Bold and luxurious convertible

The screen of the HP Spectre Folio can be positioned at an angle just above the touchpad.
The screen of the HP Spectre Folio can be positioned at an angle just above the touchpad.PHOTO: HP

The first thing that hit me about the HP Spectre Folio is the smell. Not the usual odour of new electronics, but the musky whiff of leather, like the interior of a new car.

The scent rolls off the Folio's leather-clad body, which is not, like one would expect, clad in a leather case. Rather, this new HP convertible laptop and its genuine leather cover are inseparable.

It definitely turns heads and is a great accessory for a high-level executive.

But while luxurious, the leather exterior is not what makes the Folio different from other hybrid computers that switch between laptop and tablet forms.

Its trick is a hidden kickstand behind the display that lets you move the screen forward, from its default clamshell laptop mode until it comes to rest at an angle just above the touchpad.

Magnets hold the screen in this position, which is great for watching videos, playing games or when you do not need the keyboard.

The kickstand can be folded further - leaving the back of the display to rest on the keyboard and the touchpad - to achieve a tablet form.

A stylus is bundled, but the leather loop to hold it is attached to the Folio with sticky tape. It feels like a cheap, ad-hoc solution and I am not convinced that the tape will maintain its stickiness over time.

The Folio is slightly heavier than its slim form would suggest, clocking in at around 1.5kg, which is average for a hybrid laptop with a 13-inch screen.

To keep it slim, HP has outfitted it with thin Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C ports, all of which can be used to charge the device. A dongle with an HDMI output, a USB Type-A port and a USB Type-C port is included.

The leather body does pose some potential issues. I am not sure how its pristine looks will survive a year of usage, or how it would cope with accidental liquid spills.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $2,299

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-8200Y (1.3GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 615

    RAM: 8GB

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, audio jack

    BATTERY: 54 watt-hour

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4.5/5

The Folio feels only slightly warm after extended use. Perhaps it has to do with the leather, which is a worse conductor of heat than a metal chassis. Or it could be because of the Folio's processor, which is a low-power variant that draws just 5W of power compared with 15W for the usual Intel notebook processor.

In fact, the Intel processor in the Folio does not require a cooling fan and runs silently. The downside is that this processor, denoted by its "Y" suffix, is not as powerful as the standard laptop chip (with the "U" suffix).

The benchmark results confirm this. In the PCMark 10 benchmark which assesses a computer's general system performance, the Folio scores 2,944 points, which is significantly lower than the average 3,500 points achieved by other laptops.

To be fair, I find the Folio to run sufficiently fast for basic computing tasks such as Web browsing and text editing. It is probably not the most suitable device for crunching large Excel spreadsheets.

But it has incredible battery stamina when it comes to video playback. It lasted 13hr5min in the video-loop battery test while running a video at maximum brightness.

•Verdict: A luxurious and unique convertible that offers incredible battery life and decent performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2019, with the headline 'Bold and luxurious convertible'. Print Edition | Subscribe