HP Spectre Folio Review: A Luxurious Leather-Clad Beauty

HP Spectre Folio: Display Performance And Living On The Folio

The HP Spectre Folio we tested arrived just in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend and a quick business trip to San Jose the following week. I packed the HP Spectre Folio with my camera gear for Thanksgiving with my family and used it for writing this review, editing photos and miscellaneous office productivity. The idea was to try living on this machine as a daily driver.

HP Spectre Folio Display Quality And Performance

Before I used it as my daily, however, I ran my Spyder 4Pro to check the color gamut capabilities of the Spectre Folio’s display. The measurements reveal the display supports 100-percent of the sRGB color range and 78-percent of AdobeRGB. The HP Spectre Folio doesn’t hold a candle to the HP Zbook X2 G4’s DreamColor display, but we didn’t expect it to and 100-percent RGB coverage is respectable, nevertheless. 
Spectre Folio Gamut
Finally, HP claims brightness of 400 nits and we believe that number. The Spectre Folio screen gets blindly-bright at 100-percent power. We found 25 - 50 percent brightness adequate for day-to-day use. Its viewing angles are also excellent, as expected for an IPS screen.

The first notable issue I ran into with the Folio is size because my backpack of choice is a ThinkTank Perception Tablet, designed to accommodate camera gear and a tablet. My personal Dell XPS 13 (Skylake) fits perfectly in the tablet slot, but the Spectre Folio is a few millimeters too wide. I had to use a larger OGIO backpack to fit it. The Spectre Folio might have thin bezels and a sleek form factor, but its still a standard size 13.3-inch notebook, so don’t try to squeeze it into smaller pockets. This experience inspired me to upgrade to a slightly larger Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, because I’ve outgrown the Thinktank bag.

Thanksgiving went smooth with the Spectre Folio. I brought the USB-C charger just in case, but never had to use it. HP touts up to 21 hours of battery life for video playback, but my typical use during Thanksgiving weekend never completely depleted the battery, even when I did some light photo editing. I simply plugged it in at night next to my phone.

There was a time I'd would complain about the lack of USB-A ports, but most of the devices I travel with have USB-C. I typically bring a notebook, phone camera, Nintendo Switch and sometimes noise-cancelling headphones. My Pixel 2 XL, Nintendo Switch and Sony A7 III all have USB-C charging and file transfers. My Sony WH1000xM2 noise-cancelling headphones are the only remaining thing that relies on micro USB, which I can live with.

Photo Processing With The Spectre Folio

I've been an Adobe Lightroom user since its release over a decade ago. My recent upgrade to a Sony A7 III from a Fuji X-E2 lead me to evaluate different RAW processing software. I switched to Capture Pro One (Sony Edition) and ditched Lightroom shortly before the HP Spectre Folio arrived. Anyone that’s used Lightroom can acknowledge how terribly slow it runs, regardless of the hardware you have and it has seemingly only gotten worse with each new iteration.

HP Spectre Folio 22

Capture Pro One runs a lot leaner and the Spectre Folio handled the job easily with the A7 III’s 24.2MP RAW files when I was on the go. Mind you, I’m only a hobbyist when it comes to photography and use my gear to photograph my young kids and cars. My workflow is simple – I transfer the RAW images to the notebook, make some quick exposure adjustments, crop, straighten and apply a style to achieve the look I want.

Spectre Folio Capture One CPU Utilization

There were occasional hang ups when working with larger batches of images, but the little efficient Core i7-8500Y casually chugs along. I found myself using the touchscreen and Active Pen more than the trackpad with the Spectre Folio in forward and tablet positions. The Capture Pro One UI works well with touch screens and the Active Pen is an excellent companion for cropping, straightening images and other tasks that require greater precision than your fingers or the trackpad can provide. Exporting images does take patience, but I pre-set my expectations accordingly for a 5W TDP processor when it came to raw processing power.

Spectre Folio Travel Experience

I had a brief same day, fly in/out business trip to San Jose, Calif. last week that I needed my laptop for. I opted to load Outlook on the Spectre Folio and bring that instead of my personal machine. The Spectre Folio fits well on the tray tables in economy seats on Alaska Airlines. I worked on this review briefly and found it comfortable to use, before tucking it away and playing Let’s Go Pikachu on the Nintendo Switch.

Spectre Folio on plane

My total time spent in the air and in San Jose was around 19 hours. It was a long day that started with a 5:50 AM flight. The Spectre Folio ended up with a 50-percent remaining charge with light use throughout the day. I could’ve easily made the trip without bringing a charger with me.

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