The HP Spectre Folio is a leather-clad laptop that’s luxurious

The HP Spectre Folio is a sensual experience. By wrapping an incredibly thin laptop in a full-grain leather shell, HP has made a PC whose look, feel, and smell will evoke classic, covetable objects like a bomber jacket, a handbag, or a leather football or baseball. You’ll find yourself responding to the Spectre Folio in the same way—and then fighting it, as if it were wrong to react like that to a PC, even if it’s also one of the first super-efficient Amber Lake laptops we’ve seen. 

I had the same struggle during my sneak peek at the Spectre Folio ahead of its announcement Monday morning in New York City. I couldn’t take my hands off of it, and it felt great on my lap, too. Yet it felt like HP broke some rule. Keep reading, though, and you’ll see that the Spectre Folio is a really interesting PC, as well as a potentially covetable object. It’s available for pre-order starting October 1 at Best Buy and HP, with a starting price of $1,300. See below for full details on prices, specs, and features. 

About the full-grain leather shell

A few laptops over the years have sported a leather panel or two, but the HP Spectre Folio is the first whose entire outer shell is full-grain leather. The leather is bonded around the edges, which are hand-painted to match. Hand-stitching accents the hinge in the middle of the lid. 

hp spectre folio lid detail Daniel Masaoka/IDG

Full-grain leather covers the entire Spectre Folio.

Josephine Tan, the head of consumer notebooks for HP, said they were looking for a completely different material from metal, plastic, or carbon fiber. “Leather is warm to the touch and feels good,” Tan said, adding, “you don’t feel the heat transfer as much as you do with metal.”

It sure wasn’t chosen because it was easy. “Leather doesn’t give us the opportunity to cut a lot of holes,” Tan said. “Otherwise you destroy the look.” The fanless design helps, as does an air channel created by the loose leather fold along the main display hinge. That fold also adds to the Spectre Folio’s organic look and feel.  

hp spectre folio tablet mode Daniel Masaoka/IDG

The curved leather fold along the hinge makes the HP Spectre Folio feel organic.

As for durability, anything your other leather products can take, the Spectre Folio can take. The chrome tanning process makes the leather stain- and water-resistant: “Take care of it like you take care of your handbag,” advised Ai-Kuan Lim, director of consumer new product introduction for HP. That also means, of course, that the Spectre Folio is at best “resistant” to things leather can’t take, like deep scratches and random pen marks. A drop could be interesting. 

Let’s also acknowledge that for some people, a leather-clad PC crosses a line. Unlike metal, plastic, and other traditional materials for tech devices, leather comes from a dead cow. A vegan coworker told me, “I hate the Spectre Folio already.” All of these materials have some sort of negative environmental impact. Other than being biodegradable, leather doesn’t save us from that.

Spectre Folio features, specs, and pricing

The Spectre Folio will start off with three SKUs: one exclusive to Best Buy, one available from HP, and a third coming later in the year, along with some new options. Most features will be common to all Spectre Folio SKUs: