Initial thoughts on the HP Spectre Foldable PC

The HP Spectre Foldable PC aims to set new standards and it appears to address the issues with previous folding and dual-screen designs. However, its high price of $5,000 will likely deter all but the most affluent PC enthusiasts. Nevertheless, this high cost is intentional because the Spectre Foldable PC (SFPC) is at the forefront of what is currently achievable in the PC industry. It caters to the needs of the hybrid workforce, which HP believes is becoming the new norm. This workforce is inherently mobile, frequently changing locations, and requiring a PC that is portable and adaptable to different conditions.

Until now, tablet-based convertible PCs have generally offered two modes of operation: tablet and notebook. However, with the SFPC, HP is following in the footsteps of PC manufacturers at the dawn of the Tablet PC era by expanding the possibilities using various form factors. Consequently, this PC can be considered a “3-in-1” device as it can transform between three postures: tablet, notebook, and desktop.

Recalling my review of the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i, which featured dual screens rather than a single folding display, its major drawback was its lackluster laptop performance. However, HP assures me that the SFPC was specifically designed to offer an exceptional laptop experience, and the keyboard played a crucial role in achieving this. To determine whether HP successfully accomplished its goal of creating a great laptop experience, I will need to spend some time with the SFPC. Nonetheless, I can already attest that this product does not suffer from some of the issues that made the Yoga less desirable. For instance, the SFPC’s keyboard includes a touchpad, which was sorely missed in the Yoga. Additionally, when the keyboard is placed over the bottom half of the display (or even just the bottom third, as it supports two modes), the display adjusts correctly to the new size and resolution. In contrast, the Yoga obscured the still-available screen beneath its keyboard, potentially causing apps and windows to be “lost.” This is not a concern with the HP SFPC.

In any debate regarding dual-screen versus folding-screen devices, I personally favor the single display on the latter type of device by a significant margin. When the SFPC’s expansive 17-inch panel is unfolded, it feels like witnessing a magic trick due to its relatively compact size when in clamshell mode or closed. It is truly stunning. In the laptop mode, the SFPC provides a 12.3-inch display with the keyboard covering the bottom half of the screen. HP explained that this is the smallest panel size capable of accommodating a full-sized keyboard. However, the keyboard can be slid partially off the bottom half of the screen to expand it into a pseudo 14-inch display, allowing Windows and its applications to utilize more screen real estate. There are numerous intelligent features integrated into the SFPC. It comes bundled with a keyboard and a smartpen, both of which charge automatically when magnetically attached to the PC, even when it’s turned off. Consequently, when carrying the SFPC, these peripherals will always be charging. With respective battery lives of over 360 hours for the keyboard and 73 hours for the pen, it is unlikely that you will ever need to charge them. However, if necessary, these peripherals can be quick-charged to provide 10 hours and 6 hours of usage in just 10 minutes, respectively. Impressively, HP even includes a small, albeit proprietary, USB-C cable for the keyboard, which proved essential during the initial setup of the SFPC.

The integrated kickstand is a stroke of genius. Although Microsoft deserves credit for acknowledging the necessity of this feature for tablets, HP has managed to improve upon the concept by making its kickstand technically simpler and easier to use. However, it is unfortunate that the kickstand does not work in portrait mode. As we’ve seen in other devices, such as the Yoga, HP has also implemented software enhancements to help users take full advantage of this unique PC. This includes an extension to the Windows Snap feature that supports the different modes of the SFPC and various enhancements in the myHP and HP Command Center apps, all aimed at optimizing hybrid work functionality. Regrettably, HP did not receive the memo regarding the requirement for very expensive PCs like this to be free from unnecessary pre-installed software. Start is inundated with such software, which requires removal.

Besides its remarkable hardware, the SFPC’s internals also deserve attention. There is only one configuration available, leaving no room for customization. Surprisingly, this configuration is based on what initially appears to be an outdated processor: the 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1250U, paired with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of SSD storage. HP has an explanation for this apparent oddity; the 9-watt processor offers the ideal balance between power and battery life that HP envisioned for this product. Furthermore, there is currently no 9-watt processor in the 13th Gen lineup. HP has also implemented automatic power management techniques to ensure optimal performance without excessive battery drain. To achieve this, the SFPC disregards the Windows power management settings completely, offering its own interface for customization if necessary. HP’s success in implementing these power management techniques was evident in the Dragonfly Pro, a product I hold in high regard. Consequently, I am hopeful that this implementation will be just as successful.

There is much more to discuss about this intriguing PC, but I will be taking it with me to Mexico for three weeks, starting next Friday. During this time, I will have the opportunity to thoroughly test it and publish a comprehensive review by early November. This review promises to be captivating.

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