HP Spectre Fold
HP delivers a notebook, tablet, and desktop PC all in one attractive tiny, foldable package, writes a very impressed PAT PILCHER.
With foldable smartphones now a hotter-than-hot category, it was always just a matter of time before this technology reached laptop PCs. Asus and Lenovo were early pioneers of the foldable laptop, but it wasn’t until I spent some quality time with HP’s Spectre Fold that I began to feel like this category might have a viable future.
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Out of the box, the Spectre Fold resembles a super compact laptop, although it’s a tad thicker and packs a bit of extra heft. Its weight and waist are explainable thanks to its 17-inch folding screen, which cleverly achieves the Tardis-like feat of tucking into a 13-inch laptop chassis. Its weight isn’t too much of an issue, especially considering that at 1.62kg, it’s still plenty light enough to take out on the road.
This is the niche I’d wager HP is attempting to carve out for the Spectre Fold. It is compact enough for use on the go. Still, its multiple fold-out configurations give it a huge amount of versatility as a productivity tool.
When folded, the display sandwiches around the keyboard, which magnetically attaches to the screen and charges via induction. The keyboard performed better than I expected, given its small dimensions. Its keys offer a decent amount of travel, and while its integrated trackpad was on the small side, it worked well. HP also bundles a stylus that charges when it is magnetically attached to the side of the keyboard. If drawing or design is your thing, the stylus might be useful. I tended to use it for signing electronic documents, and that was about it.
Given its ultra-petite form factor, it isn’t surprising that the number of ports on the Spectre Fold is limited to just two Thunderbolt 4 slots. While this is disappointing, the super slim design of the Spectre Fold chassis is a key factor, and a decent Thunderbolt dock will likely be more than an ample fix. The upside is that super-fast Wi-Fi 6E is supported, which makes online activities and copying large piles of data on and off the machine feel effortless.
Unfolding the Spectre Fold shows off its stunning 17-inch OLED display to good effect. Its vivid colours and deep contrast levels make it a pleasure to use for movies, games and productivity. Access to all that screen real estate in such a tiny package almost feels like magic.
Achieving this required me to remove its keyboard and flip out the built-in stand on the back of the display. Once this was done, I had a desktop PC equivalent with a roomy 17″ screen and an external keyboard. Even cooler still, the unfolded screen did an admirable job as a super XXXXXL tablet. While on the move, I made liberal use of its laptop mode by attaching the keyboard to the bottom half of the display, which gave me a usable and highly portable 12″ notebook PC.
The only operating mode I was unimpressed with was what HP calls the one-and-a-half display mode. With it, I moved the keyboard down the display slightly (the keyboard magnets let you know when it’s correctly placed) and used the flexibility in the keyboard to let the trackpad flop down onto my dining room table. In theory, the extra bit of display should allow you to use widgets and other useful stuff while you work. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that proved useful in the limited extra space I’d gained. Samsung has mastered this with their Galaxy Fold. Still, the lack of native app support for this mode in Windows limits its usefulness.
Under the Spectre Fold’s hood sits a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 U-series CPU with 16GB RAM. For productivity and media consumption, all the tasks I tried ran smoothly. While it might not pack a state-of-the-art GPU, basic games ran easily.
When it comes to battery life, the Spectre Fold managed a run-time result that was just shy of 13 hours. Equally impressive is its sizeable 94.3Wh battery, which supports fast charging and goes from zero to 100% in just under two hours.
You’d be right if you think I’m impressed with the Spectre Fold. It takes a gimmicky and experimental form factor and, through clever design and engineering, stands out as a practical solution for road warriors wanting a super versatile productivity tool.
Couple that with its gorgeous OLED display and highly portable design, and there is much to like. The only fly in the foldable ointment is its sticker price. At $9999, the Spectre Fold will not be for everyone. While it delivers a notebook, tablet, and desktop PC all in one attractive tiny package, the flipside is that I could buy a notebook, tablet and desktop PC for the same money and have chump change left over, which sadly holds back an otherwise incredible piece of hardware from scoring 10 out of 10.