HP Spectre Foldable 17 review: a flagship screen and hugely versatile device, but it’s fatally flawed

HP Spectre Foldable 17: Two-minute reviewHP’s Spectre Foldable 17 is, on the surface, an interesting device. If you were to look at the product page or any of the marketing material for the Foldable 17, no doubt you’d be impressed with the folding OLED panel, its crisp resolution, and the insane versatility that comes with it.That magnetic keyboard, shifting the display up and altering the resolution automatically, and the fact you can use it as a fully-fledged all-in-one PC,

Display: 17-inch 1920 x 2560, OLED, 500 nitsIt is only a 60Hz panel, however, unlike some of the OLED screens now available, so it’s not quite as buttery smooth as some of the competition with fixed-screen displays. However, we have seen bendable OLED panels go well beyond 60Hz, with Corsair’s Xeneon Flex being perhaps one of the better examples of what’s possible with the tech in terms of refresh rate at least.The real party trick, however, is that fold, and how it incorporates into the design of the device. Namely, this isn’t technically one product. It’s a laptop, an all-in-one PC, and a tablet, depending on how you configure it. In the rear of the unit, there’s a kickstand that you can fold out to turn the Foldable into a pure 17-inch screen. You can then use the keyboard-trackpad combo to operate it like a standard desktop PC. Or alternatively, drop that kickstand, and convert it into a 17-inch tablet instead. Create a slight bend in the screen and place it on your desk, then attach the keyboard to it (via the power of magnetism), and you’ve turned it into a laptop. Interestingly, with laptop mode HP has some nifty software installed that detects the keyboard’s position, and adjusts the screen size and resolution accordingly, depending on where you place the keyboard, which is pretty neat. Rotation is supported as well: you can rotate the entire unit horizontally, one way or the other, and the display will twist to the correct orientation accordingly (although bear in mind that kickstand only works one way). In portrait mode, however, you are limited to one orientation.That is mildly awkward, as this does place one of the only two USB-C ports on the top-left of the display. If you plug in the included USB dock on the bottom-right side of the screen, then your only option, if you want power in as well, is to have the cable trailing out of the top-left of the display, which looks pretty ghastly.The included kickstand is great if you want to use the device as an all-in-one PC, although it does only work in one orientation (Image credit: Future / Zak Storey)And it’s the ports that are the most frustrating to deal with. As standard, HP does include a USB hub with the foldable, but otherwise, you only get two USB-C Thunderbolt ports on here and nothing else. That’d be fine on a super-thin, small form factor device, but the Foldable is quite thick at 0.85cm, as that’s necessary to house all of that internal hardware.The Spectre Foldable is thick – seriously thick – and only has two USB-C ports as standard (Image credit: Future / Zak Storey)Then we get to the keyboard. It’s small, foldable, with fairly standard keys that feel okay touch-wise. It has a trackpad, a small amount of Spectre branding on there, and a soft-touch leather cover. It connects only via Bluetooth and has a 330-hour battery life. You can charge it wirelessly off the display (when it’s fully on the device), but otherwise you’re stuck with a proprietary charging cable instead. For the money, the keyboard experience isn’t great (Image credit: Future / Zak Storey)HP also reckons it should automatically pair with the Foldable 17 as well, but we consistently found that to be a weak point of the unit, particularly after restarting Windows, or letting the keyboard battery go flat. The one saving grace is you can magnetically stick the keyboard on the display, leave it there, and close the device without worry.Design: 3.5 / 5HP Spectre Foldable 17: PerformanceThe keyboard-trackpad combo has a phenomenal battery life, and wirelessly charges off the device, but connectivity can be an issue (Image credit: Future / Zak Storey)Fine for light usageGaming and heavy productivity isn’t possibleSo, the design side of the equation, except for a few minor or indeed more major pitfalls depending on your perspective, is pretty okay to be fair. There are a few foibles, particularly with the keyboard and placement of ports, but generally speaking, disregarding the price, the HP Foldable is an awesome product.However, coming to its performance, this is where things take a turn for the worse. Now let’s be clear, you have to look at this with that price in mind: $5,000 is no small sum, particularly for a laptop like this.I took it for a spin, benchmarking it across all manner of tests, just to see how the Foldable would perform. My test conditions were strict, and it was plugged in, and on the high-performance power plan in Windows, with all of the latest updates applied, and chipset/drivers installed. I ran a number of tests, including Crossmark, Geekbench 6.2.1, Blender, and some limited gaming benchmarks as well.Now, Intel’s integrated Iris graphics has come a long way, but it’s still nowhere near the calibre of the Alchemist architecture found in the Arc graphics cards. It’s just not going to be one of the best gaming laptops, and that’s fine, it’s not meant to be. However, when you’re spending $5,000 you do expect a modicum of performance.In Geekbench 6.2.1 the Foldable scored 2,210 in single-core and 6,635 in multi-core. By comparison, the Huawei Matebook D 16 scored 2,605 in single-core and 12,568 in multi-core. That’s double the multi-threaded performance in comparison, from a laptop that clocks in at 25% of the price. The Foldable did have a slight edge when it came to CrystalDiskMark clocking in at 6,739MB/s for reads and 4,524MB/s for writes (sequential), but then we came to the gaming, or lack thereof. No matter what I tried, not one single benchmark would complete. In 3DMark Wildlife Extreme and Extreme Unlimited (tests designed for mobile gaming), the Foldable didn’t meet the minimum requirements, and Solar Bay (mobile ray tracing) was the same. I also tried Borderlands 3 and Total War: Warhammer III, on their lowest settings, and despite making it to the main menu, neither game would load the benchmark without crashing.Is it a tablet? A plane? No, it’s a foldable screen (Image credit: Future / Zak Storey)Blender performance was pretty dire too, at 26.81 for scene one, 17.14 for scene two, and 11.69 for scene three – less than half the performance of our comparative Huawei Matebook D 16. Likewise, Crossmark also got a pummelling across all four results, with scores ranging anywhere between 30-40% worse than the £1,200 Huawei notebook.Clearly, when it comes to PC games this HP device isn’t going to be as capable as any of the best gaming desktops out there right now. Something like a dedicated gaming PC packing an Nvidia RTX 4080 Super, and maybe Intel Core i9-14900K, is obviously going to run rings around the Foldable 17.However, the problem goes beyond this, as you could literally go out right now, and spend $3,500 to pick up a PC with a Ryzen 9 7900X, RTX 4070 Super, 64GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, and a 32-inch 4K OLED screen, and still have $1,500 left over to get a good laptop. Or alternatively, if all you want is a powerhouse laptop with a stunning screen, you could spend $2,500 on something like an Asus Zenbook Pro 16X OLED and save yourself a ton of cash while getting way, way better performance levels.If all you care about is streaming content on Netflix, or doing some light document work, and browsing the web, the HP Spectre Foldable is more than capable of that. But then, so is practically every laptop at every price point, even the budget ones, and for that crazy four-figure investment, you should expect more.Performance: 1.5 / 5HP Spectre Foldable 17: Battery lifeSolid 11-hour battery lifeFor battery life, the HP Spectre Foldable performed well enough and pretty much met our expectations across the board. It wasn’t phenomenal by any means, but lasted a full day of working remotely, with wireless and Bluetooth devices connected to it.As standard, the Foldable comes with a 6-cell 94.3Wh Li-ion polymer battery and is rated in its folded mode, with keyboard attached, at around 12.5 hours, which is roughly what I saw during my time testing.If you detach the keyboard entirely and run the Foldable as a display, that time does drop, as you’re effectively enabling more pixels to be active as you are running a higher resolution – but otherwise, it’s still fairly consistent in that regard.HP also has fast charging support on the Foldable as well, and with any 100W USB-C charger, you’ll get around 50% charge in 40 to 45 minutes, with a full charge taking a little over two hours in my testing.Battery life: 4 / 5Should you buy the HP Spectre Foldable 17?Buy it if…You’re looking for a beautiful and unique screen The HP Spectre Foldable has a stunning OLED panel. The screen offers a crisp resolution and high pixel density, and awesome color accuracy to boot.You want a highly versatile

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