The HP Spectre Leather Folio is unlike any other laptop you have seen. It’s enough to make you commit several cardinal sins – envy, lust, greed, pride, and vanity at best.

HP calls the HP Spectre Leather Folio – the PC reinvented. And to my knowledge, there has been no other laptop with a 100% chrome tanned, full-grain leather casing.

It’s gorgeous, if you are into leather, and folds into what looks like a very svelte, quite thin, leather writing portfolio.

I don’t want to get too techy here – that would ruin the raison d’être which is to make possibly the most desirable convertible PC on the planet today.

The HP Spectre Leather Portfolio is part of its new Premium range that also includes the new EliteBook x360 and Spectre 13 and 15” x360 designs. Nothing boring about these!

HP Spectre Leather Folio

But let’s look beneath the cow skin!

To be clear, I have not reviewed this yet. I had a good hands-on at the launch that was all about style over substance – very un-HP like.

It has a clever design that allows it to be a traditional laptop, in tablet mode and entertainment mode.

Look and feel – its raison d’être

Perhaps the most important thing to buyers is what it looks and feels like – not what is under the cow skin!

It is desirable, very well made, sturdy in all three formats and – well I want one! But then I have always owned expensive leather writing portfolios.

There are nice touches like a stylus holder. Some models come with a standard Windows Ink compatible stylus.

It comes in Bordeaux Burgundy (exclusive to Harvey Norman) or Cognac Brown leather over a dark ash silver base and frame.

HP Spectre Leather Folio

Battery life – another claim to fame

HP claims the battery gives up to 21-hours using an FHD video loop at 150nits (about half brightness suitable for aeroplane viewing).

It has a 6-cell, 54.28 Li-ion battery that takes up 70% of the interior space. It also has a 65W USB-C power delivery (PD) adaptor. That means any USB-C PD adaptor is fine! Fast charge of 0-50% in 30 minutes.

Independent tests show battery life is closer to 14-hours – still that is 50% more than higher powered competitors.

Launch models have a 1920 x 1080, FHD, W-LED screen. There is a 4K screen version coming, but that will sap the battery more.

The CPU/GPU enables this design.

In part, good battery life comes from using Intel’s 8th generation dual-Core i5-8200Y (1.3/3.9Ghz) or i7-8500Y(1.5/4.2Ghz) processors. The Amber-Lake Y series is a very low 5W Max TDP power ‘sipper’ with corresponding lower performance.

These enable passive cooling, e.g. no fan and we are yet to see any performance ratings under load to determine throttling. Other devices to use passive cooling include the Surface Go, Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Air.

Ironically the PassMark for the i5 is faster at 1704/4320 (single/dual core) versus the i7 at 1234/3590.

I can’t understand why the i7 has a lower PassMark except that it may be more heavily throttled to stay within the 5W TDP power envelope. Initial reports are that CPU is throttling is needed to maintain an internal temperature in the 55-65° range, so performance under load suffers.

Both use the Intel HD Graphics 615 GPU with an H.265 and Google’s V9 decoder. It will support dual external [email protected] screens, but you will need 16GB of RAM to support this. Gaming will be at lower frame rates, and the screen has a slow 50ms G-to-G.

RAM uses the older LPDDR3-1866Mhz (versus newer DDR4-2400Mhz), but that matches the CPU’s performance and power requirements.

Both have integrated USB-C 3.1 (Thunderbolt 3) and Wi-Fi AC, 2 x 2 and Bluetooth 4.2. There is a choice of LTE (Intel XMM 7560 LTE-Advanced Pro using an eSIM and a standard sim) and/or Wi-Fi models.

There is nothing wrong with these CPUs – they drive longer battery life. But those expecting or needing typical 8th generation Whiskey Lake U-series i5 or i7 performance will be disappointed and live with closer to 10 hours of battery life.

Screen

It is a 13.3”, 1920 x 1080, W-LED, IPS Gorilla Glass NBT covered touchscreen with smaller side bezels. It still has a larger top and bottom bezel. HP claim 400nits brightness. Independent tests show 98% sRGB and 62% Adobe RGB – fine for movies but not for professional video/still use.

Battery life is better by using an FHD screen. There is a 4K screen version coming, but that will sap more battery. If you want 4K, then go for the Spectre x360!

It looks like a premium screen that should provide enough brightness for outdoor use.

Storage

Currently, the units have a choice of 256/512GB and 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD. I understand that these are Samsung PM961 series and are at the top end of the performance scale, e.g. over 3000/1200MBps sequential read/write.

Audio

It has four B&O tuned speakers. I was unable to measure the volume or frequency response, but independent tests say it is a maximum of 70dB with little distortion is achievable. That is fine for personal use.

What I did glean from a quick listen is that there is no bass, balanced mids and highs giving it a Bright Vocal sound signature. It is a long way from the nirvana of warm and sweet for movies and music, but most use Bluetooth headphones for this, so this is not an issue.

Keyboard, trackpad, stylus

It is a two-level backlit, chiclet keyboard. The throw is 1.3mm, and it has slightly heavier actuation to compensate giving it a shallow but firm feel.

The touchpad is precision glass (95 x 55mm), and cursor glide is smooth. It needs a firm finger to initiate a click.

Some models come with the standard Windows Ink Stylus. I understand it also supports the more expensive 4096 pressure level tilt stylus.

HP Spectre Leather Folio

Ports

It has two Thunderbolt 3, 40Gbps supporting USB-C power delivery and DisplayPort 1.2 over USB-C. In other words ideal for a dock like the Kensington ThunderBolt 3 dock that has our award for the Best for Windows.

It also has a USB-C 3.1, 5Gbps sleep and charge port and a 3.5mm combo audio jack.

Size and weight

32.01 x 23.45 x 1.54 cm x 1.47kg

GadgetGuy’s take: Commit the cardinal sin and envy one!

As a generalisation I like the HP Spectre series – these add some panache to an otherwise boring aluminium grey sea of ultra-light laptops.

I would buy the HP Spectre Leather Folio if I were a high-powered executive that needed to make a statement along with the $5,000 suit, equally expensive shoes, Porsche outside, etc.

But I suspect that the new Spectre 13 and 15” x360 offer better value and performance, so it depends on what your needs are.

On the plus side

  • Great ‘scantily clad’ leather looks
  • Refined, capable, says you have arrived!
  • Good battery life
  • Quality build and components
  • Three expansion ports
  • S-Pen included (but not the new Tilt Pen)
  • Totally quite fan-less

On the negative side

  • Heavier and larger than the new Spectre 13” x360
  • Slower processors
  • Unsure how leather will wear over the long-term

Price

HP Spectre Leather Folio website here and prices depend on specifications. The entry-level 8G/256GB i5 is $2799 with LTE, and the 16GB/1TB i7 is $3799.