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HP Spectre Fold - Not Just Something New. Something Good

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 1:19PM

HP Spectre Fold - Not Just Something New. Something Good

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 Dec 2023, 1:19PM

Ah, the trials and tribulations of the early adopter.

In our rush to be among the first users of any technology, how many times have we paid the price? And I mean the literal price; paying an exorbitant fee for relatively untested - sometimes even experimental - technology that always promises so much and yet often falls well short.

I was wearing a smartwatch before anyone else was. Oh, how they laughed. And rightfully so. It was enormous, had terrible battery life and could hardly do anything. But you could take pictures from a tiny camera embedded in the actual wristband. Awful, awful pictures of unusable quality. But still...

I was charging my phone wirelessly before anyone else. This meant I had to buy a separate accessory I then had to install inside the phone. Totally worth it.

As an early adopter I was one of the only people I knew to use a Windows phone. I'm still only one of the only people I know to use a Windows phone. Ever.

And yet, as a tech addict, I keep going back for more - these days trying out groundbreaking tech on your behalf so you don't have pay to be a new-device guinea pig.

It's not all bad news though. Every now and again, something truly innovative comes along that actually works. When that happens, it's a good day.


There's no question the HP Spectre Fold offers something new in the world of personal computing. In fact, it offers many things - all in one package.


I was expecting something pretty high-end - that's what the HP Spectre series is usually about; good, high-speed storage and RAM options, the latest Intel processors and original design choices adding up to an eyecatching laptop that really performs.

The Spectre Fold goes quite a bit further. That's because it isn't just a laptop at all. It's also a tablet. A touchscreen display and an all-in-one desktop PC. Oh... and some other kind of weird thing I don't really have a name for but is essentially a laptop-and-a-half - with extra screen above the keyboard for when one great screen isn't quite enough.

So, by my count, that's about five things. Which is just as well, because like so much other breakthrough tech, it's extremely expensive. The Spectre Fold may be five things at once - but it costs about five times more than any of those things by themselves.

I've done a useless job of explaining exactly what the Spectre Fold is. Imagine a very slim, 17-inch display, that can fold in half. Now slide a small keyboard and trackpad in between the two halves of that folded screen. Physically, that's essentially what you're dealing with.

Again, that doesn't quite describe it.

How about a laptop with a 12.3-inch display? Then, while you're using it, you can slide the keyboard towards you to reveal another, smaller screen underneath. This might be useful for on-screen media controls. Or perhaps a file directory where you have content stored for the project or presentation you're preparing on the main screen.

Then, you can remove the keyboard completely to reveal a whole other 12.3-inch display which is really just the other half of a massive 17-inch screen which can be folded flat to be used as a tablet. It's an OLED IMAX-enhanced touch display, so not only does it look sensational but you can use a stylus for drawing, painting and writing - that stylus is included in the box.

There's also a very subtle kickstand at the back of this "tablet" that folds out so you can use this standalone monitor to display video or perhaps for gaming, with a controller attached.

The now unattached keyboard and trackpad still works, by the way. That means this stunning, foldable, 17-inch monitor is now also the most portable desktop PC I've ever come across.

Is any of this starting to make sense yet?

All of these things seem like a good idea and the concept of a 17-inch screen you can fold away into your briefcase, satchel or purse seems very futuristic and convenient. But surely it doesn't really work properly? Surely a concept as crazy as this is just that; a mere concept. It couldn't possibly be a working, practical computing tool for both business and personal use, could it? 

For that to be the case it would have to have the latest Intel Core i7 CPU - which it does - good battery life - which it also does - and that screen would have to work even better than the folding displays we've seen on the few folding phones that have come along so far.

You guessed it. It does. Well... very nearly. As a viewing experience, I can't fault the display on the Spectre Fold. It's very bright, it's not particularly prone to reflection and the crease in the middle is practically invisible when viewed from front on. In fact, it might be the flattest, most subtle crease on any folding display I've used to date.

The department that seems a bit sub-par is touch response. I find I often have to touch on-screen controls several times to get them to work and while it's refreshing to have a stylus included in the box, it's certainly not the natural, intuitive writing and drawing experience I've encountered with other styluses I've used over the last year or so.

I may have also slightly oversold the Spectre Fold's gaming abilities. There's no dedicated graphics module here - not quite sure where you'd put it anyway. I'm still trying to figure out how HP managed to fit what they did into something so slim. Instead, you get the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics solution - which will still run good games like Asphalt 9 and High On Life but when I tried to play new release blockbuster, Starfield, it would install but not load.

This is a shame because the concept of a truly mobile, bright, zippy 17-inch monitor is quite a different and appealing way to game - especially when travelling.

But those are really the major limitations to this device. It has 16GB of RAM and a healthy 1TB of PCIe NVMe M.2 internal storage. This means running apps like my preferred audio editor, Adobe Audition was an absolute breeze. The Spectre Fold comes with Intel Unison pre-installed - this is one of the latest crop of apps for pairing your phone with your computer - something Apple devices do automatically of course. Intel Unison is easily the best effort at this functionality I've tried to date - it works for both Android and iOS handsets and not only lets you browse your phone's photo and file storage for easy transfers but also shows your phone notifications on-screen and let's you take calls through the computer.

Microsoft's new Copilot tool has also proved itself to be quite useful; this is an A.I.-powered virtual assistant that picks up where Clippy, Cortana and Bing Chat left off - ask it anything. Not only does it have the full power of all the knowledge of the internet behind it but it's now deeply integrated with Microsoft's Office 365 suite of apps. It's not intrusive, just helpful when you're trying to do something more efficiently.

Which is kind of the philosophy behind this whole device. I've been quite taken aback by how well engineered and durable the Spectre Fold is. I was expecting to have to handle this almost-$10K foldable with kid gloves, but I've found the opposite to be true. Fold it, unfold it, whack the keyboard on and off, pop the stand out - there's nothing fragile here at all.

Yes, you read that right; to be at the bleeding edge of premium computing technology you'll need to fork out at least NZ$9,770.58 - at least you get a helpful USB-C hub in the box, with two USB-A ports, an HDMI slot for a second screen and another USB-C for power delivery.

This is on top of the two built-in Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity.

As I already mentioned, battery life is really good - especially considering how compact the whole device is. Both keyboard and stylus charge wirelessly when stored magnetically in place, or there's an external charging dongle for the keyboard if you're using the device in "Desktop Mode" for an extended period.

The Spectre Fold is a very tidy little laptop - the 5MP Windows Hello camera provides fast and reliable face unlock and high-quality video, combined with top-notch mic performance. However, you can't really use this camera in desktop mode, as it ends up way over on the left-hand side and shoots in the wrong aspect. Not sure what the solution for this issue would be... a second camera on the top edge somewhere near the fold maybe?

It's not a major as it takes about seven seconds to transform the Fold from a desktop back into a laptop. I can't say I've made a lot of use of the "Expanded Screen" mode - where you slide the keyboard out to create an extra "screenlet" just above it - but I'm sure there's someone out there who's saying, "That's exactly what I need!"

As a tablet, you'd be hard pressed to find one this big (17-inches) this powerful (i7 processor) and this versatile (Windows 11).

And as a standalone display, what a great way to watch Fargo or Beacon 23 in your bedroom. The Bang & Olufsen quad speaker array sounds almost as good as the screen looks.

This is not a Jack of all trades, master of none - it pretty much masters every mode you want to use it in. It's surprisingly sturdy and delivers in almost every area of modern computing requirements except perhaps very high-end gaming and video production. But still.... it can't really be worth ten grand... can it?...




Click here for more information and on the HP Spectre Fold.

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