HP Spectre Folio Review: A Luxurious Leather-Clad Beauty

HP Spectre Folio: Design and Build Quality

HP touts the Spectre Folio as the world’s first leather convertible PC and we’re inclined to agreed. Its swathed in 100-percent genuine, full-grain leather with excellent craftsmanship. The material, stitch and seams are consistent throughout the entire notebook for a uniform look that looks more at home in a Neiman Marcus store versus Best Buy. Two color combinations are available – cognac brown and Bordeaux burgundy – matched with an ash or luminous gold chassis. We received a cognac brown and ash review unit.

Opening the Spectre Folio reveals the aluminum chassis and glass 13.3-inch LCD display. HP gave the Spectre Folio the thinner bezel treatment, but its still not nearly as thin as a Dell XPS 13, which packs a 13.3-inch screen into an 11.6-inch form factor. We appreciate the slightly thicker bezel, which HP employed to install the webcam above the display. The 1080p camera features IR for Windows Hello support for facial recognition login.

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The 2-in-1 form factor lets the Spectre Folio perform four origami positions for your varying use cases. There’s the standard laptop mode, which is actually serviceable on your lap, a tilted forward position, which covers the keyboard but maintains trackpad access, and two tablet modes. The design feels to us like HP finally nailed the 2-in-1 form factor with the kind of sophistication and panache that no other notebook manufacture has thus far. It supports the tablet angles we appreciate from the detachable Microsoft Surface Pro without sacrificing the "lapability" of a traditional clamshell design, while also keeping it thin.

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HP includes the Active Pen with all configurations of the Spectre Folio. The simple pen supports native 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and requires a single AAA battery. The pen doesn’t support tilt control, but you can shell out $80 for the rechargeable HP Tilt Pen, if you so choose, and it's fully compatible with the Spectre Folio. Microsoft’s Surface supports more levels of pressure sensitivity, but the HP Active Pen is adequate for taking notes and the occasional doodle.

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The Spectre Folio keyboard has shallow travel keys, but they don’t feel mushy. There’s a small yet satisfying click with each key press. HP’s keyboard design provides the home, page up/down and end buttons to the right of your typical backspace, enter and shift keys, which still takes getting used to. We found our right hand placed in the wrong area many times when typing. The location of the home, page up/down and home keys shifts the keyboard to the left while the trackpad remains dead center, which feels ergonomically awkward, frankly. The trackpad glides smoothly, but multi-touch gesture sensitivity could be better, especially when it comes to two finger touch and scrolling.

Bang & Olufsen-branded premium audio is included with the Spectre Folio and features speakers that reside above the keyboard. Audio quality is adequate with clear highs, but some mid and low range is missing, as expected from a thin laptop. It’s fine for casual music and watching videos, but you’re better off with external headphones or speakers if you want good audio. HP includes its Audio Control app to control the Bang & Olufsen Experience, which essentially boosts bass, treble and dialog clarity. Turning off the Bang & Olufsen experience in the Audio Control app results in dull and uninspiring audio, so we suggest leaving it on.

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Hidden behind the display is a physical SIM card slot for the integrated LTE modem. The integrated Intel XMM 7560 modem supports up to Gigabit downlink speeds and is the same radio used in the latest Apple iPhones. It supports 35 LTE bands and CDMA, which means it should work with most phone carriers across the world. There’s even an integrated eSIM for dual SIM support.

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Other IO connectivity are somewhat sparse on the HP Spectre Folio – your choices are one of the three USB Type-C ports or a 3.5mm headphone jack. Two of the USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 3.0 with the full four PCIe lanes. The third USB-C port is a standard USB 3.1 Gen1 port, which is essentially a USB 3.0 port with a more drawn-out name. HP includes a USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter for those that need an old school USB Type-A port.

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One last nice little detail of the Spectre Folio is the charger. HP didn’t simply throw in a plain USB-C charger. Instead, the included charger has a stylish fabric-wrapped charging cord that matches the notebook’s sleek looks. It’s a very small touch but compliments the leather design and shows potential customers that the company cares about the finer details, no matter how small. The Spectre Folio also supports HP Fast Charge, which provides a 50-percent charge in only 30-minutes.

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