HP's latest convertible laptop is weirder than most.
The Spectre Folio has an unusual chassis, made of leather and magnesium alloy instead of typical aluminum, reminiscent of the fabric surrounding the keyboard on the Microsoft Surface laptop. Starting at $1,299 (for a full HD and i5 CPU), the Spectre Folio is actually cheaper than I expected for something billed as a premium product.
HP worked with Intel to customize the Folio's processor; it's an 8th-Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor with either 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. Storage starts at a 256GB SSD, but you can upgrade to a 2TB drive. It will be running Windows 10 out of the box and from what I saw, not much bloatware is here.
If you spring for it, the Folio also packs an Intel gigabit LTE chip inside for accessing mobile networks when WiFi isn't available (provided you get a data plan for the machine, of course). In the U.S., the Folio will work on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. It has both a physical SIM card slot and an e-sim inside, allowing for secure connections abroad. Sprint will offer customers six months of free service with activation on the Spectre Folio. As for why you'd want a data plan for your laptop, HP emphasized privacy, noting that public WiFi networks aren't the most secure.
In line with previous HP devices, Bang & Olufsen is an exclusive partner for the speakers. Since the design of the Folio is quite thin, the speaker grille lives on top of the keyboard. However, the hardware powering the sound is actually in the hinge.
HP is promising an impressive 18-hour battery life, but it didn't opt for a stacked battery design like Apple did for the MacBook. Instead, you have four separate cells in the frame. With three USB-C ports (two of which are Thunderbolt 3) you can charge from any of them. While you can upgrade up to a 4K display, the entry-level Spectre Folio has a Full HD (1080p) monitor. In my brief hands-on with the Folio, I thought the screen looked bright and colors were vibrant.
Design-wise, the Spectre Folio looks really lovely, and definitely has the feel of a notebook — that is, a traditional pen-and-paper notebook. HP will offer the Spectre Folio in either a Bordeaux Burgundy or Cognac Brown at launch. I have a feeling that more color options will arrive in the future.
It looks visually captivating in person, and the company days it's tested the leather for durability. Leather is on the outside, but it's molded with a magnesium alloy frame underneath. Pushing out of the leather base is a frame that contains the keyboard that has slight incline too it. Typing on the keys felt pretty good, but the keys don't travel as deeply as on most notebooks.
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As a convertible, the Folio has four modes, but it's more like three since HP counts the laptop closed as one of them (what am I supposed to do with that?). You get a traditional laptop form, a tablet mode where the display folds down over the keyboard, and finally a "forward" mode, where the display folds over backward so it's facing outward (see the tweet above).
The Spectre Folio comes with a proprietary Digital Pen stylus . It will charge via USB-C and can be attached to the side of the laptop with a leather holder.
Case in point, HP is definitely going in a new direction with this design, and I'm eager to see if the Spectre Folio holds up as well as HP says.
HP is kicking off pre-orders today, and the Spectre Folio will be exclusively in Best Buy for in-store availability, beginning on Oct. 29. The LTE and 4K display variants will be launching in the coming months.