I tested the new HP Spectre Folio Laptop for 30 days - and it's equal parts impressive and innovative

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HP Spectre Folio   Lifestyle image of media position 5


  • If you are looking to get ahead in today's increasingly connected world, you must be available 24/7.
  • To accommodate the demands of workers, the latest laptops look professional and make staying connected effortless.
  • I liked the HP Spectre Folio laptop because it's 4G LTE enabled, so I don't have to rely on public Wi-Fi, and it has a fine leather cover that gives it a professional look.
  • For all of its high-end looks and features, including the ability to fold it into tablet position, the HP Spectre Folio 13 is surprisingly affordable, starting at $1,200 on HP's website.
By some estimates, 50% of the United States workforce will be working remotely outside of the office environment by 2020. To be effective, today's professionals must be able to get work done wherever they may be. This includes having a laptop that is conducive to productivity and has a reliable Internet connection.Advertisement

This vision of the future was at the forefront of the minds of HP's developers as they designed the Spectre Folio 13. Recently, HP sent me a laptop to test and review. Here are my experiences with it.

My first experience with the HP Spectre Folio Laptop

In November, HP hosted a reviewer workshop on the Spectre Folio. Presenter Kevin Wentzel, the Technical Marketing Manager for the company's Consumer PCs division, said the "disruptive" leather design was targeted at millennials who want to balance professionalism with staying connected. HP made the laptop specifically for office work and the occasional content creation. It's not ideal for video and photo editing or intense gaming.

HP also aimed to make every feature perfect. Based on its internal 2017 Pain Points Study, HP found that what shoppers look for most in a laptop, in order, are speed/performance, battery life, Wi-Fi connectivity, pre-loaded software, and storage capacity. So, HP aimed to address these needs with the Spectre Folio.

The HP Spectre Folio has a 13.3 inch full high-definition IPS micro-edge WLED backlit touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The aspect ratio is a standard 16:9 with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

Here are a few of the other specifications:

  • Windows 10
  • Intel UHD Graphics 615
  • 256 GB solid state drive (SSD) - and no hard drive (HDD)
  • 8 GB SDRAM
  • 8th generation Intel Core i7-8500Y dual-core processor
  • 2 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (can transfer data up to 40 Gb/s) and an additional USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port
  • USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter
  • Headphone/microphone port
  • SIM card port
If I missed a spec you are looking for, check out the HP product page.The laptop's pleasant leather smell struck me immediately. The Folio felt pleasant in my hands and on my lap. HP tried a variety of high-quality leathers before choosing this 100% genuine full-grain, chrome-tanned leather. HP based its leather choice on durability, appearance, and comfort.Advertisement


How the HP Spectre Folio Laptop performed

The HP Spectre Folio 13 can be used in three positions. There's the classic laptop setup, but you can also push the top of the screen back and fold it down into tablet mode. Or, you can move the bottom of the screen forward to cover the keyboard and just allow access to the touchpad. This last option is best for viewing videos and photos. What I liked most about the tablet mode is that it's hard to accidentally press the touchpad or keyboard and disrupt whatever you're doing.

The laptop comes loaded with a bunch of programs I'm not interested in: Netflix, Xbox, Candy Crush Saga, and so on. However, I didn't find that it was particularly pushy in getting me to use these apps, and I didn't get a ton of emails to take advantage of special offers and other nonsense as I have with other HP systems I've tested.Advertisement

The Spectre Folio features a large battery that is located under the keyboard and on either side of the trackpad. The advertised battery life is up to 21 hours. To really test it out, I played music videos loudly and set a timer to see how long the battery would last. It took about 10 hours before this battery-intensive activity used all the juice. After two hours of charging, the battery was back full-charged and ready for more.

The feature I enjoyed the most was the gigabit-class 4G LTE cellular connectivity. With LTE, you can go through your cellular service provider and use your data to get internet access in your coverage area. So far, the laptop only works with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

I tried it out with AT&T coverage, and it was nice to have excellent internet service while riding in a car or in a public place. I'm not proud to admit that I may have spent all day at a Chinese food buffet doing work and keeping the cooks busy. Not all models are 4G LTE enabled so make sure you look for this feature if you're interested in it.Advertisement

I liked how easily accessible all of the ports are. With USB 2.0 and 3.0, it seems like you have to try inserting your device at least three times before you get it the right side up. This is not a problem with USB-C. All of the USB-C slots are effortless to use because you can plug it in any which way. On the other hand, the SIM card slot is not easily accessible. You need to fold the screen back to get to it, but this isn't something you will likely need to access regularly.

The audio was designed in partnership with the Danish audio company Bang & Olufsen. There are quad speakers located just above the keyboard on the laptop's base. The sound is not amazing, but it does get somewhat loud. I registered 90 decibels from a foot away.

When it comes to quality, the speakers don't achieve the fullness you would expect from a larger speaker. The bass is weak, the mids are muddy, and the highs aren't clear and sound far away. And, when you are in tablet mode, the speakers are covered so the sound is mildly muffled.Advertisement

I tested out the HP Chat Support to see if they could fix the only minor problem I had: The test period of the AT&T service had run out, and I no longer had cellular connectivity. Within a minute of loading the chat, I had Ranjeetha S helping me. She took over control of my laptop to work on the wild goose chase I put her on.

After 25 minutes and exhausting every option she could think of, she told me to contact my service provider: The correct answer. I was impressed by how quickly I had access to support and how diligent Ranjeetha was in trying to fix the problem.Lastly, I tested the HP Spectre Folio 13 using the UL PCMark 10 test, which is considered the industry standard for PC performance for Windows 10 machines. Overall, it scored 2,674, which is better than most laptops. It scored quite high for productivity (4,631) and essentials (5,549), which includes web browsing, video conferencing, and app start-up. To learn more about this benchmark test, visit the PCMark website.Advertisement

At first, I found the Folio charged slowly. Due to how my desk is set up, I was using the standard USB-C port on the left side of the unit to charge. After a little research, I discovered that the Thunderbolt ports are on the right, and the front right port is best for charging. So, learn from my mistake and make sure you use the right USB-C port for fast charging.


No Verizon LTE support and a few more quibbles

Verizon Wireless is the most popular cellular provider in the US, and it's also my provider. I'm pretty happy with Verizon's service, especially compared to my experiences with AT&T and Sprint, so I'm bummed that I can't use Verizon's service with the Spectre Folio. I'm hoping HP works out a deal in the near future. Advertisement

The laptop comes with a stylus and USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter. The adapter is nice since I'm old fashioned and keep my files on a USB 2.0 drive. This worked fine, except the adapter doesn't look particularly attractive dangling off the side of the laptop. The stylus appeared to work well, though I'm not a big fan of touchscreens and mainly use the unit as a classic laptop. My only gripe about the stylus is that it's easy to accidentally break off the clip, which happened as I tried to stuff the Folio into a tote bag.

The bottom line

Overall, the HP Spectre Folio 13 is the best laptop I've ever used. It's an awesome machine that can handle writing, research, and streaming media. The cellular connectivity is a must for anyone who regularly works on the road or in public places with spotty, unsecured coverage. The leather feels good, looks nice, and has a grippy texture that will keep you from fumbling. If you are in the market for a good workhorse laptop, you will be hard-pressed to find an option better than the Spectre Folio at this price point. I highly recommend it.

Shop the Spectre Folio 13 Laptop on HP.com

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.Advertisement