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HP Spectre Foldable reviewed: a taste of the future

Quick review

HP Spectre Foldable - $8499
The good
Brilliant industrial design
Fold out kickstand is very clever
Lovely big OLED display
Comes with accessories!
Surprisingly solid keyboard experience
Just about the coolest way to stand out with any computer
The not-so-good
No backlighting on the keyboard
Performance is hit and miss
It can get warm
Incredibly expensive

Phone form-factors are changing, but laptops, maybe not so much. Except when they do, and HP’s Spectre Foldable is a preview of what’s to come, costly as it is.

Have you ever wondered where computer designs will go next? They get faster ever year, and even manage to get seemingly thinner, but the design of the laptop has largely stayed the same, giving you a screen connected by hinge to a keyboard and mouse, with a battery underneath.

That’s the way almost every laptop is, and it’s the way every laptop design has been.

But future laptops could be very different. They could end up being all screen just like an iPad, only with some extra design ingenuity to make them stand out that little bit more.

We’re probably a few years out from every laptop adopting this approach, but HP is clearly showing a vision of the future ahead of time in a laptop called the HP Spectre Foldable. A part of the company’s premium “Spectre” line-up, the word “foldable” in the name clearly gives you an idea of what’s to come, but even that isn’t quite enough of a warning for what you should expect.

Design

Somewhere between a big tablet and a laptop computer, HP’s Spectre Foldable is sure different from everything else out there.

Encased in a blue magnesium, the first glance will make you think “yes, this is a laptop”, because it definitely yes. There’s a noticeable thick hinge that can retreat into the design dependent on the shape, and there’s a silicone accent on the back that can flip out. More on that in a moment.

The design of Spectre Foldable is clearly a laptop, and its feature set says as much, as well.

Features

Inside, HP has armed it with an Intel 12th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, four speakers, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi 6E, and a 5 megapixel webcam with privacy shield and a Windows Hello-compatible infrared camera.

All of this seems about normal for a Windows PC today, complete with a copy of Windows 11 Home.

ModelHP Spectre Foldable
ChipIntel Core i7-1250U
RAM/Storage16GB RAM / 1TB SSD
OSMicrosoft Windows 11 Home (64-bit)
ConnectionsWiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5, 2x Thunderbolt 4 with USB Type-C
Size/Weight2.14cm, 1.62kg
Price$8499 AUD

Display

The main feature is clearly the display, which is a sizeable 17 inch OLED screen running a full resolution of 2560×1920. For the size, it’s suitable, but we’ve seen more pixels on smaller screens, so HP can probably do better.

However, it’s still a nice display by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s also an imaginative one because of what it does: it folds.

Every time we’ve mentioned that this laptop is foldable in the past weeks, people just don’t get it. “Aren’t all laptops foldable?” they ask.

Yes, that’s true. But the Spectre Fold has a foldable screen, and that makes it stand out.

In fact, you get two resolutions in this foldable machine, with the standard 2560×1920 for the 17 inch form-factor or a half-res of 1920×1255 when you fold it to a 12 inch laptop.

In-use

As a result of this unique design, using the Spectre Foldable is different from just about every other laptop you’ve ever used. It’s very cool, giving you a taste of the future in just about the most amazing way.

The Spectre Fold is a great way to impress people when you’re out and about, in the office, or just generally in the world, especially once they see it in action.

Essentially, it’s a computer that can quickly jump between one of three form-factors all with ease. Laptop, tablet, desktop; it’s your choice. It’s ingenious.

To do this, HP has an impeccably premium design consisting of a massive 17 inch foldable tablet encased like a laptop with a hinge in the middle, much like it was a giant foldable phone, kind of like the clamshell foldable that is the Moto Razr 40 Ultra or from Samsung’s Z Flip series.

Granted, there’s no external screen, but the internal 17 inch screen becomes a 12 inch screen when folded in half, and there’s a magnetic wireless keyboard to mount on the bottom half to make it that.

The concept works a treat, and quickly turns that huge 17 inch tablet into a portable 12 inch laptop that you can type on and do your regular working on. It’s very cool.

HP then goes the extra mile to make the Spectre Fold into a desktop, thanks to a clever kickstand hidden in a design accent of rubber at the back of the laptop casing. Bend the rubber stand out and you can lean the 17 inch screen up, setting that wireless keyboard in front and almost magically making the whole thing into a portable desktop of sorts.

It’s really clever and highly addictive.

Even as we regularly make our way back to a 14 inch MacBook Pro, the ability to switch between a compact laptop and a sizeable desktop is really enjoyable. We even typed this part of the review folding the screen out to desktop size and just working on a larger display.

This is a laptop maker having fun with laptop design. It’s really great to see.

Performance

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the most highly spec’d of parts, using an Intel 12th-gen Core i7 clocked at 1.1GHz. For the hardcore techies out there, that’s the Intel Core i7-1250U, and while it’s a Core i7 (yay!), the clockspeed isn’t so useful that you’re going to get amazeballs performance out of it.

Benching the hardware against what we’ve reviewed prior, the HP Spectre Foldable isn’t lightyears ahead of really anything. In fact, it actually manages to feel slower than much of what’s out there, seeing lower scores than laptops that are two or three years old.

You’ll be able to do your work, load some browser tabs, and maybe even play the odd casual game or two, but make no mistake, this isn’t a workhorse by any stretch of the imagination.

It’s all too easy to make the Spectre Foldable feel sluggish at times. Even light workloads tend to make the system relatively toasty, so maybe don’t rest it on your bare legs.

HP has tried to improve things with the inclusion of 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD which helps to round out the specs, but the chip is a little off from where we’d expect, and just feels like the hardware was designed at least a good year ago.

Battery

A slightly lower end chip does come up with one win, though, because the battery life is better than you’ll expect.

Officially, HP rates the battery life at up to 14 hours or so, and that’s not out of kilter from what we experienced. In our real-life testing using the Spectre Foldable to write this review, do some more work, maintain the site, and so on, not to mention let the kids watch some Netflix, we found the machine lasted for between 8 and 12 hours with no problems.

Keep in mind that some of your battery is going to go to other parts of the system, like if you charge the included stylus using the magnetic edge, that’ll drain some battery life. It’s a similar story with the magnetic keyboard, which can draw some power from the laptop, as well.

If the keyboard drains too much, HP includes a magnetic plug with a propriety port to let you quickly reconnect and charge it, but for the most part, expect to charge the keyboard by leaving it on the laptop, which is largely the point. You can even fold the laptop shut and keep the keyboard in place, which makes it less of an accessory and more required for the Fold itself.

Charging the Spectre Foldable is easy enough, too, thanks in part to one of two USB Type C charging ports on either side, giving you an easy way to bring the battery life up. There’s a fairly meaty charge pack the Spectre arrives with, but if you grab a Thunderbolt 4 cable and a sizeable charge pack, you should be able to charge it up with nearly anything.

Value

One area that won’t win you over is the price, which sees the Spectre Fold hit a staggering price, especially for a laptop.

In Australia, the HP Spectre Foldable will set you back near $9K, fetching a recommended retail price of $8499, and offering very little flex in street price.

It’s a prohibitatively expensive price, the likes of which is typically reserved for the most premium laptops on the market. This definitely fits the billing of the Spectre Fold, but even so, over eight thousand dollars seems like too much for what you get.

Yes, this is the complete package, giving you a machine that can go from laptop to desktop to tablet in seconds, and even spec’d out with plenty of storage and memory, too. You’ll also get an extra dongle to expand the ports, providing an HDMI and more USB ports should you need them in a pinch.

But even so, that price tag… yeesh.

This is a taste of the future, sure, but it’s an expensive taste of the future.

Looks like a laptop, works like a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop.

What needs work?

And it’s a taste of the future that comes with a few things that need to be ironed out, and strangely seem like they were overlooked.

Take the keyboard accessory, which is clever because it not only fits into the laptop when it folds up, but also holds nicely using magnets. Even the typing experience is comfortable, with a small amount of travel making for a surprisingly decent laptop experience.

What’s less clever is the omission of backlighting, which makes typing in the dark very much about remembering where all the keys are and hoping the dim light from the screen is bright enough to quell your error rate.

A small LED backlighting system would have been truly helpful here, and just seems odd that it’s missing in action.

The performance hiccups are also surprising, as is the choice of the Intel 12th-gen chip. Already a year old, we’re a little surprised HP didn’t pick something 13th-gen or even from Qualcomm, both of which would have probably inched a little more life from the portable.

Paying over $8K for a computer that performs like a two or three year old machine is just a little crazy, to say the least. You’re definitely paying for the technology here, just not the chip technology.

We suppose in the next decade or so when foldable computing becomes more the norm than just a random occurrence, devices like this won’t cost quite this much. But right now, that price makes the Spectre Fold near impossible to recommend.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

Despite the older chip and the stupidly high price tag, there’s a lot we love about the Spectre Foldable. The idea is clever, the design is fun, and the execution seems impossibly brilliant.

We’re surprised HP managed to get this one out, but are glad it did. Using the Spectre Foldable has been the most fun PC experience we’ve had in years. Probably ever.

It’s such a fun concept, giving you every form of computer you could ever want. From laptop to tablet to desktop, it has it all, even if it also has your wallet, too. It just needs more oomph.

If you can afford the hefty price, the HP Spectre Fold will win you over with cleverness. It’s a genuine surprise.

And if you can’t, you’re in the same boat as us: waiting for HP to either drop the price or for other companies to come around to this creative style of computing in the next ten years. See you then.

HP Spectre Foldable
Design
Features
Performance
Ease of use
Battery
Value
The good
Brilliant industrial design
Fold out kickstand is very clever
Lovely big OLED display
Comes with accessories!
Surprisingly solid keyboard experience
Just about the coolest way to stand out with any computer
The not-so-good
No backlighting on the keyboard
Performance is hit and miss
It can get warm
Incredibly expensive
3.8
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