Each year, one laptop out of the many I review jumps out at me the most. It can be a singular outstanding feature or a combination of little things that sets it apart. It’s not necessarily the best laptop that I’ve reviewed, because maybe it has some attribute that limits its appeal to a select group of buyers. But it’s a laptop that’s different enough that I’m not quick to forget about it.
For 2023, that laptop was the HP Spectre Foldable PC. On paper, it’s an unusual machine with a 17-inch foldable display and some interesting potential use cases. In practice, it’s so well-designed that it works better than some other laptops that seek to offer as much flexibility.
The Spectre Foldable PC is a lot like the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold that we reviewed last year. Both laptops have large 17-inch OLED displays that fold in the middle. Both have external keyboards with touchpads that allow the machines to fold into usable 13-inch clamshell
But the two are not identical. The Spectre Foldable PC offers up some differences that give it a distinct edge.
First is the means for propping up the laptops in desktop mode. The Zenbook uses a thick layer on the back of the tablet with a kickstand that extends to hold it in place. The Spectre has a smaller embedded kickstand that’s just as effective, but results in a slimmer and simpler design.
Next is the external keyboard. HP’s version wirelessly charges while sitting on the lower portion of the tablet when it’s folded into clamshell mode. The Zenbook’s keyboard is charged separately, which is a lot less convenient. The Spectre Foldable PC also has a mode where the keyboard rests on half of the folded display, revealing another touch display with an ergonomic fold in the keyboard, making for comfortable use of the touchpad.
The pen can also attach magnetically to the Spectre tablet and wirelessly charge, giving it another advantage over the Zenbook.
Generally speaking, HP paid a lot of attention to some other details as well when designing the Spectre Foldable PC. The hinge is designed to be both comfortable to use and durable. I can attest to the former. The batteries are split evenly between both sides of the fold, making for a 17-inch tablet that’s remarkably well-balanced. And somehow, HP managed to produce a laptop that performs well enough while still offering up decent battery life in spite of the massive OLED display.
The Spectre Foldable PC and Zenbook 17 Fold aren’t the only 3-in-1 designs. The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i is another that uses two separate OLED displays and an origami stand to offer up similar use cases. But the Spectre Foldable PC is the easiest and most convenient to use in the real world.
As I reviewed the Spectre Foldable PC, I found myself using it more as a desktop than I expected. Sure, it made for a clamshell laptop that was as good as most of those I reviewed in 2023, but its desktop mode was surprisingly useful. The 17-inch display was large enough for me to use two windows side by side, something I rarely do on laptops, but it still fit into relatively small spaces.
If I were buying a laptop today, the Spectre Foldable PC would be high on my list. But I’d never buy it. Simply put, it’s way too expensive at $5,000. That makes it a very tantalizing desktop, and the the definition of something that teases, but is unobtainable.
The Zenbook 17 Fold is also expensive at $3,000, but that’s a lot more affordable.
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