Some of our favorite ultrabooks of the past few years have come courtesy of HP. Topping that list are the Spectre Folio and Spectre x360. While they come from the same company, these two laptops are, in some ways, direct competitors. Not only are they both 13-inch laptops, but the Spectre x360 and the Spectre Folio are 2-in-1s that retail for around the same price.
There are some key differences between these two laptops. With its U-series CPUs, the Spectre x360 could be seen as the brawn of this duo, while the leather-bonded Folio is undoubtedly the beauty. The Folio also has longer battery life, while the x360 has a better offering of ports.
The Spectre Folio and Spectre x360 are some of the best portable laptops on the market, but which device is right for you? Let’s find out.
HP has stepped up the designs of its laptops in recent years, and the Spectre x360 and Spectre Folio are the company’s best examples of that. Both notebooks are slim, lightweight and made of premium materials. While there are a number of similarities between these two devices, they each hold their own aesthetic appeal.
The Spectre Folio is unlike any laptop we’ve ever seen. Bonded
not just covered
in 100 percent genuine leather, the Folio looks like it was created by a top fashion designer. The laptop’s chassis feels plush and the leather does a reasonable job resisting stains and fingerprints. Accenting the leather lid is light stitching and an HP logo embossed in the center. The Folio’s frame and keyboard deck are constructed of a stylish ash-gray aluminum, and a leather loop on the laptop’s right side holds an included stylus.
If the Spectre’s leather materials weren’t unique enough, the laptop also features an innovative mechanism for transforming into a tablet. Instead of bending backward or detaching from a base, the Spectre Folio goes from a laptop into presentation or tablet mode with a push and a slide. That is, the bottom of the display detaches from the base when you push the screen forward, and the display changes viewing angles as you slide it toward you.
With its sleek silver aluminum chassis, the x360 has a more traditional appeal when compared with the Folio. The x360’s sharp angles and low profile give it an aggressive stance, while brushed aluminum and chrome surfaces add a premium touch. The x360 employs a traditional 360-degree hinge for converting from a laptop to a tablet.
Measuring 12 x 8.6 x 0.5 inches and weighing 2.9 pounds, the Spectre x360 is both lighter and more compact than its leather sibling. The 3.4-pound and 12.6 x 9.2 x 0.6-inch Folio is far from being bulky; however, many modern 13-inch laptops weigh less and are smaller.
While both Spectre laptops offer dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone/mic jack, the x360 wins this round for its wider selection of inputs. The x360 also houses a USB 3.1 Type-A port and an SD card reader on the left side, whereas the Folio’s only other port is a USB Type-C input. LTE-enabled versions of the Folio have a dual-sim slot under the display.
You’ll enjoy viewing content from the 1080p panels of both the Folio and x360, but if we had to choose which laptop to binge-watch our favorite TV shows on, we’d pick the Folio for its brighter and more colorful display.
The 13.3-inch display on the Spectre Folio registered 119 percent on our colorimeter, which measures sRGB color gamut. The x360 fell just short of that mark and the premium laptop average (117 percent), at 109 percent.
The x360’s 13.3-inch screen doesn’t get very bright, either. The panel maxed out at 261 nits of brightness, which is dimmer than the premium laptop average (319 percent) and the Spectre Folio (313 nits).
We didn’t run into any issues when using these touch screens to navigate the web, and both displays are surrounded by relatively thin bezels.
Both Spectres defy the stigma that a thin laptop means a poor keyboard. We were impressed with the typing experience on both models, which each offer 1.3 millimeters of key travel. Additionally, a weighty actuation force (71 grams on the Folio, 80 grams on the x360) provide a pleasant snappiness to the keys. The keys on both the x360 and Folio are large, well-spaced and backlit.
While we didn’t run into any issues with the Folio’s 3.7 x 2.1-inch touchpad, we prefer the larger and similarly responsive 4.7 x 2.4-inch surface on the Spectre x360.
The performance round is a blowout in favor of the Spectre x360. That’s because Intel’s U-series chips, found in the x360, are significantly more powerful than the Y-series CPUs employed by the Folio. The gap in performance is illustrated in the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, where the Spectre x360 (Core i7-8550U) scored a 13,568, while the Folio (Core i7-8500Y) lagged behind with a 7,647.
On our Excel Macro Test, the x360 matched 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 36 seconds, which is a full 2 minutes faster than Spectre Folio (3:37).
We saw similar results in our Handbrake test, in which laptops are tasked to convert a 4K video into 1080p resolution. The x360 took 26 minutes flat to complete the rigorous test, which is just short of the premium laptop average (21:51). The Spectre Folio lagged far behind with a wait time of 49 minutes and 45 seconds.
The Spectre x360 even has a faster hard drive than the Folio. The laptop’s 512GB SSD transferred 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 9 seconds for a rate of 565.5 megabytes per second. The Folio’s 256GB SSD did a reasonable job but fell short with a rate of 318 MBps.
The low-powered CPU in the Spectre Folio gives the leather-bonded laptop the edge over the Spectre 360 when it comes to battery life. The Folio stayed powered for 10 hours and 18 minutes on our Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of display brightness. The Spectre x360 powered down more than 2 hours short of that mark, at 8 hours flat.
While it may not have the same luxurious leather materials, the Spectre x360 offers more performance at a lower price. The x360 starts at $1,049 for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Upgrading the 1080p display to 4K resolution costs another $150, but you’ll likely sacrifice battery life. HP also sells the Spectre with 16GB of RAM and a Core i7 CPU for an extra $170. The $1,359, 1080p model we reviewed came equipped with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The leather-bonded Folio starts at $1,299 for a Core i5-8200Y CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. We recommend spending another $200 for the Core i7-8500Y upgrade to eke out as much performance as possible. Our $1,608 LTE-enabled review unit came equipped with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
If you need a laptop that’s capable of powering demanding workloads, then the Spectre x360 is an easy choice. With its quad-core Intel U-series processors, the x360 offers significant performance gains over the Spectre Folio. The traditional bendback 2-in-1 also has a wider variety of ports, a brighter display and a lower price than the Folio.
However, don’t count out HP’s newest entry to the Spectre lineup. After all, the Folio lasts several hours longer on a charge than the x360, and the laptop’s innovative design is arguably the best method for converting a laptop into a tablet. Oh, and don’t forget about the Folio’s luxurious leather materials, which you won’t find on any other laptop in the market.
Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he’s not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.