Image default
Tech

HP Spectre Foldable review: A truly futuristic laptop

HP Spectre FoldableImage: Dominic Bayley / IDG

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

The folding design is ingenious and works wellThe OLED display is gorgeousPeripherals are magnetic and charge on the device

Cons

There are just two ports availableThe port placement isn’t greatIt lacks grunt for power users

Our Verdict

The HP Spectre Foldable is the best 3-in-1 foldable laptop we’ve used to date, showing off a number of features that add to user experience and build on what rivals have achieved previously. We just wish it was a little more powerful.

Price When Reviewed

4799.99

Best Prices Today: HP Spectre Foldable

RetailerPriceHP$4799.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Much fanfare has been made about the HP Spectre Foldable since the laptop’s launch. So, does it live up to all the hype? The simple answer from a design perspective is absolutely it does. This 17-inch laptop does exactly what its name implies, folding down the middle of its continuous OLED display and converting from a laptop to a desktop to a tablet and vice versa.

It isn’t a new concept. I’ve seen the same kind of versatility in likes of the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED. But, it does feel a little more refined, from the design heights the Zenbook achieved, the Foldable goes one further, slimming down in size, shedding some weight, and rocking the most unobtrusive fold I’ve seen to date.

The one downside is that the Foldable shows off only middling CPU power. It also costs a whopping $4,799 at checkout. If you’re not a power user, the middling performance may well be of no consequence, but if you’re expecting this laptop to pull out all the stops for heavy productivity work, then all its wonderfully bendy circus tricks may not quite be enough.

Looking for more options? Check out PCWorld’s roundup of the best laptops available right now.

HP Spectre Foldable: Specifications

Right now, there’s just one configuration of this laptop available for purchase. It features an Intel i7-1250U, 16GB of DDDR 5 RAM, and integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. The full specifications are as follows:

CPU: Intel i7-1250URAM: 16GB DDR5 / 5200 MHzGraphics: Intel Iris XeDisplay: 2.5K (1920 x 2560), Foldable, touch-sensitive, OLED, 99.5 % DCI-P3 color gamut, VESA TrueBlack HDR compatible, TUV+Eyesafe for low blue lightStorage: 1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMeWebcam:  HP True Vision 5MP IR cameraConnectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports (USB Power Delivery and DisplayPort 1.4)Networking: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Battery capacity: 94.3 WHrDimensions: 10.91 x 14.81 x 0.33 inches (unfolded), 10.1 x 7.53 x 0.84 inches (folded)Weight: 3.58 lbs (with keyboard attached), 2.99 lbs (without keyboard)Cost: $4,999.99 (base price)

HP Spectre Foldable: Design and build

To me, using the Spectre Foldable is like playing with an 80s Transformer that I just have to put through its paces. But in this case, instead of vehicle and transformer mode, it’s the laptop’s three main forms that have me enthralled – desktop, laptop, and tablet. Suffice to say, this laptop is incredibly fun to use, but it’s also a pragmatist’s dream, a marvel of engineering that really deserves praise for what its design will do for your working life, if you dare to make use of it.

Without big noting myself, I was quick to do just that and it made me far more reactive to my work environments. The biggest boon for me was that I could work from anywhere, without the usual restraints placed on me by my Dell Vostro’s simple clamshell design.

On the bus in 12.3 laptop mode, for example, the Foldable proved more compact and less cumbersome than my 15-inch Vostro, which substantially sped up output. Reaching home, in a few seconds I could lift off the keyboard and expand it out at the fold to become a 17-inch tablet. This was my preferred form for researching laptop stats while simultaneously watching video recipes to inspire dinner.

Pulling out the kickstand and placing the Bluetooth keyboard out in front converted the laptop into a desktop PC/monitor – the mode that dominated my working day. This bestowed the kind of generous 17-inch visuals I’d usually have to go into the office for but could now get anywhere, on a park table, in my local café, or at the library, which really streamlined my work day.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

For all that versatility to work, HP have really done some lateral thinking on the design. In tablet mode the laptop is remarkably thin – it measures just 0.33 of an inch thick (14.8 x 10.9 x 0.33 altogether). This keeps the weight down to just 2.99 pounds, which makes it both smaller and lighter than the Asus Zenbook Fold OLED (14.9 x 11.32 x 0.5 inches, and 3.31 pounds)

In laptop mode, it measures 10.1 x 7.53 x 0.84 and weighs 3.58 pounds, which again is more compact and lighter than the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED’s 11.3 x 7.5 x 1.25 inches and 3.97 pounds. In this mode in particular, the laptop feels altogether strong and robust. Its recycled magnesium alloy chassis is impressive in your hands feeling solid and looking slick with a premium metallic blue finish that could match any flagship model in HP’s lineup.

The laptop’s desktop mode relies heavily on a slim kickstand to stand it up, which you can simply pull out from a groove on the laptop’s rear. That kickstand had more than a few tech journalists worried that it could actually do the job at the first showings of the device, but it turns out it’s surprisingly strong and holds the unit up with gusto without any visible wobbles whatsoever.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

HP Spectre Foldable: A bendy laptop’s Achilles’ heel

Much of how well a folding laptop works comes down to its fold. In this case, the Spectre Foldable’s is the best I’ve seen. It bends seamlessly, relying on a u-shaped hinge mechanism that’s both clever and discreet. HP reinforced the inside with metal plates, so it’s remarkably strong – good for 25,000 flexes, according to the manufacturer. The hinge itself is only visible from the sides and the back of the device, so there’s no unsightliness either.

HP has customized some of the internal componentry to make the bend as seamless as possible. The laptop’s 94.3 WHr battery, for example, has been split into two parts and placed down each side to balance the weight out. Equilibrium has been achieved so brilliantly that I never noticed any unequal weight distribution in my testing.

The bend works nearly perfectly in laptop mode. Here, it held the lid firmly open at just about any angle I wanted it. In tablet mode, however, the lack of a true solid hinge felt a bit awkward at times, like I was holding a very large book open that could sway and jump if I didn’t hold it correctly. You simply don’t get the solid feeling you get holding a dedicated tablet.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

While I did get somewhat used to that, what I never quite got used to is the light glare. The Foldable suffers from the same kind of dreaded reflection in its fold that I saw in the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, which does impede your view of the display at that point. That said, this problem is a lot less obvious than its rival, thanks to the crease being a tad smaller, 3 mm across instead of 4mm or bigger in the Zenbook, so kudos to HP for achieving that.

HP Spectre Foldable: Keyboard, touchpad, and stylus

The Foldable’s magnetic keyboard slots into place on one side of the display and can be removed just as easily. It measures 12-inches which doesn’t make it full-sized, but it feels spacious, nonetheless. The keys too are also very spacious, they measure 1.5 cm each way, which made typing a breeze during the day. With no backlighting, however, their visibility is greatly reduced at night.

The keyboard is covered in a soft pleather-like material that feels tactile and grippy. There’s a slight bend in the board between the keys and the trackpad side which simplifies lifting the keyboard free of the device. The keyboard layout is generous too; you get large arrow keys, a full contingent of Function keys and both left and right Shift and Control keys.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

Magnets in the keyboard clip it into place in two positions – either fully covering one side of a bend or at a position half hanging off the edge. The latter makes a surprising fourth mode possible which HP calls 1.5 mode. In this configuration one quarter of the lower display remains visible, like you will see in the Asus’ Duo dual screen laptops. This mode proved ideal for when I needed to cross-reference data.

One really useful point about the keyboard is is that you can store it inside the laptop when you fold it down. Doing this, however, isn’t without a small problem – that being, there’s no groove in the front of the laptop in order to wedge it open again. Consequently, the keyboard tends to attach and lift up to the topside when you open. It’s a slightly annoying trait that means you’ll need to spend time reaffixing it to the bottom at times.

The touchpad is quite large considering the keyboard’s dimensions – it measures 11 x 6 cm. It has a stable click that’s neither too soft nor too hard. The Foldable’s stylus is also magnetic. It features two programmable buttons and a flat side for easy attachment. It holds a pleasant weight in your hand and is suitably responsive for taking notes and drawing in programs like Microsoft OneNote.

Both the keyboard and stylus recharge on the device, or else you can charge the keyboard separately with a USB-C adapter.

HP Spectre Foldable: Connectivity

With just two Thunderbolt 4 ports constituting the Foldable’s I/O offering (one on the top left and another on the bottom right of the display when in laptop mode) the laptop is lacking the kind of upfront connectivity you might normally expect from a 3-in-1 laptop.

That said, Thunderbolt 4 ports are some of the more useful and sought-after ports for productivity today and the two will mostly cover your basic power, file transfer and presentation needs. Each port bestows a quick file transfer speed of up to 40GB/s and additionally allow you to stream content to two 4K displays or a single 8K display at 60 frames per seconds.

The Foldable also ships with a port adapter that allows you to access two USB-A ports, a HDMI and USB-C passthrough, which I was well glad to have access to, considering the conflagration of USB-A devices I have. What I did wish the laptop had, however, was a microSD card reader and 3.5mm headphone jack (which Asus’s Zenbook has) – these being two things I tend to use a lot of these days. I also found port placement less than ideal, especially when using a USB dock or external drives, which tended to hang awkwardly off the laptop’s back.

HP Spectre Foldable: Display

The color depth is superb on the Foldable’s 2.5K resolution 99.5 percent DCI-P3 OLED display, which brings to life rich and vibrant images and videos. If you’re intending to do creative work, it’s entirely possible you could do your best work on this panel in Adobe Photoshop or another such program, especially with the MPP 2.0 Tilt pen and touch-functionality at your fingertips.

The panel’s per pixel illumination means the colors contrast superbly against the very deep OLED blacks. The display also has IMAX Enhanced certification, which means it has IMAX’s tick of approval for immersive visuals. It also means it’s possible to play content shot specifically for IMAX’s expanded aspect ratio on it, which is previously something only HP’s x360 laptop could claim to do.

The panel is also suitably bright. I measured a peak brightness of 398 nits by my Lux meter in SDR mode, however in HDR mode the display provides up to 500 nits peak brightness, which means its more than visible in sunny rooms.

HP Spectre Foldable: Audio and webcam

Considering the Foldable is about half the width of the chopping board in my kitchen, the audio it produces is surprisingly decent. It’s delivered by a quad array of Bang and Olufsen speakers which sound clear and project volume nicely from the laptop’s sides, so that you can hear them no matter what mode you’re in.

As you’d expect in such a thin unit, however, treble and mid tones tend to dominate the soundscape, which is almost completely devoid of any bass presence. Testing the speakers with Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas, proved the speakers could deliver balanced vocals at medium volume – but Mariah’s voice became a little wobbly at higher volumes.

The Spectre Foldable makes use of a HP 5MP camera which produces natural looking images in normal daytime lighting. Its use does, however, come with a small caveat: you’ll generally want to use it in laptop mode only since the camera position changes to the left-hand side in desktop mode rendering your image in a vertical orientation, which isn’t suitable for meetings.

As long as you use it in the correct orientation, the camera’s convenient privacy shutter located on the top right-hand corner (in laptop mode) is a useful feature for when you want to go incognito in your meetings.

HP Spectre Foldable: Performance

The HP Spectre Foldable’s i7-1250U CPU belongs to Intel’s Raptor Lake-U family – especially made for lightweight productivity laptops like this one. The processor first debuted in February 2022 – more than a year ago – which begs the question: why would HP choose a 12th gen processor over a more recent and more powerful 13th gen chip?

At HP’s Global Headquarters in Palo Alto California, a HP spokesperson explained to me that this choice came down to power. The Intel i7-1250U chip operates at 9W, whereas Intel’s 13th gen chips have a TDP of at least 15W, which would have forced changes to more facets of the design than HP was willing to change.

At a glance then, the Intel i7-1250U features 10 cores and 12 threads and operates at a base frequency of 1.1GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost Frequency of 4.7Ghz. The chip, which is built on a 7 nm manufacturing process, also includes Intel Iris Xe Integrated graphics. In our laptop it fed 16GB of DDR5 RAM and 1TB of SSD storage.

To test the CPU’s power, I first zeroed in on Maxon’s Cinebench Multi-Threaded benchmark. This benchmark flexes all the cores of a laptop’s CPU to show how well it will fare when tasked with the same all-core flexing CPU-load in a real-world task. I graphed the results below.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

In UL’s PCMark 10 benchmark our laptop’s CPU proved just a moderate performer in the comparison lineup, falling in line behind laptops like the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED, Acer Asprie Vero 14 and Dell Latitude Ultralight.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

Moving on to the graphics performance and the Spectre Foldable achieved a score of just 1,146 in the 3DMark Time Spy Overall benchmark. While this kind of score isn’t unexpected for a laptop with just Integrated graphics, it’s also not great when held up against scores from our comparisons.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

In summary, these results don’t tell us a very encouraging story about the Foldable’s performance capabilities. They show us a laptop that has enough power for light productivity tasks like spreadsheet work, word processing and videoconferencing, but you’re not going to want to do any kind of heavy lifting work like video editing or encoding on it – tasks which are likely to run sluggishly on this laptop – at least compared to a more powerful productivity laptop like the Asus 14 Flip OLED.

Laptops with integrated graphics are designed for lightweight graphics tasks anyway, but even accounting for that fact, the Foldable’s graphics performance seems to be lacking somewhat also. Again, you shouldn’t have any trouble with light tasks like rendering simple 2D images or watching videos, but for more complex tasks like 3D rendering the Spectre Foldable is going to struggle,

The takeaway here is there seems to be a dichotomy between the laptop’s excellent design and its lacklustre power offering. The design is undoubtedly brilliant, but it’s possibly arrived too early for a suitable chip to provide the kind of performance the laptop requires.

The big question then, is a personal one: is the versatility you’re likely to get in the Spectre Foldable’s design worthwhile for the kind of step-down in performance you might get compared to other 3-in-1s? For me and my simple word processing needs – it was. But then again, I didn’t lay down $5,000 for the privilege of using it.

HP Spectre Foldable: Battery life

The HP Spectre Foldable comes with a 94.3WHr battery and a compact 110W USB-C charger. With HP going to enormous lengths to fit such a large battery into the laptop’s folding design, I had high hopes the Spectre Foldable could last at least 8 hours, which is the minimum requirement of most office workers.

To find out, I set a 4K movie on repeat in the Windows Film and TV app and switched the Wi-Fi to airplane mode. I also set the volume to 50 percent and plugged in a cheap pair of headphones to keep sound to a minimum. Lastly, I sat back and timed how long it took for the laptop to switch to Standby Mode.

As you can see in the graph below, the Spectre Foldable lasted a respectable 14 hours in laptop mode before running out of juice. This is longer than the Asus 14 Flip OLED, Microsoft Surface Laptop 5, and the Lenovo Yoga 9i. In a nutshell, it suggests you can almost assuredly leave your charger at home on an average workday and quite easily run the Foldable all day long without needing to recharge.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

HP Spectre Foldable: Is it worth buying?

There’s no doubt the HP Spectre Foldable is the best of the folding 3-in-1 laptops I’ve seen to date, with a design that seamlessly moves through its different modes like a master craftsman who has honed their craft over many years. The utility of such a design is undoubtedly huge. That said, the Foldable’s unimpressive CPU power is like an unwanted stowaway disrupting the smooth sailing of an otherwise tip top ship.

Is the Spectre Foldable another example of a technology that doesn’t quite live up to reputation? That depends on what you need it for. In my view, most users aren’t going to be troubled by the laptop’s power limitations – only creators wanting more oomph for high-end programs are going to have any issue here. Either way the laptop’s $4,799 price tag should at least give you some food for thought to pause before you buy, to consider what you really need your productivity laptop to be able to do.

Best Prices Today: HP Spectre Foldable

RetailerPriceHP$4799.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

Based in Australia, Dominic Bayley is a hardcore tech enthusiast. His PCWorld focus is on PC gaming hardware: laptops, mice, headsets and keyboards.

Recent stories by Dominic Bayley:

Dell XPS vs. Inspiron vs. Latitude laptops: Which should you buy?Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review: Small, thin, and impossibly mightyRazer Blade 14 review: Still Razer’s most versatile gaming laptop

Related posts

Best wireless gaming mice 2024: Top picks and reviews

admin

Acer's gaming monitor blowout includes a 1080p display for $99

admin

Fugitive Danish IT Chief Surrenders to LA Police

admin

Leave a Comment