OLED has been the de facto display technology in high-end smartphones and TVs for a few years now for good reason: it combines rich colors with a wide range of contrast and ink-black blacks that simply cannot be matched by other screen types . But while you have an OLED screen in your pocket or hanging on your wall, you probably don't have a device on that other device that you watch for hours every day: your laptop.
There have been a few laptops released over the years with OLED screens in them, but none have ever become particularly popular or sold very well. Early OLED laptops had to contend with high battery consumption and high prices, making them difficult to accept compared to the more price and energy efficient LCD screen options.
However, that wants to change, because this year there are a number of new laptops on the market with OLED screen options and without exorbitant markups. Lenovo, Razer and HP have all announced or released OLED laptops in the first half of this year with comparable display specifications across the board. They all have 15-inch touchscreen panels with a 4K resolution and a refresh rate of 60 Hz. (Yes, they all use the same Samsung panel, which dictates size, resolution and different display specifications.) This is larger and has a higher resolution than what we have seen with older laptops with OLED screens.
In recent weeks I have tested the HP Specter x360 15 AMOLED (what a name), which means that one of those panels is in the updated Specter x360 design that was released at the end of last year. It has a price of $ 1,999, a not insignificant premium of $ 400 compared to an LCD-equipped version with the same specifications (although the OLED model does offer 1TB of storage space compared to 512GB in the LCD version).
The screen of the Specter x360 15 is huge and I see no reason why someone would choose an LCD over this OLED, given the option. It is definitely worth the higher costs. The screen is clear, colorful, pixel-high and has those distinctive rich blacks that have made OLED screens so desirable in phones and TVs. Unfortunately, the beautiful screen does not make up for the bad trackpad of the HP, so I advise you not to buy this laptop in any configuration. But what it does show is that the time has come for OLED laptops.
The most striking thing about the first use of the Specter is how powerful and lively the screen is. Colors look like they are coming off the screen, but they are not so overly saturated that they appear cartoon-like. At the other end of the spectrum, the blacks are just as black and deep as on an OLED TV. Viewing Netflix in 4K on this screen is really a pleasure.
In terms of color reproduction, the OLED displays 100 percent of the DCI-P3 spectrum with a broad spectrum (compared to 82.2 percent on the LCD screen that HP offers), which means that the green and red colors are extra rich and deep to be. It has a nominal contrast ratio of 462,989: 1, which creates those deep blacks. It also emits less blue light than LCD screens, so much so that HP did not feel the need to include additional blue light-blocking filters or software that has appeared on laptops with LCD screens.
The Specter also has excellent viewing angles – which is useful when you rotate it in the different positions of a 2-in-1 computer – and it has no ghost images or weird artifacts with fast scrolling. This is not an ideal screen for gaming because the refresh rate is the standard 60Hz and not 144Hz, but for any other purpose it is incredible.
On paper, the screen of the x360 is not as bright as on other premium laptops, such as the MacBook Pro. It stands out with just over 350 nits, which is a lot of light to use in any indoor environment, but it can be difficult to see outdoors on a sunny day.
There are also other compromises for the OLED screen. The x360 configuration with the OLED option has a midrange quad-core Core i7 processor and entry level Nvidia MX150 separate graphics, as opposed to the six-core chip and the 1050-series GPU that you can get with the most advanced x360 . HP told me that it limited the chip options because the OLED screen has more energy than the LCD screen it used in the other model, and it wanted to maintain a certain battery life. So you can have either the fastest internal components or the best screen, but not both at the same time, which is frustrating.
That does not mean that the Specter is slow. It is more than sufficient for daily productivity work, photo editing and even some light video editing. But if you really need processing power, it won't be as fast as other laptops in this class or even HP & # 39; s high-end x360.
For the battery life, the average of just over six hours was between the charges in my daily use, namely surfing the internet in Chrome, using Slack, e-mail, Word and Twitter with a screen with a brightness of 50 percent. That's about average for a 15-inch laptop in my experience, so the OLED screen doesn't really touch the battery too much more than usual. (HP estimates the battery life at 13.5 hours, but that's based on a looping video test, not a real job, so take it with a grain of salt.) I expect a longer battery life from a smaller, more portable laptop, so the battery performance of this generation of OLED screens matches the available size.
The rest of the Specter x360 15 AMOLED is basically the same as the Specter x360 13 that I discussed earlier this year, with the exception of the extra numeric keypad next to the keyboard and a full-size HDMI port in addition to the two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The keyboard is simple enough to type on, the hinge is at the same time flexible and sturdy and there are enough ports available that I can use to leave dongles at home. It also has a physical switch to turn off the webcam, so there is no need for a large sticker or cover.
Frustrating – and if you've read an earlier HP review, you know what I'm going to say – the trackpad is terrible. I would go far enough to say that it is worse than the 13-inch models. It is large and has a smooth glass finish and reassuring click, but sliding with it is miserably jerky, multi-finger gestures are slow and frustrating to perform and it has poor palm rejection. It's bad enough to say that you don't have to buy this computer completely. (Scrolling in the beta version of Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser is in fact not functional, since two fingers are always read as a right-click, not as a slider, but since that is technically still in beta, I give HP that.)
The cause of these problems again appears to be the use of the Synaptics drivers & # 39; s by HP instead of the highly superior Windows Precision & # 39; s software from Microsoft, which almost all Windows laptops have switched to. HP seems to finally change course with some of its most recent models and ultimately with the use of Precision trackpads, but unfortunately this Specter is not one of them.
So you should see the Specter x360 15 AMOLED as a good example of a laptop with an OLED screen that is practical, relatively affordable and does not make major compromises for a better display. As I noted earlier, this year HP is not the only laptop manufacturer with an OLED laptop, and with prices coming on the panels themselves, I am sure there will be many more to choose from in the near future.
Vox Media has affiliated partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media can earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. See for more information our ethical policy.