avatarby Nirave GondhiaOctober 1, 20161 comments

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If there’s one computer that set out to revolutionise the laptop industry in terms of design (and succeeded), it’s the Apple Macbook, right from its early disguises up to the current Apple Macbook 12. The success of this line has inspired Windows OEMs to try and offer the best alternative, and alongside the Dell XPS 13 and Razer Blade Stealth, the HP Spectre 13 is the machine that believes it can challenge Apple’s ultraportable.

Both machines make trade-offs in a bid to offer the most svelte system possible, so which is should you buy? If you only want OS X or only want Windows 10, you’ll pretty much have to stick with the Apple Macbook 12 and HP Spectre respectively. However, if you have no preference over the OS in question, let’s take a look at which machine is right for you.

HP Spectre vs Apple Macbook: Spec Showdown

Before we can get into the differences and similarities between these two supersvelte machines, let’s take a look at the specifications of the models we’ve been using for the Macbook 12 review, HP Spectre 13 review and this comparison:

Model:HP Spectre 13-v050naApple Macbook 12
Screen Size / Type:13.3 inch IPS UWVA Brightview
+ Corning Gorilla Glass protection
12-inch Retina Display
Screen resolutionFHD, 1920 vs 1080 pixels2304 x 1440 pixels
Screen density169 pixels per inch226 pixels per inch
Processor: Dual-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-6500UDual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54
Dimensions12.8 x 9.03 x 0.41 inches 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches
RAM8GB DDR38GB DDR4
GPUIntegrated Intel HD Graphics 520Integrated Intel HD Graphics 515
Storage256GB SSD512GB SSD

With that out of the way, and very similar specs across the board (processor aside), let’s dig into it further and see which is the must-buy machine.

Design

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As far as design goes, both machines are striking in their own ways. Apple offers a range of colors for the Macbook 12 – Space Grey, Rose Gold, Gold and Silver – while the HP Spectre comes in a unique carbon fibre look with gold accents. The Macbook 12 is without doubt, the more reserved of the two and the choice of colors may be preferred for those who find the HP Spectre gaudy.

The HP Spectre claims to be the thinnest full-powered laptop available today and at 10.4mm thick, it’s definitely got a claim to be so (although the sub-10mm thin Acer Swift 7 might have a thing or two to say about that). In comparison, the Apple Macbook 12 ranges from 3.5mm to 13mm thick in a gradual incline from the supremely thin front to the rear.

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In actual usage, there’s very little noticeable difference from the size difference but the Macbook is considerably lighter at 2.03 pounds (921 grams), versus the HP Spectre 13 which weighs in at 2.45 pounds (1.11 grams). Most of this is difference is due to its smaller display, although the extra weight of the HP Spectre does have some benefits (which we’ll get into later).

Taking everything into consideration, these two devices both sport excellent designs but while the Apple Macbook 12 has an iconic design, the HP Spectre 13’s unique design is fresher and more appealing. A tough call but the Spectre 13 just exudes style.

Winner: HP Spectre 13

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Ports & Features

While making machines this slim, companies quickly realised that a full-sized USB port wouldn’t cut it and both ultraportables opt for the smaller USB-C standard, although both do offer a headphone jack. The true contrast however is in how many ports each machine packs in. The Apple Macbook 12 manages to offer just one USB-C port on its slim body, which means you can’t charge your laptop and plug in a peripheral – such as hard drive, display or card reader – without using a dongle (we recommend the Huawei MateDock).

In comparison, the HP Spectre 13 offers 3 USB-C ports – one USB 3.1 port and two Thunderbolt – which allow you to connect multiple peripherals and, connect up to two 4k displays using Thunderbolt. One of these ports can be used for charging but still supports data throughput and although there’s no SD card reader or HDMI port, these are available via external USB-C docks. Three multi-functional ports versus a lone USB-C port? There’s no contest really.

Winner: HP Spectre 13

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Keyboard & Trackpad

This is a close call for us, mainly as the Apple Macbook 12 trackpad is simply exceptional – as with all Macbooks – while the HP Spectre 13’s trackpad is smaller and somewhat uncomfortable. With that being said, it very much comes down to which machine is better when you have to type for long hours at a time.

The Macbook 12 offers chicklet-style keys with just 0.5mm travel, while the HP Spectre’s keyboard is larger and each key is adhorned with gold while offering 1.3mm travel. When it comes down to it, the trade-off in the size of the Spectre’s trackpad is worth it considering the larger, more-comfortable keyboard.

Winner: HP Spectre 13

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Display

So far the Spectre 13 seems to be winning at a canter but when it comes to the display, this is where the Macbook 12 begins its fightback. Although the Spectre offers a larger 13.3-inch display, which is brighter than the Macbook’s (361 nits vs 325 nits), the Macbook is superior in most other ways.

The most noticeable difference is the resolution of the Retina Display (2304 x 1440 pixels) versus the Full HD resolution of the Spectre 13’s screen. For watching movies, gaming and even general use, the Macbook 12’s screen is better, and although it’s smaller, it is noticeably sharper, and although you won’t want to keep it at 100% resolution (as it can be difficult to see very small fonts), the Macbook 12 display is still the overall winner.

Winner: Apple Macbook 12

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Performance

Both of these machines have similar specs aside from one key difference: the processor. Although both use Intel chipsets from the Core range, the Macbook 12 uses the low-power Core M series – which don’t require a fan for heat management – while the Spectre 13 users the more powerful Core I series, which contributes heavily to the Spectre’s excessive noise but theoretically offers significant power gains over the Core M.

Model:HP Spectre 13Apple Macbook 12
GeekBench 3 (Single-core)30402834
GeekBench 3 (Single-core)70045865
Storage (max read speed)1506 Mb/s1852 Mb/s
Storage (max read speed)296 Mb/s356 Mb/s

Putting the two machines through a series of benchmark tests reveals some interesting results. In Geekbench’s processor test, the Macbook 12 scores 2834 in the single-core test and 5790 in the multi-core test, while the HP Spectre scores 3040 and 6339 respectively. The performance gains offered by the Spectre 13 are somewhat offset by the fluid performance of OS X but there’s no doubting that the Core i5 processor inside the Spectre 13 is more powerful than the Core m5 powering our Macbook.

Winner: HP Spectre 13

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Heat / Noise

Unfortunately, the power inside the Spectre 13 comes at a considerable cost; it requires a fan to run and this fan can get noisy. No, not just a little sound here and there but almost-constant noise. As noted in our Spectre 13 review, the fans are just a little crazy and rather than be whisper quiet as you might have hoped, they are loud enough to disturb any scene.

In total contrast, the Apple Macbook 12 is as quiet as they come with barely a whisper heard in even quiet environments. There are occasional moments where the machine does seem to be running a tad louder than normal but these are infrequent and only last for a few minutes. When it comes down to it, the HP Spectre 13 is just way too loud for an ultraportable so the Apple Macbook 12 wins by default.

Winner: Apple Macbook 12

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Audio

The HP Spectre 13 has considerable chops when it comes to audio with quad Bang & Olufsen speakers that offer pretty good audio but somehow, Apple have managed to top an impressive audio experience in the Spectre 13.

Watching movies especially reveals the difference between the two with more volume and emphasis apparent with the Macbook 12’s speaker array. Whether it’s listening to music, streaming Netflix or YouTube or watching a local movie file, the Macbook 12 delivers better overall sound.

Winner: Apple Macbook 12

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Battery Life

Another area that’s a no contest and the differences are quite stark as the HP Spectre 13 fails to deliver anything near comparative battery life. The HP Spectre barely offers 5 hours of usage on a single charge while the Macbook 12 can last up to 10 hours.

The reliance on a charger and its inability to handle a full day’s usage definitely hinder the HP Spectre 13 and how so, considering that most users will buy an ultraportable for that lasting battery life. The Macbook 12’s battery life is more than enough to last you a full day and there’s a clear winner here.

Winner: Apple Macbook 12

Value

This is an interesting section as both machines are considerably pricey, but the Spectre 13 arguably offers better overall value. Here’s how the pricing stacks up:

Model:HP Spectre 13HP Spectre 13Apple Macbook 12Apple Macbook 12
US/UK Price:$1,069 / £1,149$1,149 / £1,299$1,299 / £1,049$1,599 / £1,299
Touchscreen:NoNoNoNo
Processor:Intel Core i5-6200U
(Up to 3.2GHz)
Intel Core i7-6500U
(Up to 3.5GHz)
1.1GHz Intel Core m3
(Up to 2.2GHz)
1.2GHz Intel Core m5
(Up to 2.7GHz)
OS:Windows 10 HomeWindows 10 HomemacOS SierramacOS Sierra
Memory:8GB DDR3 RAM8GB DDR3 RAM8GB DDR4 RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage:256GB SSD512GB SSD
(Only 256GB in the USA)
256GB SSD512GB SSD
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 520Intel HD Graphics 520Intel HD Graphics 515Intel HD Graphics 515
Display:13.3" FHD (1920x1080)
+ Gorilla Glass
13.3" FHD (1920x1080)
+ Gorilla Glass
12" Retina Display
(2340x1440)
12" Retina Display
(2340x1440)
Battery Life:Up to 6 hoursUp to 6 hoursUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
Buy the Dell XPS 15 Now!

The Spectre 13 certainly offers more for less – quite literally – but the Macbook 12 delivers on the section that will be crucial to most users of an ultraportable: battery life. The value you’ll derive from either machine does depend on whether battery life is important to you so we’re calling this a draw. With that being said, the HP Spectre 13 does offer more configurations with a lower base (and additional) price than Apple.

Result: Draw

HP Spectre vs Apple Macbook result: Draw

There you have it, possibly an anti-climax but a very close fought battle results in stalemate, which means the decision comes down to exactly what you want from your machine.

If performance is the most important thing to you, there’s no contest so you should buy the HP Spectre 13. However, if battery life is the most important, then the Apple Macbook 12 wins by a considerable margin. If a bigger display is more important than accuracy, the HP Spectre 13 is your machine otherwise the Macbook 12.

It’s such a close call between these two devices that will come down to your particular usage requirements, so taking everything into consideration, which machine is right for you? If you could have one of these, which would you pick? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments below!

  • George

    “Apple Macbook 12 is as quiet as they come with barely a whisper heard in
    even quiet environments. There are occasional moments where the machine
    does seem to be running a tad louder than normal but these are
    infrequent and only last for a few minutes”.

    Hahahaha! That’s how you know this review is not credible. They wouldn’t even bother to do the research and find out that the Macbook doesn’t even HAVE a fan. Apparently it’s making noise from a nonexisting fan!