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HP Spectre Folio review

The classiest PC yet.

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The HP Folio Spectre is a gorgeously-designed convertible laptop that looks – and feels – incredibly premium. That’s just as well, really, as the price tag is just as luxurious.


  • Stunning design
  • Impressive build quality
  • Silent
  • Lovely screen
  • Stylus included


  • Terrible trackpad
  • Speakers aren’t great
  • Battery life isn’t as long as promised.

When HP unveiled the HP Spectre Folio earlier this year, it made some big claims about how the 2-in-1 laptop would reinvent the PC. That’s a pretty huge promise, especially as we’ve seen a number of innovative designs that have changed how we think about PCs.

While the HP Spectre Folio is certainly a nicely-put together device, with a design that HP describes as “modern vintage meets technology,” is it really that revolutionary? We’ve got a unit in to test out just how well the HP Spectre Folio can live up to the hype.

(Image credit: Future)
Spec Sheet

Here is the HP Spectre Folio configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 1.5GHz Intel Core i7-8500Y (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 4.2GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Ports: 3 x USB-C (1 x USB 3.1, 2x Thunderbolt 3), headset jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2.4 & 5GHz); Bluetooth 5, Intel XMM 7560 LTE-Advanced Pro
Camera: 720p
Weight: 3.3 pounds (1.50kg)
Size: 12.60 x 9.21 x 0.60 inches (320 x 234 x 15.2mm)
(W x D x H)

Price and availability

HP didn’t just make bold claims about he HP Spectre Folio, it’s also giving it a bold price tag: AED 6,999 for entry-level model. This comes with an Intel Core i5-8200Y fanless processor, 8GB of DDR3 memory and a 256GB M.2 SSD. However, you can find it for under AED 5,000 if you can score a deal.

These prices pit the HP Spectre Folio against flagship laptops like the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Asus ZenBook 3. It’s also comparable in price with the Surface Laptop 2.

It’s a pricey proposition, then, with fierce competition, which means HP needs to pull out all the stops to make the Spectre Folio worth the considerable sums of money it is asking for.

(Image credit: Future)


Perhaps one area the HP Spectre Folio can really claim to ‘reinvent’ the PC is in its design, with the Spectre Folio built directly into a piece of genuine leather. Now, this isn’t as revolutionary as many people may have hoped for, but it does give the Spectre Folio a unique look and feel that sets it apart from other premium laptops.

You see, this isn’t just a leather cover that slips over the laptop – the leather is a part of the laptop. So, when closed, the HP Spectre Folio closes much like a magazine or a book, hence the ‘Folio’ moniker.

(Image credit: Future)

You can also use the HP Folio Spectre as a laptop, in a media mode and as a tablet, and the leather case slides into various positions with ease, supporting the screen depending on which mode you use.

Behind the screen is a seam in the folio case that allows the device to transform into various modes. Pull the screen toward the touchpad for a convenient way to watch movies and videos. 

This covers the keyboard with the screen, but still gives you access to the trackpad for controlling media playback (as well as using the touchscreen). Pull the screen even further toward the device’s base, and it will rest on top of the keyboard for a pure tablet mode.

HP Spectre Folio

When adjusting the Spectre Folio into these different modes, the laptop feels sturdy and solid. Banish any thoughts of flimsy 2-in-1 laptops with material covers, as the Folio really feels like a robust and well made bit of kit. It’s also here where you see how HP has fully integrated the leather into the design. The hinge is also strong enough for the screen to be angled when in laptop mode without the whole device tipping over. It certainly feels like a premium device.

The brown leather feels pleasant to the touch and helps keep the device in one place on otherwise slippery surfaces, like glass, marble or granite.

The WLED backlit screen is impressively vibrant, and the IPS panel offers wide viewing angles, which is useful when adjusting the screen to various modes. The screen is impressively thin, though the bezels, especially at the top, which houses a webcam, and at the bottom, which displays the HP logo, are quite thick. We’ve been spoiled by thin bezels in premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13, so they feel a little cheap and old fashioned here.

Unlike some premium devices (we’re looking at you, Surface Pro), the Spectre Folio includes a stylus, which makes the price a little more palatable. It’s got a nice heft to it when in use, and the screen reacts quickly and smoothly to drawing and writing with it. Windows 10’s robust support for stylus input must be commended here as well, as it’s put to good use by the Folio Spectre.

(Image credit: Future)

But, what of the keyboard? Many 2-in-1 devices that offer laptop and tablet modes often make compromises when it comes to keyboards, as they are often overly thin to make tablet mode more comfortable to hold.

The good news is that the keyboard is large and evenly spaced between keys, which makes it more comfortable to type on, and means you’re less likely to hit the wrong key, especially if you type quickly. However, as is often the case with 2-in-1 devices, the key travel is shallow, which means it doesn’t feel very responsive when typing. We much prefer keyboards that have a bit more travel, and therefore a more satisfying typing experience, but that’s the price you pay for having such a slimline laptop.

The spaces between the keys are also backlit, which offers a pleasant effect, and can help you type when in low light conditions. However, the letters themselves are not lit, so unless you can touch type without looking at the keys, it won’t be that useful in the dark. We're also not nig fans of the extra column of keys on the right of the BackSpace and Enter keys which, in most laptops, are the rightmost set of keys.

Where the laptop fails to impress is with the trackpad. The trackpad is small in size but that's not as big of an issue as the drivers powering it. Instead of using Microsoft Prcesion, the Folio Spectre comes with Synaptics driver which, to put mildly, is a frustrating experience. Other premium laptops have moved to a more Mac-like trackpad experience using Microsoft Precesion based trackpads but not the Folio. You'll want to carry an external mouse with this laptop.

(Image credit: Future)

Port-wise, you only get three USB-C ports, which can double as a power supply. It keeps the body slim, but it means if you have lots of legacy USB devices you’ll struggle for ports, and there’s no microSD slot either. It's important to note that while two of these USB-C ports are Thunderbolt 3, one is USB 3.1, which means it has a slower data transfer speed.

A standard USB to USB-C adapter is included in the box, which is a nice touch. The USB-C power adapter also has a braided fabric cable, further giving the Folio Spectre a premium and stylish look.

(Image credit: Future)

At 320 x 234 x 15.2mm (12.60 x 9.21 x 0.60 inches) and weighing 1.50kg (3.3lbs), this is an impressively-compact and light laptop that you can easily carry around with you. When closed, you can slip it under your arm, and in tablet mode it’s light enough to hold easily in one hand.

Combine that with its unique leather design and you’ve got a premium looking – and feeling – laptop quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. It certainly makes a statement.

It’s also worth noting that at the moment it only comes in genuine leather, so if you have ethical concerns about using leather, you’ll want to steer clear of this device.

(Image credit: Future)

Always-on internet

Another feature we’re pleased to see in the HP Folio Spectre is a SIM port for mobile LTE data. This allows you to insert a SIM card into the laptop and connect to the internet via a cellular connection.

Not only does this mean you can access the internet from almost anywhere, as long as there is network coverage, but it also means you don’t have to rely on public Wi-Fi hotspots, which can often come with security implications.

While a growing number of laptops come with LTE connectivity, it’s still relatively rare, and certainly helps the HP Folio Spectre stand out among its competitors. HP also claims this is the world’s first gigabit class LTE Intel-based laptop, offering speeds comparable (and even above) home broadband connections.