD Graphics 620

i7-7660U 2.4-4GHz Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640


i5-7260U Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640

i7-7560U Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640

Surface offers the lower cost and the lower powered m3 may be useful in some circumstances but the sweet spot is i5 and for power users the i7. Winner: draw


12.3”, 2736 x 1824, 267ppi, PixelSense, 3:2 aspect

Edge-to-edge glass, 10-point touch

Supports a wide DCI-P3 colour gamut

N-Trig digitiser

Pixel Sense controller hardware acceleration, touch, and Dial

12.3”, 3000 x 2000, IPS WLED (included White LED backlight plus RGB)

Edge-to-edge glass, 10-point touch

x2 has more pixels and the WhiteLED backlight gives a whiter but cooler colour. However, the Surface PixelSense secret sauce (hardware acceleration) and its sRGB/Enhanced colour profiles put it ahead, Winner: Surface by a nit


Review unit

Intel Core i7-7600U, 2.2/3.4GHz, 2 core/4 thread

Core m3 and i5 are fan-less

Review: Intel Core i5-7260U, 2.2/3.4GHz, 2 core/4 thread

Also i7-7560U, 2.4/3.8Ghz

Both with fan

Surface is slightly faster using higher specified CPU but it is much of a muchness. I like the m3 – so don’t write it off. The x2 did get hotter under load. Winner: Surface


Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640

Supports 3840 x 2160 external display or two via DP daisy chain


While both use the same GPU the Surface offers colour temperature adjustment but the x2 has the harder to use Intel HD Control panel and it offers similar control. Winner: draw


8-16GB, DDR3L-1600


Both use older DDR3L (low power) and that is because of shortages in DDR4LP. The x2 is slightly faster. Winner: x2


128/256/512GB and 1TB, PCIe, NVMe, M.2

256/512GB SSD, PCIe, NVMe, M.2

Both use very fast PCIe NVMe, M.2 but only the Surface has a 1TB option, But with microSD support so who cares. Winner: draw


Yes – size unspecified, but at least 256GB. External hard disk storage at least 2TB

Yes, size unspecified


Winner: draw


Marvel Avastar 88W8897, AC, 2x2, MIMO, Wi-Di

Intel 8265, AC, 2x2, MIMO, Wi-Di

While both are capable of 867GB/s the x2 has a faster throughput. This could be a driver issue. Winner: x2




There is little between 4.1 and 4.2 but the latter has better sound quality over Bluetooth. Winner: x2 by .1


Nuvoton NPCT650SBBWX for mobile device management


TPM is vital for enterprise however, in the consumer market is means little so there it is. Winner: Surface for enterprise and x2 for consumer




Full size, chiclet, 1.5mm/60g throw

Available in standard and Alcantara fabric with four colour options — Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Black

Oversize glass touchpad with up to five finger gestures

Flap to 165° - almost flat

Approx 310g

Full size, chiclet, 1.5mm/60g throw

Oversize Elan glass touchpad with up o four finger gestures

U-shape to 150°

Approx 370g

x2 comes closest to the Surface Book standard and it has almost eliminated key bounce. It’s metal fascia is going to last longer than Alcantara. Winner: x2


Optional 4096 pressure levels 12g actuation force

AAAA battery powered

Optional Surface Dial

HP 2 button active (AAAA battery operated) stylus – no details available

This is difficult to call as only Surface publishes specifications and on that basis, it is a winner. In real life, both do an amazing job. Winner: Surface by a specification


Realtek ALC3269 chip

2 x 1.6W, front firing with Dolby Audio Premium

max volume 68dB

Dual stereo mics

Realtek High Definition Audio (SST)

2 x Bang & Olufsen tuned, front firing speakers with HP Audio boost

Max volume 80db


x2 is the clear winner offering an EQ and presets and higher volume. This is academic if you use it for a personal device. Winner: x2


1 x USB-A, 3.0

1 x Mini-DisplayPort 1.2

Surface Ribbon - power delivery upstream (charging tablet) and data

1 x 3.5mm combo audio

1 x microSD slot

POGO Pins for keyboard power and data

Microsoft is working on a Ribbon to USB-C dock - TBA

2 x USB-C, Gen 1, 5Gbps, DisplayPort 1.2 Interchangeable - power delivery upstream (charging tablet) and downstream (charges devices)

1 x 3.5mm combo audio
1 x microSD slot
POGO Pins for keyboard power and data

The Surface is more flexible sans a dock – mini-DisplayPort, full USB-A and ribbon charger. While the 2 x USB-C are good Surface is slightly ahead in normal use. Winner: Surface by a nose although x2's 2 x USB-C is tempting but you need dongles.


Will be available on m3 and i5 models


Due to the way Australian Telcos charge for data this may or may not be advantage – of course, you can always log into Telstra Air or use your smartphone hotspot. Winner: Surface if you need this


292.1 x 201.42 x 8.5 mm (tablet)

293.9 x 207.1 x 7.7 mm (tablet)

Winner: draw


768/770/784g coreM2/i5/i7

plus keyboard 310g


plus keyboard 370g

Winner: draw


Uni-body machined magnesium alloy

Uni-body machined alloy (unspecified)

Both are extremely well made. X2 looks better. Winner: draw


45 WHr

Claimed up to 13.5 hours

TI Quick Charge circuit

41.58 WHr

Claimed up to 8 hours

Quick charge circuit

Surface has an indefatigable battery and like x2 has a fast charge circuit. If you travel a lot, the extra 4-6 hours is invaluable. Winner: Surface by half a day


65W includes 12V/2.58A and 5V/1A USB charge port

65W - 5V-9V/3A, 10-12V/5A, 19/4.33A, 20V/3.25A

While I suspect x2 has better fast charging, the addition of a USB 5V/1A port on the Surface brick is a lifesaver. Winner: Surface by a port


Front: OV5693, 5MP, 1.4 µm, 3673.6 x 2738.4 image area, 2x2 pixel binning, EIS, sensor, fixed focus, auto black level calibration, 1080p video

IR: OV7251 for Windows Hello: 3 µm pixel made for machine vision

Rear: OV8865, 8MP autofocus, 1.4 µm, 4614.4 x 3472 µm image area, 2x2 pixel binning, HDR, auto black level calibration, 1080p @30fps video, 10-bit RAW output

Front: 5MP, OV5670, 1.12 µm, 2592x1944, 2x2 pixel binning

IR: Intel AVStream Camera 2500 for Windows Hello

Rear: 13MP, Sony IMX214, 1.12 µm, 4224 x 3200, HDR, autofocus, 1080p @30fps,

Based on specifications the HP would blitz this category but in practice, Surface took better shots in good and low light. The key was the larger 1.4 µm pixels and probably a faster lens. Winner: Surface


Windows 10 Pro

Windows 10 Home

If you are a corporate user you will want Pro to join domains etc. Winner: Surface


Trial of Office 365

HP Audio Switch; HP Documentation; HP ePrint; HP JumpStart; HP Orbit; HP Pen Control; HP Recovery Manager; HP Support Assistant; HP Sure Connect

It is all “bloatware” and Surface has much less – it is cleaner. In any case, do a factory reset and wipe out bloatware and install what you want from the support site. Winner: Surface


1-year return to base

1-year on-site swap

On-site is very compelling even if it's just a swap. The Surface has that as an option. Winner: x2


Retail pricing is as follows (plus a keyboard $200/250 and pen – TBA but assume around $150)

·         Core m2, 4/128GB $1,199

·         Core i5, 4/128GB $1,499

·         Core i5, 8/256GB $1,999

·         Core i7, 8/256GB $2499

·         Core i7, 16/512GB $3,299

·         Core i7, 16GB/1TB $3,999

JB Hi-Fi prices (RRP/current special price to 26 July)

·         N/A

·         N/A

·         Core i5, 8/256GB, $2198/1868.30

·         N/A

·         Core i7, 16/512GB, $2798/2378.30

·         N/A

Cost is always an issue. Remembering that Surface requires the pen and keyboard at $350/400 extra, the x2 is a clear price leader especially if you grab a bargain before 26 July. Winner: x2 by a long way

So that covers all the technical aspects. What would I want and buy?

To be fair I should have reviewed the HP x2 EliteBook against the Surface Pro as it is a commercial product too.

The HP x2 Spectre i5 or i7 version on special at JB would tempt me – no questions. It does everything the Surface does except there is a niggling doubt that the Surface is better in corporate use e.g. TPM security, battery, and colour presets.

There is no way you could be disappointed if either the Spectre x2 2017 or the Surface Pro 2017 turned up under the Xmas tree.

And the winner is:

The subjective winner for consumer and small business is HP x2 Spectre in its i7, 16/256GB guise, very nice dark ash and copper finish and price. OK and perhaps I am being shallow here it looks great too so the heart can rule the head.

The objective winner for corporate use is the Surface for its battery life, PixelSense screen, and TPM chip – it just does it so well.

Full Reviews:

Surface Pro 2017

HP x2 Spectre 2017

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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