HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Blockbuster battery life

HP’s leather-clad laptop looks great and has a stonking screen – but it’s hindered by a weedy CPU

Price
£1,249
  • Luxurious leather design; Superb 1080p screen quality; Responsive in general-purpose apps; Spectacular battery life
  • Low-power, dual-core CPU; Shallow keyboard; Reasonably expensive

The HP Spectre Folio manages to stand out in a market that's already busy with eye-catching devices - no mean feat. The Folio doesn't do this with groundbreaking components, though; Instead, it does this by covering most of its exterior with luxurious leather.

HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Design

The leather used on the Folio looks and feels fantastic. It covers the back of the screen and the underside of the machine, and extends around the keyboard. The Folio's hinge looks like the spine of a book and is hidden behind the leather, and the trackpad itself is built into the material.

You can certainly see why HP called this device the Folio - when you arrive at a business meeting, it looks like you're carrying a stylish briefcase rather than a laptop.

The Folio is a convertible in the style of Microsoft's Surface Pro. The main hinge allows the Folio to behave like a normal laptop, opening up smoothly and without too much resistance, but another hinge installed halfway up the back of the screen allows the screen to pitch forward at a 60 angle, or to lie flat in full tablet mode. Unlike the Surface Pro, however, the screen cannot be detached from the keyboard.

When angled forwards, the screen settles into a ridge between the keyboard and the trackpad, which makes a great position for using the touchscreen or watching movies. The keyboard is obscured in this mode, but the trackpad remains available. The screen can also be pitched forward into a full tablet mode.

The leather feels great, too - soft and sturdy, and with plenty of grip on the bottom. HP has augmented every edge with neat stitching, and the rear has a subtly embossed HP logo. Build quality is excellent throughout, too, with no flex in any surface.

This machine looks and feels like a premium product. It doesn't look out of place alongside the royal blue aluminium of the Asus Zenbook Flip S, the carbon fibre of the Dell XPS 13 or the soft-touch fabric of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2.

HP's machine weighs 1.49kg and is 15.2mm thick. They're not bad figures, but they're not market-leading. The Asus Zenbook weighs 1.1kg and is 10.9mm thin, while the Surface and Dell XPS 13 are also slimmer and lighter than the Folio.

Around the edges you get two Thunderbolt 3 ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C connector. The small power adapter can use all three connectors to charge the Folio, and you get a USB Type-C to full-size USB adapter in the box. You also get 4G support, although you'll need to supply your own SIM card.

It's a better selection of ports than the Asus and Microsoft machines, although Dell leads the way - the XPS 13 has the same USB and Thunderbolt configuration as the HP and also adds a microSD slot and a battery indicator.

HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Keyboard & Trackpad

The Folio is a slim machine - so it's got a slim keyboard, with buttons that only have 1.3mm of travel. That's a little more than the Asus and the Microsoft Surface, but noticeably less than the Dell.

The lack of travel is immediately obvious. The keys are fast and snappy, and the base is solid, but the buttons really don't move much. The buttons on the Asus, despite their lack of travel, feel weightier than the keys on the Folio. The Dell's keyboard is chunkier still, with crisper and more noticeable feedback.

If you prefer a light, shallow keyboard, then the Folio will be great - and, regardless, it's absolutely fine for general-purpose use. However, it's not the best option if you want a keyboard with more tactile feedback. The Asus or Dell will both prove more satisfying.

The trackpad has no issues. The surface is smooth and responsive, and the in-built buttons are fast and light.

HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Display

The Folio has a 13.3in screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and a Gorilla Glass coating. It's got a stylus with 1,024-point sensitivity included in the box, too. The screen delivers a density level of 166ppi - ample for virtually all of the tasks that'll be handled by this machine.

There's nothing wrong with any of that, although HP could have perhaps squeezed a 14in screen into this machine by slimming down the bezels. The Asus and Dell machines had the same screen size and resolution, although they're both also available with 4K options - while the Folio isn't. Microsoft's screen has a 2,556 x 1,504 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Spec quibbles aside, the Folio has a stonking screen. Its brightness level of 383cd/m2 is brilliant, and the black level of 0.2cd/m2 is just as good. The former figure means the Folio will work well in any scenario, including outdoor environments, and the latter ensures that darker areas look inky.

Those results create a contrast ratio of 1,910:1. That's superb - and means you'll get depth, vibrancy and subtlety at every part of the colour spectrum. The HP's screen is better than the Asus and Microsoft products in those tests. The Dell is even brighter, although at these brightness levels you get diminishing returns from higher brightness figures.

The Folio's average Delta E of 1.57 is fantastic, and the colour temperature of 6,662K is hardly deviated from the 6,500K ideal figure - so colours are extremely accurate. HP's machine displayed 98.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is another solid figure. That'll sate most work tasks, although you'll need to look elsewhere - and spend more money on a more conventional laptop - if you want a machine that adheres to the Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 colour gamuts.

Here, the HP offered better colour accuracy and coverage than the Asus and Dell machines. The Microsoft had a poorer sRGB coverage level and a better Delta E. The Folio is comfortably better than the Asus, and it trades blows with the Dell and Microsoft screens. It's a fantastic panel that's as good as any rival offering - and so we have no qualms about using it for work.

HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Hardware & Performance

Under the hood, the Folio has an Intel Core i7-8500Y processor alongside a 256GB SSD and 8GB of dual-channel LPDDR3. The Core i7 part used here is incredibly efficient - it has a peak power draw of just 5W. The HP's rivals use Intel U-branded Core i5 and Core i7 parts that have 15W power draws.

That's great for keeping the power down, but it does impact performance. The i7-8500Y only runs at 1.5GHz and it only has two Hyper-Threaded cores. It does, at least, have a surprisingly punchy peak Turbo speed of 4.2GHz.

The Core i5-8250U that you'll find in some rivals has four Hyper-Threaded cores and a stock speed of 1.6GHz. The Core i7-8550U in other machines also has four cores alongside a 1.8GHz stock speed and a 4.2GHz Turbo peak.

It's no surprise then that the HP wasn't exactly quick in benchmarks. Its reasonable single-threaded abilities saw it score 82 points in the image-editing test - a solid result prompted by its equally solid Turbo abilities, but still behind the 105 scored by the Asus.

In tougher multi-threaded tasks, like video editing and multi-tasking, the Folio returned benchmark results of 43 and 34 points. That's behind the Asus. The HP's overall score of 45 points is decidedly low too - a little behind the Asus but around half the pace of the Dell.

Real-world usage highlights the HP's strengths and weaknesses. It's fast to boot and quick when handling Windows, and it's got enough grunt for word processors, spreadsheets and web browsers - even with loads of tabs open. However, this machine doesn't have the ability to run more complex apps, like demanding content creation and video tools, or CAD applications.

There's no room for a proper graphics core, either. HP relies on the CPU's Intel UHD Graphics 615 core - which means you'll be able to handle media playback and basic photo editing on this machine, but nothing more.

The low-power chip does have advantages. HP's machine is always quiet and never heats up, and battery life is fantastic.

In our video test the Spectre's low-power processor lasted for a mighty 17hrs 28mins in our video-looping test. That's seven hours more than the Dell, and around ten hours better than the Asus and Microsoft machines.

It's a sterling result. It means that you'll easily get through a whole day in the office without having to plug this machine in - and you'll be able to watch a couple of movies when you get home, too.

HP Spectre Folio 13-ak0001na review: Verdict

There aren't many better-looking laptops around than the HP Spectre Folio. Its leather exterior is more mature than the Dell, more eye-catching than the Microsoft Surface and subtler than the Asus Zenbook. It's easy to use thanks to the double-hinged design, and it's only a tiny bit larger than its rivals. The keyboard's design is subjective, but it's certainly not bad.

Battery life extends beyond the competition, but the Folio's longevity comes at the expense of performance. Its Y-series CPU is fine for less intensive work tasks, but it can't handle tricky software with as much ease as machines with beefier CPUs.

This isn't a machine for tougher apps, then, but it's easily got the power and lifespan for day-to-day computing - and in a stunning package that doesn't cost much more than any of its competitors.

Verdict

The HP Spectre Folio looks fantastic, thanks to its leather exterior, and it’s satisfying to use in its tablet, media and laptop modes. The screen is brilliant, the battery life shames rivals and the CPU can easily handle day-to-day computing tasks. Rivals have more satisfying keyboards and more CPU power, but the Folio remains a stylish and intuitive hybrid.

Processor: 1.5GHz Intel Core i7-8500Y RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615 Storage: 256GB Samsung SSD Display: 13.3in, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS touchscreen Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64-bit Optical: N/A Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Dimensions: 320 x 234 x 15.2mm Weight: 1.49kg Warranty: 1yr

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