The HP Spec­tre Folio is a leather­clad lap­top that’s lux­u­ri­ous

You have to feel it to be­lieve it.

PCWorld (USA) - - News Hands- On: Alienware M15 - BY MELISSA RIOFRIO

The HP Spec­tre Folio is a sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence. By wrap­ping an in­cred­i­bly thin lap­top in a full-grain leather shell, HP has made a PC whose look, feel, and smell will evoke clas­sic, cov­etable ob­jects like a bomber jacket, a hand­bag, or a leather foot­ball or base­ball. You’ll find your­self re­spond­ing to the Spec­tre Folio in the same way—and then fight­ing it, as if it were wrong to re­act like that to a PC, even if it’s also one of the first su­per-ef­fi­cient Am­ber Lake ( go. pcworld.com/whlk) lap­tops we’ve seen.

I had the same strug­gle dur­ing my sneak peek at the Spec­tre Folio ahead of its an­nounce­ment the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 1 in New York City. I couldn’t take my hands off it, and it felt great on my lap, too. Yet it felt like HP broke some rule. Keep read­ing, though, and you’ll see that the Spec­tre Folio is a re­ally

in­ter­est­ing PC, as well as a po­ten­tially cov­etable ob­ject. (Read about the crack team of HP and In­tel engi­neers who de­signed it [ go.pcworld.com/drtm].) It’s avail­able for pre­order start­ing Oc­to­ber 1 at Best Buy and HP, with a start­ing price of $1,300. See be­low for full de­tails on prices, specs, and fea­tures.

ABOUT THE FULL-GRAIN LEATHER SHELL

A few lap­tops over the years have sported a leather panel or two, but the HP Spec­tre Folio is the first whose en­tire outer shell is full-grain leather. The leather is bonded around the edges, which are hand-painted to match. Hand-stitch­ing ac­cents the hinge in the mid­dle of the lid.

Josephine Tan, the head of con­sumer note­books for HP, said they were look­ing for a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ma­te­rial from me­tal,

plas­tic, or car­bon fiber. “Leather is warm to the touch and feels good,” Tan said, adding, “you don’t feel the heat trans­fer as much as you do with me­tal.”

It sure wasn’t cho­sen be­cause it was easy. “Leather doesn’t give us the op­por­tu­nity to cut a lot of holes,” Tan said. “Oth­er­wise you de­stroy the look.” The fan­less de­sign helps, as does an air chan­nel cre­ated by the loose leather fold along the main dis­play hinge.

That fold also adds to the Spec­tre Folio’s or­ganic look and feel.

As for dura­bil­ity, any­thing your other leather prod­ucts can take, the Spec­tre Folio can take. The chrome tan­ning process makes the leather stain- and wa­ter-re­sis­tant: “Take care of it like you take care of your hand­bag,” ad­vised Ai-kuan Lim, direc­tor of con­sumer new prod­uct in­tro­duc­tion for HP. That also means, of course, that the Spec­tre Folio is at best “re­sis­tant” to things leather can’t take, like deep scratches and ran­dom pen marks. A drop could be in­ter­est­ing.

Let’s also ac­knowl­edge that for some peo­ple, a leather-clad PC crosses a

line. Un­like me­tal, plas­tic, and other tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als for tech de­vices, leather comes from a dead cow. A ve­gan co­worker told me, “I hate the Spec­tre Folio al­ready.” All of these ma­te­ri­als have some sort of neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. Other than be­ing biodegrad­able, leather doesn’t save us from that.

SPEC­TRE FOLIO FEA­TURES, SPECS, AND PRIC­ING

The Spec­tre Folio will start off with three SKUS: one ex­clu­sive to Best Buy, one avail­able from HP, and a third com­ing later in the year, along with some new op­tions. Most fea­tures will be com­mon to all Spec­tre Folio SKUS:

Shell: Full-grain leather, in Cognac Brown ini­tially. The sec­ond color, Bordeaux Bur­gundy, will be avail­able in late De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to HP.

Dis­play: 13.3-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS WLED back­lit touch­screen with Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass 4. The max­i­mum bright­ness is a very nice 400 nits. A 4K UHD panel op­tion will be avail­able later this year, HP says.

Graph­ics: In­tel UHD Graph­ics 615 (in­te­grated)

Me­mory: 8GB of LPDDR3-1866 SDRAM

Stor­age: 256GB PCIE NVME M.2 SSD

Wi-fi: In­tel 802.11b/g/n/ac 2x2 WI-FI and

Blue­tooth 4.2 combo with MU-MIMO sup­port

Cam­era: Front-fac­ing HP Wide­vi­sion

FHD IR We­b­cam

Pen: HP’S Dig­i­tal Pen, which charges via USB-C

Ports: Two Thun­der­bolt 3, one USB 3.1 Type-c, one 3.5mm au­dio jack

Bat­tery: 6-cell, 54.28Whr lithium ion poly­mer. HP of­fers mul­ti­ple bat­tery ex­pec­ta­tions for each SKU de­pend­ing on us­age sce­nario, from 12.75 to 19 hours. The Lte-equipped model sits on the lower end of the bat­tery spec­trum. Your mileage will vary.

Di­men­sions: 12.6 x 9.23 x 0.6 inches

Weight: 3.24 to 3.28 pounds, de­pend­ing on the model

Af­ter that, the SKUS split off. HP will sell a ver­sion with In­tel’s 8th-gen dual-core Am­ber Lake Core i5-8200y. It has a 1.3GHZ base fre­quency and a 3.9GHZ Turbo Boost mode. Its start­ing price will be $1,300.

HP will also sell a high­erend ver­sion with In­tel’s 8th-gen dual-core Am­ber Lake Core i7 8500Y. It has a 1.5GHZ base fre­quency and a 4.2GHZ Turbo Boost mode. It will also in­clude In­tel’s XMM 7560 LTEAd­vanced Pro. Note that LTE is sup­ported from only three car­ri­ers: AT&T, Sprint, and T-mo­bile, and HP is of­fer­ing six months of free LTE ser­vice to Sprint cus­tomers. Its start­ing price will be $1,500.

Best Buy will have the ex­clu­sive on an­other ver­sion with In­tel’s 8th-gen dual-core Core i7 8500Y, but no LTE. That model will ship Oc­to­ber 29 for $1,400 ( go.pcworld.com/bbsp).

HOW HP MADE THE SPEC­TRE FOLIO

I have lots of ques­tions about how HP made the Spec­tre Folio, only some of which were an­swered by the time this story posted. Here’s what we know so far:

The bot­tom half con­sists of an alu­minum panel bonded to the key­board tray. The mag­ne­sium frame bonded to the leather lid is lighter, help­ing the Spec­tre Folio avoid the top-heavy feel of some con­vert­ibles.

The dis­play is unique in at­tach­ing only at the top of the lid. Gen­tle mag­nets hold it at the bot­tom in a clamshell po­si­tion, or you can eas­ily re­lease the mag­nets to tilt the dis­play on a cen­ter hinge into me­dia or tablet modes. In those modes, the folded lid cov­ers the key­board, so it’s not touch­ing your legs or a work sur­face.

The full-size, is­land-style key­board sits on top of the Spec­tre Folio’s bat­tery. Some­how, HP still man­aged to give the keys 1.3mm of travel. Not bad for some­thing this thin.

The moth­er­board is teeny—just a thin strip run­ning above the key­board. Tan said In­tel worked very closely with HP to achieve a moth­er­board this small. If you get the LTE ver­sion, the an­tenna will run along the top of the lid (to avoid in­ter­fer­ence from the moth­er­board. You’ll find the E-SIM slots on the un­der­side of the mid­dle hinge.

SHOULD YOU BUY THE SPEC­TRE FOLIO?

I ex­pect the Spec­tre Folio will gen­er­ate a mix of ex­cite­ment and de­bate. Is it right for a PC to feel good? Can a PC that’s lux­u­ri­ous, rather than util­i­tar­ian, still be taken se­ri­ously? “Peo­ple want to carry some­thing that matches their life­style,” Tan said. “The Spec­tre Folio cre­ates a ‘wow’ ef­fect.” Tan added that both males and fe­males re­sponded pos­i­tively to the Spec­tre Folio, with the men pre­fer­ring the de­but color of Cognac Brown, while the women pre­ferred the Bordeaux Bur­gundy com­ing later.

Tan also men­tioned an in­ter­est­ing com­ment from a male who who said he would not bring a me­tal de­vice to his son’s sports events, be­cause it looked like he was work­ing. He said he’d bring the Spec­tre Folio be­cause “it doesn’t look like a PC,” Tan said.

For me, there’s no deny­ing the way the Spec­tre Folio makes you feel. We need to test it and see how the PC works, with its new, un­tried CPU. But I give HP credit for mak­ing a PC evoca­tive and de­sir­able. That’s the kind of feel­ing that can in­spire oohs, ahhs, and sales.

Full-grain leather cov­ers the en­tire Spec­tre Folio.

The curved leather fold along the hinge makes the HP Spec­tre Folio feel or­ganic.

The dis­play tilts into me­dia mode, cov­er­ing the key­board.

In­tel part­nered with HP to make the teeny moth­er­board for the Spec­tre Folio, a mere strip run­ning along the top of the key­board.

The key­board has 1.3mm of travel, not bad for a lap­top this thin.

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