HP only recently showed off its new folding, OLED convertible laptop at its HP Flex event that was peripheral to SXSW Sydney. It was commonly called the HP Fold but the official name is actually the overly descriptive HP Spectre Foldable 17 – something we can ordinarily get behind. We’ll see what sticks.
It’s naturally reminiscent of Asus’ recent rival, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED except this feels very much like a polished, Gen 2 upgrade. We were hoping that it would cost less than the Asus’ eye-watering $6,999 but the HP Spectre Foldable 17 costs a kick-to-the-groin-like $8,499(!) So, who is it aimed at, who should actually buy it and most importantly, will our HP Spectre Foldable 17 review show whether it’s worth it?
Table of Contents
|Screen||17-inch, glossy, 60Hz, 1,920 x 2,560, OLED, touchscreen display|
|Processor||3.5-4.7GHz Intel Core i7-1250U CPU|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR5-5200 RAM|
|Graphics||Integrated 0.95GHz Intel Xe GPU|
2 x Thunderbolt 4
2 x USB-A 3.2
1 x USB-C
|Extra Security||TPM 2.0 module|
Windows Hello webcam
|Dimensions||277 x 376 x 9mm (unfolded)|
277 x 191 x 21mm (folded)
|Weight||1.32KG without keyboard|
1.59KG with keyboard
Features, Ergonomics and Design
A foldable OLED screen is always going to grab people’s attention. However, when Asus did it, the awe-induced looks went quickly quizzicle when it was turned over and a pug-ugly clasp was seen holding it together. Conversely, the HP Spectre Foldable 17 looks like a thin, 17-inch OLED tablet when its unfolded and a regular ultraportable laptop when it’s closed. It can also does an impressive impression of a desktop PC. It’s what we hoped the Asus would be.
The dark chassis is the same ‘Slate Blue’ we recently saw on the impressive Envy Dragonfly G4 laptop but it’s not got the same, high-quality, mostly-magnesium, metal finish. That’s not much of an issue as most people will judge its appearance by the screen.
The HP Spectre Foldable 17 comes with a high-quality plastic keyboard and trackpad that can either sit on half of the screen like a laptop, be half hanging off the screen like a laptop with a tall screen, or used entirely separately from the 17-inch screen, if at all.
HP says that the Foldable 17 has three main modes: laptop, tablet or desktop. The latter sees the screen unfolded and turned into landscape mode and propped up by a stand at the back which folds (almost) seamlessly into the thin chassis.
The keyboard connects magnetically and simply placing it on half the screen (or the lower quarter of the screen) immediately adjusts the resolution accordingly. The haptic feedback that comes from positioning the keyboard makes it simple to get in the right position and keep it secure. It’s impressive.
The keys themselves are of the low-travel, Scrabble-tile variety and they’re comfortable and accurate to type upon (especially in laptop mode) for extended periods. The up and down arrow keys are squished but that was our only real gripe. Note that it’s not a backlit keyboard so you’ll need to switch to the harsh, screen-based virtual keyboard when in the dark.
We had no qualms with the trackpad which was smooth, accurate and had well-weighted buttons. It’s very reminiscent of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9’s $400 keyboard-lid combo.
The screen itself is generally very impressive, but note that it can act as a big black mirror when dark content is displayed. The 1,920 x 2,560 resolution keeps text sharp while the vibrant OLED colours and true-black contrast ensure that images usually look sublime.
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For such a premium device, we’re a little disappointed that it’s not Windows HDR compatible as that elevates multimedia to near perfection. While there’s still much to love about the bright 500-nit brightness and its ability to display 100 per cent of the difficult DCI-P3 colour gamut (which creators will like) we were a little disappointed by the fine banding in many colour gradients and noisiness in monochromatic equivalents.
Contrast is impressive with detail remaining present in both bright and dark areas.
The HP Spectre Foldable 17 has a 60Hz refresh rate which means it’s not great for gaming as fast-moving objects can become blurry. However, the fast, OLED pixel response time helps mitigate this somewhat.
The quad-speaker system comes via Bang & Olufsen and, after being impressed with the diminutive Dragonfly’s sound, we both expected great things and received them. Despite the general thinness of the splayed-out tablet, it gets very loud and there’s impressive bass to boot. It’s possible that it gets almost too loud as fidelity can be impacted at high volumes whether it’s losing clarity in the top end or body in the middle. Very few would complain about that, though.
The HP Spectre Foldable 17 comes with a two-button stylus that MPP 2.0 compatible. It has a strong magnetic connection to three sides of the base of the folded laptop and can charge wirelessly when attached. It’s responsive on the OLED touchscreen (as are your fingers).
We found ourselves using the HP Spectre Foldable 17 in all of its modes as it was so easy to switch between them. Using it as a laptop felt no different to a regular laptop. Pulling the keyboard down to extend the screen was intuitive and well-engineered thanks to the well-positioned, strong magnetic grips. Ripping the keyboard away and using it as a full tablet was simple and so was using the rear prop to set-up the screen separately in Desktop mode.
It is a good conferencing device although we had to get our head around getting a portrait view when the device was landscape-aligned and vice versa. There’s a 1,440p UHD webcam which captures a very clear image and does well in low light (without getting too noisy). An e-switch at the top of the tablet activates a hardware privacy slide which we’re happy to see is visible (because of its high-contrast, striped appearance) in lieue of rivals with a similar switch that merely promises that the webcam has been deactivated.
The microphone array also does a very good job of capturing audio and cancelling out background noise. Muting it can also activate a ‘mute light’ on the keyboard.
We enjoyed interacting with the HP Spectre Foldable 17 very much and only had a few gripes. When it’s heavily under load, it can become a bit unresponsive. While this mainly occurred while we were punishing it with updates and installs, it’s not something we’ve experienced from a modern laptop in a while. It’s no deal breaker though.
Another minor gripe was the power cord. While, we liked the look of the thick, protected cable, it’s like a fixed, umbilical tether when connected and this can be awkward when simultaneous charging the device and moving around or changing its configuration. It made us further-appreciate the magnetic connector on the Microsoft Surface Pro even more. But, again, it’s no deal killer.
We asked HP (and Intel) who the target market was – especially at this price – and were told that travelling business people and executives loved this type of form factor as it was usable on planes like a laptop and in hotel rooms as a portable TV and conferencing device. Frankly, if that was our lifetyle, we’d probably want to use this too.
Ultimately, it’s great to interact with and the Microsoft Surface finally has a rival in the ultra-convenient convertible space.
HP Spectre Foldable 17 Review: Photo Flourish
Our review of the HP Fold features images with an iconic Jordan 1 Retro High OG Chicago Lost and Found sneaker. The scale might melt some people’s brains as the large basketball shoes’ suggest that this is one, giant laptop. On an unrelated note, when StockX tells you that a size is 10.5 (PS)… don’t ignore the (PS) part.
For such a cutting-edge, premium device, we were a little disappointed to see the same, low-power, 3.5 – 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-1250U processor (which has just two Performance cores and eight Efficiency cores) that was in Asus’ rival. It’s flanked by 16GB of LPDDR5-5200 memory and a speedy, 1TB NVMe hard drive.
These combined to score 4,961 in the general-computing PCMark 10 test. That’s a rather low score and even noticeably behind the Asus which makes us think it might have had its performance nerfed a little.
The Cinebench rendering tests told a similar story, with the HP Spectre Foldable 17 scoring 932 in the quick R15 test and 5,208 in the longer R23 test. You can render on it, but it will take a while.
The HP Spectre Foldable 17’s 3D performance comes via the integrated Intel Xe GPU which operates at a pedestrian 0.95GHz, so we didn’t expect too much. It, naturally, wouldn’t run the difficult 3DMark ray-tracing graphics tests but it did (just about) manage the AAA-gaming title tests, 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike. In these, it scored 1,302 and 1,887 respectively which equate to frame rates of just 7.3 and 8.6fps – this isn’t a gaming laptop. Still, its score of 12,386 (80.3fps) in the lesser, 3DMark Night Raid benchmark shows that it can play some casual and competitive games.
We mentioned above that the responsiveness can be affected when under a heavy load. While it’s fine for office and basic multimedia tasks, we wouldn’t recommend it for any heavy workloads.
It’s worth mentioning the cooling. Under load, the top half gets rather warm while the base stays cool, which is novel and welcome. The internal fans never get higher than a non-distracting low whoosh although they do activate fairly regularly.
Inside the HP Spectre Foldable 17 is cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless connectivity. You’ll likely need to carry the dongle around but at least it has several useful ports in one, small unit.
Portability and Battery Life
The closed-up HP Spectre Foldable 17 resembles a regular, ultraportable laptop. It might not be the thinnest at 21mm, but then it is three independent layers in one, which is impressive. When in tablet mode it’s only 9mm thick but a naked, 17-inch screen is a bit weak and vulnerable when travelling around. Fortunately, the hinge feels very high quality so repeated opening and closing shouldn’t pose an issue. Ultimately, build quality is impressive and we expect it to survive life on the road.
It weighs just 1.39KG which is very impressive for a portable, 17-inch computer. However, because the keyboard is required to maintain the integrity it being folded, you’ll need to add it to that amount. It only weighs 267g, though.
The power supply (and reinforced cable) isn’t the smallest – it adds an extra 470g to the mix. At least the weight of the dongle and stylus is inconsequential and few people will need to carry the keyboard charger around.
Inside the HP Spectre Foldable 17 is a sizeable 94.3Wh battery. It ran our PCMark 10 Modern Office test for an impressive 14 hours 30 minutes without a keyboard attached (you lose an hour with the keyboard). Either way, that’s impressive and represents a much more than a full day out of the office.
Price and Availability
The HP Spectre Foldable 17 is available now and costs a whopping $8,499! That’s rivalling the ruggedised Dell Latitude 7330 Rugged Extreme for being the most expensive laptop that we’ve ever seen. Both are niche devices, but the Dell is a tool while the Fold feels more like a cross between a luxury device, executive toy, marketing presentation screen and road warrior companion.
Alternatives to the HP Spectre Foldable 17
It’s a niche market but there are some other options.
Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED – Expensive but much cheaper than the HP. It’s very much like a Gen 1 version (especially the bulky, rear clasp) but it’s still fundamentally a 17-inch OLED convertible tablet too. Read our Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED review.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 – It’s not as big nor as powerful, but it is another super-convenient device that insta-transforms between a laptop and a tablet. Both the Asus Fold and HP Foldable make it look cheap (for once). Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review.
Conclusion: Should you buy the HP Spectre Foldable 17?
Microsoft has reached its 9th iteration of Surface Devices – insistent that there’s a big market for laptop-tablet crossovers. While we’ve seen plenty of convertible laptops, they’re almost always compromised in laptop form (in some way). Perhaps the best compliment we can give the HP Spectre Foldable 17 is that it feels just like a laptop when used with the keyboard and just like a tablet when that’s quickly whipped away.
Only the Surface has really achieved that before yet that still has issues when actually trying to balance it on your lap or a narrow table (like on an aeroplane) thanks to its long, kickstand-based design.
And yet, the HP Fold’s stand also means that it’s an acceptable desktop computer too.
It’s underpowered but we really liked using it for work and play – underlining its high Features, Ergonomics & Design score – and we would happily purchase one if money was no issue.
If this is the form factor you’ve been looking for, you’re finally in luck. But, for most people it’s an unaffordable aspirational laptop. Still, it’s uniqueness wins it a Highly Recommended Portable Laptop award as its portability score is much higher when weighed without the keyboard and we make allowance for the high-price of innovation in the laptop market.
Good battery life
Impressive webcam and speakers
Light banding in graphical gradients
Large power supply
HP Spectre Foldable 17 Scores
The HP Spectre Foldable 17 is a great, multi-faceted convertible which is equally comfortable being a laptop, tablet and desktop. Most impressively, it succeeds at being all three with minimal compromise. Just note the lack of power and the astronomical price tag.