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HP Spectre Folio review: Get your hands on this luxury leather laptop

HP Spectre Folio
Sarah Tew/CNET

It also forms a tablet, and using the included stylus in that mode is very nice, especially with the leather outer shell under your hands. But the stylus has nowhere to go, except a protruding leather loop -- I find those always get in the way and get snagged on things. A compromise might have been a stylus that slides into a hidden compartment on the body, but that requires one of those tiny styluses, usually about as thick as a coffee stirrer, so there's no perfect answer.

If you're comparing this to the new MacBook Air, they both use dual-core Intel Y series processors, which means they're not especially speedy, but still fine for everyday use. For these prices -- the Folio starts at $1,299 while the new Air starts at $1,199 -- you're not wrong to want something faster. 

HP Spectre Folio
Sarah Tew/CNET

This test configuration has a Core i7 Y-series CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 4G LTE antenna. The closest configuration on HP's US website right now is $1,500, but cuts the RAM to 8GB. A very close MacBook Air 16GB/256GB config with a higher screen resolution -- but swapping the Y-series Core i7 for a Y-series Core i5 and dropping the LTE antenna -- is $1,599. A 12-inch MacBook with the same 16GB/256GB/Core i7Y config is $1,749. HP says a version of the Spectre Folio with a 4K display is coming later this year. 

The single Spectre Folio configuration on HP's UK website is £1,499. In Australia, it starts at AU$2,799.

Longer, but not faster 

The dual-core CPU means it lags behind many other current premium laptops in terms of raw performance. In fact, the performance in our tests hewed very close to the new MacBook Air. But, as in the case of the new Air, I don't think that's a fatal flaw. For most of what you're likely to be doing on your laptop -- working on office docs, drawing with the stylus, web surfing or streaming videos, you're unlikely to notice the difference between this and a quad-core PC like the Surface Laptop 2. 

Battery life on par with those and most other current laptops in this class, hitting 10 hours, 45 minutes on our streaming video battery drain test, just a few minutes apart from the new MacBook Air or Surface Laptop 2. 

That solid battery life score puts a thumb on the scale for me, leaving me feeling mostly positive about the Folio. And I'm not entirely surprised. HP's done a great job of making big, bold statement pieces in the last few years, mostly from this high-end Spectre line. (I'm also very fond of the clamshell Spectre, which is another design win, thanks to a very slim body and excellent color choices.) The new Folio isn't perfect, but it certainly stands out. 

Geekbench 4 multicore

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
12,488
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
11,983
Acer Switch SW713 Black Edition
11,688
HP Spectre Folio Convertible
8,306
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)
7,870

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 multicore

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
596
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
589
Acer Switch SW713 Black Edition
389
HP Spectre Folio Convertible
267
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)
253

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Online streaming battery-drain test (in minutes)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2
671
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)
646
HP Spectre Folio Convertible
645
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
606
Acer Switch SW713 Black Edition
300

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

HP Spectre Folio Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i7-8500Y; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz, 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB
Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB
Acer Switch SW713 Black Edition Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 16GB DDR4 1,866MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150; 512GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD

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