When HP announced the new Spectre Folio last October, it caused a stir. HP has been steadily providing some of the most stylish and exciting laptops on the market over the last couple of years, but the Spectre Folio takes the styling in an entirely new direction. For the first time ever, HP chose leather as a material for the entire laptop’s exterior. The Folio also offers a somewhat unique take on the convertible as well, with a display that pivots to lie on top of the keyboard, and this, combined with the leather exterior, means HP’s Spectre Folio stands apart from all other PCs on the market today.

Laptops have been primarily plastic or metal for decades. Plastic is cheaper, easy to mould, and durable. Metal offers better heat transfer, looks great, and generally feels great in the hand. Leather offers a different take. It’s soft in the hand. It tends to be very durable, and over time can develop a nice patina, and although you may feel it’s going to be less durable than a metal laptop, in reality any nicks and dings in the leather will likely blend in, whereas on metal they tend to stand out. Plus, it can be dyed various colors, and HP offers both a Cognac Brown and Bordeaux Burgundy color, both of which look amazing.

HP built the Spectre Folio to be fanless as well, which means they’ve chosen Intel’s Y series of Core processors. Although these are the latest generation Core i5-8200Y or Core i7-8500Y, the 5-Watt TDP limits them to two cores and four threads, both of which are half of a typical U series 15-Watt processor found in most notebooks of this size. A mobile workstation this is not, and we’ll dig into the performance later in the review. The laptop also ships with 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR3, and of course Intel’s UHD 615 graphics. If you need lots of storage, HP ships with up to 2 TB of NVMe SSD, although you’ll pay for that privilege.

HP Spectre Folio
Model Reviewed: Core i7 / 8 GB / 256 GB
  Core i5 Core i7
CPU Intel Core i5-8200Y
1.3-3.9 GHz
Intel Core i7-8500Y
1.5-4.2 GHz
RAM 8 to 16 GB LPDDR3-1866
Storage 256GB to 2TB NVMe SSD
Display 13.3" 1920x1080 IPS
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
3840x2160 IPS Optional
Wireless Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Intel XMM 7560 LTE Advanced Pro optional
Audio Bang & Olufsen quad-speakers
Keyboard Full-size backlit
I/O 2 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A (via included dongle)
Headset jack
Battery 54.28-Wh battery
65-Watt AC Adapter
Dimensions 12.6 x 9.23 x 0.60 inches
Weight 3.28 lbs
Ships with Digital Pen
USB-C to A dongle
Prices $1299.99 and up

The 13.3-inch notebook offers impressive expansion though, with two Thunderbolt 3 ports offering 40 Gb/s transfer rates, and a third USB Type-C port as well. It feels like we’re at a point where moving completely to USB Type-C is not the burden it once was, but HP also ships the notebook with a Type-C to Type-A adapter for accessing older devices.

For all-day connectivity, HP offers the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 network adapter, which is one of the best on the market. In fact it’s likely only surpassed by the Intel 9260. HP also offers LTE integrated into the laptop with the Intel XMM 7560 modem. Pair those with the 55 Wh battery, and you’ve got a true all-day anywhere device.

HP also includes a stylus in the box, along with a pen holder you can stick on the laptop. It offers Windows Hello IR facial recognition, and Bang & Olufsen speakers. This is all excellent, but really, the key to this laptop is the leather design.

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  • peevee - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    5W for 2 cores at 1.3GHz.

    Apple A12 is ~5W for 2 similarly fast (in terms of IPC) cores at ~2.5GHz + 4 slow efficient cores.
    10nm fiasco costed Intel a lot.
  • Retycint - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    Intel was never really as efficient for mobile (<5W) though, which is why their atom line failed spectacularly. ARM-based processors definitely has the advantage in the low-power field
  • Korguz - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    im sure HStewart will find a way to refute this.. and bash arm based cpus some how...
  • AshlayW - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    I like the idea of a leather covered laptop, leather feels nice to the touch for me. And it makes a nice change I think. I have an HP ENVY X360 with the Ryzen 2500U in it, and it is a really great little machine and was £649 when I bought it. I can manually set the power limit to 30W and disable the skin temperature throttling for maximum sustained performance. It is around 3.1 GHz all core in multi-thread and 3.4-3.5 GHz in single threaded. In games the GPU can boost to 800-900 MHz and easily beats any Ultrathin Intel iGPU. Also I think at stock the 2500U is heavily throttling so it explains why it gets beaten a lot by this device in the review. (yes I am aware that the whole point is that they are efficient, and yes Intel's processor is more efficient, largely helped by the fact that Intel 14nm+++ has vastly superior power and voltage characteristics to GlobalFoundries 14nmLP/P).

    As for 5W, in this power envelope, 10/7nm will really, really help a lot here. I think if AMD can get 7nm low power mobile chips out soon-ish, they can have a really big competitive advantage against these 14nm Intel ones. But that said, Ryzen with onboard graphics is usually an entire cycle behind the desktop CPUs without. 12nm 3000-series APU are uninteresting for me, as it is basically 10% or close to that, more performance than my 2500U at the same power use. But I heard the idle power use is vastly improved. Sorry I typed a huge comment.
  • ikjadoon - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    Excellent review.

    This laptop was one of the inspirations for Project Athena, apparently.

    >Though the HP Spectre Folio wasn’t explicitly described as a Project Athena device, it’s representative of the collaboration between Intel and its PC partners.


    Props to the 1W display. I'd love a deep dive by Anandtech on how 1W (LPDT) panels work. IIRC, they use LTPS backplanes (a-si -> IGZO -> LTPS from worst to best), panel self-refresh, variable refresh rate, more efficient backlights, and some panel microcontroller efficiencies.


    So a lot of good technologies on their own brought together into a shipping product.
  • Gc - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    In 2013, the Sony Fit 13A, 14A, 15A "Flip PCs" had screens that can flip down over the keyboard.

    Spun off, Vaio continued with the Vaio Z Flip in 2016.
    That model still seems to be sold in Japan.
  • Gc - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    One benefit of the flip-down screen is that it is simpler and quicker to switch between keyboard mode and pen mode for taking notes. Other convertibles require picking up the whole computer, which can disturb your neighbors in a meeting or lecture. A benefit of the leather surfaces might be to quiet any clattering as the pieces fold together.
  • wr3zzz - Friday, June 7, 2019 - link

    I pre-order the Folio and have been using it as my daily work machine since. I agree with every point in this review.

    One thing to note is that Dell just added fans to its XPS 13 2-in-1 so it looks like the Folio could be the only premium fanless notebook with screen larger than 13" left in the market.
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