HP’s new leather laptop tries to reinvent the PC

Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

HP is trying something different with its latest convertible laptop, and boldly claiming it’s “reinventing the PC.” While most laptops are housed in an aluminum or plastic chassis, HP’s Spectre Folio is wrapped in leather that morphs into different modes. That might sound like every other 2-in-1 on the market, but you only have to look at HP’s Spectre Folio to see it’s a little different.

HP has created a skeleton magnesium frame that attaches to the exterior leather and combined it with a tiny motherboard to maximize the amount of battery on this device. HP is claiming up to 18 hours of battery life, an impressive amount if the claims hold up. Inside, there’s an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. HP is using a 13.3-inch FHD display with Intel’s latest 1W panel to maximize battery life. There will also be a 4K display option later this year.

It’s the frame of the Spectre Folio that really makes it different, though. HP has used leather to create a device that collapses down like a magazine, and it even includes a spine and stitching so it looks like a book when it’s closed. The mode switching is pretty seamless, too. You can use it in a traditional laptop mode or pull the display forward to slot it into a media mode where the keyboard is covered by the display. The trackpad remains at the front so you can navigate around if need be without having to touch the display. Once in media mode, you can then push the display flat down into a tablet mode.

HP’s bold claim of “reinventing the PC” will need to be tested with reviews of the Spectre Folio, but I was impressed at the engineering of the device during some brief time with it last month. I’ve been watching PC makers attempt wild design after wild design ever since Microsoft released its Windows 8 operating system, and there’s still not a perfect 2-in-1. There’s always a compromise along the way, whether it’s a heavy tablet or an awkward laptop mode. HP thinks it has perfected this design with the Spectre Folio so it can manage both well.

”This design is so smooth from notebook to tablet,” says Stacy Wolff, vice president of design at HP. “It’s one of the fastest… really in the industry.” I found it very fast to switch between modes, but the big test for any 2-in-1 is how the laptop mode feels on your lap. It was surprisingly sturdy and well-balanced; when I reached out to touch the screen, there was no irritating screen wobble, and it didn’t feel top heavy. The only disappointing part of this mode is a compromise on the angle of the display. You can’t push it far away from you, which is fine if you’re using it on a desk but not when you might want to adjust the display angle more to avoid screen glare. The display also has a rather large chin on it, and I would have preferred to see a more bezel-less panel like Dell’s XPS 13.

The tablet mode is largely what you’d expect, and there’s even a stylus with support for tilting and more than 4,000 levels of sensitivity. You can angle the display slightly when it’s in tablet mode, but it’s far sturdier when it’s flat. All of the different modes are supported by magnets, so there are no buttons or locks to fiddle with. HP has also kept a full aluminum keyboard with 1.5mm key travel and a glass trackpad, and I found both were similar to most Spectre laptops during my brief testing.

I was surprised HP didn’t consider an ARM-powered version of its Spectre Folio or even a 10-inch version. “We had to work in extreme partnership with Intel,” explains Wolff. “Did we look at others? We did, but it was a short journey because we really wanted to set the bar at that premium level.” It doesn’t sound like a 10-inch version is in the works, either. Wolff says “there’s a lot of noise and a lot of different form factors” in the 10-inch space, and it’s not always about the productivity devices HP is known for.

Either way, leather is clearly the key component of this design. It’s there to make the Spectre Folio feel more premium and like a book when it’s folded away. How that leather holds up, especially on the palm rests, will be interesting to see. HP isn’t releasing any type of treatment for the leather, and any wear might be similar to Microsoft’s Surface Laptop. “It is designed for disassembly,” says Wolff, hinting that the leather exterior could be replaced in the future.

Aside from the leather, it’s clear HP is experimenting with the Folio. It’s hiring animators and fashion designers in what feels like a bigger push to capture some of the premium laptop market that Apple has dominated. Microsoft has also tried a similar approach with its Surface line, and HP clearly wants a laptop that stands out.

HP is planning to release this Spectre Folio as a Best Buy exclusive and on HP.com. An Intel Core i5 model will be priced at $1,299, and the Core i7 model will be $1,399. There’s even an LTE variant with a Core i7 processor for $1,499, and the 4K display option and burgundy color will be available in December.

Photography by Tom Warren / The Verge


Man I would love this! While everyone’s taking their laptops out of their sleeves yours just opens out INTO a laptop

I still want a wool one.

I’d like that, assuming it had faux wood paneling.

I would like a tweed one, with leather patches on the hinges.

Good for them for trying something new with materials and design. Hope I get a chance to see it in the flesh.

"…in the flesh."
Very apt.

Sounds a bit macabre now….

Mooove over and let a professional handle the puns.

That would be nice, a leather coated laptop, with NY Strip Steaks hanging off the corners.

Am I the only one who thinks this looks terrible? It’s obviously very finely crafted, and maybe it’s just because I’m not used to it, but it just looks a bit tacky to me.

This laptop has a strange 70ies aesthetic in my opinion. It’s not really my thing, but I don’t mind it, either. I think it’s good to see some variety in design languages, particularly from the old Apple copycat HP. It looks unique and not thoughtless, and I appreciate that.

I absolutely love the 70’s aesthetics!

Yes the 70’s aesthetic is coming back in the form of minimalism across many different areas of design, esp in interior design for a lot of luxury type apartments so I’m not surprised that if HP wants to attract a more luxurious look that they would jump on this trend!

Just when you thought, the chin ended, a new chin begins. 16:9 screen on a premium laptop needs to die.

Nope. Love 16 × 9 because so many videos fit edge to edge, top to bottom. I’m sure more consumers would care about that then how many lines of text they can fit on the screen. People who don’t like 16 × 9 don’t have to buy them.

If all you do is watch videos, why buy a laptop?

Back when things went from 5:4 to 16:10 it was hard, then going 16:9 was even worse. I’d have said there aren’t any options, and why not use a "virtual bezel" instead of losing the extra screen real estate all the time? That and rebranding 720p to "HD" even though it was a step down… urgh. It makes all the fonts blurry, who cares if it matches some movie spec I never use, and so on — I thought the whole thing was cost cutting and marketing, was legitimately surprised to find people really felt otherwise.

But people do! And today is a happy time. We can get 3:2 displays for people like me and 16:9 for people like you, and everyone wins.

3:2 is so good. Literally one of the main reasons I got a Surface. I really like my partners Lenovo Yoga, but the screen on it drives me mad.

Nope. Literally from the article, Megamind…

>It doesn’t sound like a 10-inch version is in the works, either. Wolff says "there’s a lot of noise and a lot of different form factors" in the 10-inch space, and it’s not always about the productivity devices HP is known for.

This device isn’t for video watchers. It’s for people who work.

I’m OK with it because I use my Surface tablet in portrait to read and edit full page PDFs/ notes, so the chin becomes a convenient place to hold it from the side.

HP would be better off concentrating on improving the inside of their laptops before fooling around with fancy case coverings.

I can’t recall any other computer companies who had to lose a class action lawsuit before they would rectify a manufacturing defect with overheating GPUs dues to inadequate cooling. And then just give their customers the cheapest POS in their inventory and consider it case closed.

I warn all my friends and customers away from HP laptops. Heck, I have two in my shop right now with no driver available for the drop sensor. These are off-lease , professional laptops we installed Windows 10 on, and no drop sensor driver will work. We had HP on the phone for over an hour, and they couldn’t find one either. The actually told me that the sensor must be bad. So, we picked up another one for resale (well, not me but our manager) and it has the exact same issue. If you install Windows 7, issue is gone. So, hp wasn’t aware of the problem (even though there are lots of people in their forums asking about it),can’t even find a driver that works on their own laptop, and gave an incorrect diagnosis when they couldn’t solve it.

Definitely at the bottom of my list for laptops. The funny thing is, some of their desktops are actually pretty nice and operate very fast for load times and boot times. Too bad they can’t seem to figure out laptops.

I can’t recall any other computer companies who had to lose a class action lawsuit before they would rectify a manufacturing defect with overheating GPUs dues to inadequate cooling.

Those qualifiers seem designed to gerrymander the conversation around certain incidents. Let me just bring one up anyway.

I used to have a leather coated bong back in the 70’s Always got laid when I sparked up a bowl to share with that bong.

I does look a bit tacky, that said, to me every laptop except macbooks looks tacky to some degree.

I just bought a Spectre X360 damn it…

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