Over the past few years, companies across the PC space have been engaged in a slow, but steady race to build a foldable laptop that people might actually want to buy. Various companies have thrown their hats in the ring. Lenovo has done a foldable ThinkPad. Asus did a foldable Zenbook. And HP, not to be left out, is giving a foldable the old college try with its HP Spectre Fold.
The Spectre Fold, HP claims, is the world’s thinnest and smallest 17-inch foldable PC. The competition is not necessarily particularly steep here — there are very few of these 17-inch foldables on the market — but it does appear to weigh in at just under three pounds, which is an impressively low weight for a 17-inch device.
Now, in case you were thinking of actually buying this thing, please be warned: the starting price is $4,999.99. This is one of the most expensive laptops ever released, and will be massively pricier than others in this category are. The ThinkPad X1 Fold is $2,499, and the Zenbook Fold is $3,499. To be asking for so much money, one would hope that the Spectre Fold is something pretty spectacular. To know if that’s the case, we’ll have to wait a bit longer.
Though the Spectre Fold has HP’s familiar Spectre branding and design, it seems like a fairly similar package to foldables that have come before. Laid flat, it is a 17-inch tablet. Pop out the kickstand (which is built in) to prop it up on its long edge, and it becomes a 17-inch laptop. Fold said tablet at a 90 degree angle and pop a magnetic Bluetooth keyboard onto the bottom half, and it becomes a 12.3-inch clamshell. The conceit of these machines is that they offer more versatility than a traditional laptop or Windows tablet, and that they can cram a large screen size into a form factor that’s easy to carry around.
So what does the Spectre Fold offer that’s different from the ThinkPad or the Zenbook? AI, apparently. HP claims that the Spectre Fold is “the world’s first foldable PC with built-in AI for security, wellness, and gesture controls”. This will enable features like “a tailored computing experience that focuses on you”. There will be screen time reminders and “touch-free content control” (okay, I’ll admit I’m curious about this), as well as presence detection that will be able to lock the computer when you leave your workstation and wake it up when you return. None of these are, on face, unheard-of things for a laptop to have, particularly not at prices in the multiple thousands of dollars, so I suppose we’ll have to see.
In the nitty gritty, the Spectre will be include by Intel’s Core i7-1250U, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. The panel is a 3:4 OLED with 1920 x 2560 resolution. (The Spectre line is known for incredible screens, so I do look forward to this one.) And don’t worry, video callers: HP’s GlamCam, which does exactly what it sounds like it would, is on here too.
The ThinkPad X1 Fold and the Zenbook Fold were both quite impressive devices, but they also both had issues that made them difficult to recommend at a luxury price point. The original X1 Fold had terrible battery life, and its keyboard was so small that typing on it was basically untenable. Lenovo demoed a second-gen Fold, which looked poised to fix some of its predecessor’s problems, last fall, but that has yet to be released. Asus’s Zenbook was a much more viable product with a spectacular 17-inch screen, but it still suffered from various software glitches in my testing process — the dock would disappear, the desktop often failed to automatically flip when the laptop changed orientation, and I was perpetually sideways on video calls.
It will be great if HP is able to make Windows play nicely with the foldable form factor, deliver excellent battery life (the company claims you’ll get up to 12 hours) and provide a usable magnetic keyboard that doesn’t feel like cramped toy. Even then, man. Five grand. That’s a lot of money.