HP Spectre Foldable PC in different modes. Source HP
HP recently showed off its 17-inch Spectre Foldable PC and Envy Move all-in-one (AIO) devices at its Reimagine event, kicking off the new era of the AI PC. The era of the AI PC is the next evolution of the PC, refreshing the PC with new AI capabilities and a new “personal” twist. The personal computer becomes the personal companion and HP’s new devices and roll out of AI features of its devices bring HP into the new era of the AI PC, and I’m thrilled.
In this article, I want to dive into these new devices and how AI brings about refreshing and versatile new designs.
The foldable PC, HP’s way
The HP Spectre Foldable PC is HP’s first go at any foldable product, and HP is a very welcome player in the foldable market. It joins Asus and Lenovo, and although I have not spent much time with the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold, I have spent plenty of time with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.
Like the Asus and Lenovo products mentioned above, the Spectre Foldable PC folds in half, with three primary modes for using the device depending on the computing need. It has a keyboard that snaps onto one edge of the display for laptop mode, it can be opened up all the way to be used as a 17-inch Windows 11 tablet and it has a kickstand on the back so it can be used as a portable desktop PC.
Compared to foldable smartphones, which put less strain on the hinge because they are so much smaller, a 17-inch foldable display needs a strong and resilient hinge. The challenge is to create a durable hinge without adding too much weight to the device and without compromising its overall balance. HP also must take into account that the angle of a laptop display is more than 90 degrees when it’s open, which plays into the balance of the device and the durability of the hinge in laptop mode. How these factors are handled can be the difference between a quality foldable PC and a niche device that gives users headaches.
The hinge of the Spectre Foldable PC. Source HP
I say all this to point out the difficulty in designing a good hinge, not only for HP but for all foldable PCs. I will have to give my full assessment of the hinge after I’ve used the device in person, but for now I will take HP’s word for that it is “designed for durability and tested with the same requirements as traditional HP laptops.”
The design of the keyboard is also important. The detachable keyboard on the Spectre is half the size of the display, so it is stored inside the fold of the screen, meaning that the keyboard does not need to fold flat like the Lenovo X1 Fold. The detachable keyboard is a design change Lenovo made from its X1 Fold Gen 1 to Gen 2—and it’s a design change I agree with. A flat-fold screen with no room for the keyboard inside means that you would have to carry the keyboard alongside the device instead of in it, but it also means that without the keyboard there is a gap in the fold.
A design choice that makes the laptop mode feel familiar is the ability to pull the keyboard forward, bringing the touchpad off the device and at an angle. HP calls this mode its expanded laptop mode. If you look at any laptop on the market, excluding some very thin laptops, they are thicker at the back and thinner at the front to adjust to the natural placement of our hands on the keyboard. On the Spectre, this expanded laptop mode also leaves room for more of the display on the horizontal part above the keyboard. Given this extra display real estate to play with, I am interested to see how HP handles windowing applications on Windows 11. There is a way to customize Snap Layouts in Windows 11, and HP could have those customized for the extra display space right out of the box.
Conveniently, the keyboard charges on the device, and although there is a separate keyboard charger in the box, it is most likely not needed. This wireless charging for the keyboard is a novel feature for this type of design, and I like it.
Enhanced by AI
One big differentiator for the Spectre Foldable PC is HP’s implementation of AI for better performance and adaptive computing. HP says it has built-in AI for security, wellness and gesture controls. It also comes with HP Presence 2.0, HP’s productivity and collaboration software for conferencing.
I think HP’s inclusion of AI in the Spectre Foldable PC adds significant value to the unique design of the device. It is not a traditional computer and doesn’t need traditional software. It needs AI that enhances the device’s foldable experience so that the software adapts to the user’s modes, habits and use cases. For example, the Spectre can detect when you walk away from the device and when you approach it. Each usage configuration has a different method of detecting when you walk away and when you approach, so the machine must accurately, consistently and efficiently detect when this happens and smartly respond. Although it is easier said than done, AI is the answer to adaptive computing for modular devices.
The HP Envy Move
The HP Envy Move is also a unique device with its all-in-one (AIO) design and built-in battery. It has a 23.8-inch QHD touch display and a 13th Gen Intel Core U series processor with 8GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. It has an HP Wide Vision 5MP webcam and come with a built-in handle and a keyboard.
With the built-in battery and touch display, the HP Envy Move is a versatile and compelling device for many use cases in the classroom and for working from home. There are not many devices with large 20-inch+ touch displays and those that are larger than 20 inches are not portable. I could see stylus support being very useful in the classroom for teaching and at home for kids to do homework. The portability is convenient for people who work from home and use many different rooms in the house but don’t want to lose the large display that most notebooks do not offer.
I like the unique portable AIO design of the HP Envy Move and am curious to know how long it can be used on the battery alone. I imagine wherever the power cord will be “home base” for the HP Envy Move considering it can’t survive off battery life alone. While this is an obvious observation, I believe it is the biggest reason why nobody has ever tried an AIO design with a battery. Could it be that HP’s vision of the AI PC makes this design more practical? Certainly.
HP’s vision is to integrate AI features so that data is kept secure, processed faster and enables a higher level of personalization. These AI experiences allow for versatile designs that adapt to the user’s workflow, not the other way around. You want a portable AIO? Sure, let’s beef it up with AI features that know your habits, understand your tasks, and is personalized to you.
I hope to see more unique PC designs come to the market and I am glad to see HP dipping its toes into the foldable market. HP is usually calculated and strategic with its devices, and I am confident in its execution of the HP Spectre Foldable PC. The HP Envy Move is also a compelling device for schoolwork and WFH and I am interested to see where HP takes that design.
As someone who travels most weeks out of the year and is steeped in the hybrid workflow, the Spectre Foldable PC could be a valuable device for me. It is larger than the ThinkPad X1 Fold and more business-oriented than the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold. Net-net, good job, HP—and welcome to the foldable game.