HP Spectre Folio vs. Surface Pro 6: Which Should You Buy?

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HP's new genuine leather Spectre Folio is no gimmick. The 13-inch laptop blends designer fashion with impressive usability to create an excellent overall package. But there is some stiff competition in the portable 2-in-1 segment, none better than the Microsoft Surface Pro 6.

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The Spectre Folio and Surface Pro 6 are highly recommended products, but there are some important differences that you should consider before you pull the trigger on one of these gorgeous machines.

HP Spectre Folio vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 6: Specs Compared

  HP Spectre Folio Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Price (Starting/as configured) $1,299 ($1,608) $999 ($1,429)
Colors Cognac Brown & Ash, Burgundy & Luminous Gold Platinum, Black
Display 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel
CPU 8th Gen i5, i7 (Y-series) 8th Gen Core i5, i7
RAM 8GB, 16GB 8GB, 16GB
SSD 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Key Travel 1.3mm 1.3mm
Ports USB-C, 2 Thunderbolt 3, headphone USB 3.0, DisplayPort, Surface Connect, microSD, headphone
Webcam 1080p 5MP (front), 8MP (rear)
Size 12.6 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
Geekbench 4.1 7,647 13,025
Battery Life (hrs:mins) 10:18 9:20
Weight 3.4 pounds 1.7 pounds, 2.4 pounds (with keyboard)

 

Design

HP makes a bold statement with the Spectre Folio 13. Bonded in 100 percent genuine leather, this convertible ultrabook looks unlike anything else on the market. The laptop's lid has a medium-brown leather grain with light-brown stitching and a subtle HP logo embossed in the center. The palm rest is also covered in leather, while the display and keyboard deck are made of ash-gray aluminum.

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The 2-in-1 looks more at home in a designer handbag than in the briefcase of a business professional, although such a fashion-forward device is certain to impress co-workers. Like any new leather product, the Spectre Folio 13 smells heavenly (not that you should be sniffing your tech). Also, the soft-touch finish felt plush against my wrists when I used the keyboard.

The Surface Pro 6 is a sleek rectangular slate with flat edges and curved corners. While not the traditional aluminum we typically find on tablets and laptops, the magnesium alloy Microsoft employs on its Surface products is more familiar than the cowhide covering the Spectre Folio.

Surface Pro 6

One way these devices stand out from the competition is the mechanism they use to convert into a laptop or tablet. The Folio, primarily a laptop, folds into a tablet with a firm push on top of the display (which disconnects the bottom of the display from the deck) and a sliding motion toward the user. HP cleverly placed magnets in the ridge between the touchpad and keyboard so you can stop short of full tablet mode, and, instead, place the display at a 60-degree angle into presentation mode.

The Surface Pro 6 employs a flexible kickstand to convert from a tablet into a laptop. You simply grab the bottom rear of the tablet to extend the kickstand to reach your desired viewing angle. It's important to note that the detachable keyboard on the Surface Pro is soft, making it less comfortable to use on your lap than the rigid bottom of the Spectre Folio.

Both portable machines are available in two unique color variants. The cowhide on the Spectre 13 comes in Cognac with Dark Ash or Bordeaux Burgundy with Luminous Gold. The Surface Pro returns in Platinum (silver) but now there is a sleek Black finish to choose from.

MORE: HP Spectre Folio Hands-On: A Stunning Leather 2-in-1

The Spectre Folio (12.6 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches) has a larger display, and, therefore, takes up more space than the Surface Pro 6 (11.5 x 7.0 x 0.3 inches). The HP ultrabook (3.4 pounds) is also heavier than the featherweight Surface tablet (1.7 pounds, 2.4 pounds with keyboard).

Winner: Spectre Folio

Ports

The Surface Pro 6 has a wider variety of ports than the Spectre Folio, but the lack of a USB-C input is hard to overlook. The right side of the Surface Pro 6 is crowded with connections, including a USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort and a Surface Connect port for linking to monitors. A headphone/mic jack has the left edge of the tablet to itself.

HP-Spectre-Folio-004

The Spectre Folio relies on USB-C ports for charging and connecting to peripherals. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side of the laptop and a USB-C and headphone jack on the left. Hidden under the display is a dual-SIM slot.

Winner: Draw

Display

The Spectre Folio 13 has an impressive 13.3-inch, 1080p display, but the 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel panel on the Surface Pro 6 edges it out when it comes to color and brightness.

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The Spectre Folio's vivid panel can reproduce an impressive 119 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which tops the premium laptop category average (116 percent). However, the Surface Pro 6's display, with a sRGB rating of 136 percent, has even richer colors.

While not exactly dim, the Folio 13's (313 nits) display doesn't get as bright as the Surface Pro 6's (408 percent), and it's even less luminous than the average premium laptop (316 nits).

MORE: 6 Reasons to Buy the Surface Pro 6 (and 2 Reasons to Skip It)

We didn't have any issues using either touch screen to navigate the web. Unfortunately, both displays are surrounded by thick bezels, which is becoming harder to excuse as edge-to-edge screens become the norm.

Winner:Surface Pro 6

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Spectre Folio's keyboard is more comfortable than I was expecting from a laptop this thin. While its 1.3 millimeters of key travel is below our 1.5mm preference, the snappy feedback I enjoyed when typing more than made up for it. Additionally, the backlit keys are large and well-spaced, and an actuation force of 71 grams kept my fingers moving swiftly.

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The Surface Pro 6's keyboard is equally impressive. Matching the Spectre's 1.3mm of key travel, the Surface Pro's Type Cover keys are clicky, defying the typically stiff and uncomfortable ones we assign to detachables. The Surface Pro 6's 72-gram actuation force is, once again, nearly identical to the Folio's keyboard, which is why the typing experience is so similar on these devices.

surface pro 6 keyboard

On the Spectre Folio, I scored 117 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 90 wpm on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. I did even better on the Surface Pro 6, typing at 118 wpm with an error rate of just 5 percent.

The touchpads on the Spectre Folio and Surface Pro 6 are on the small side, but neither ran into any issues when we browsed the web.

Winner: Draw

Performance

This is where these 2-in-1s start to distance themselves from each other. The Surface Pro 6, despite being smaller, offers significantly better performance than the Spectre Folio. The gap in performance can be attributed to the powerful U-series chips in the Surface Pro 6, which are more capable than the Y-series processors in the Spectre Folio.

Microsoft-Surface-Pro-6

Equipped with a quad-core i5-8250U CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Surface Pro 6 scored a 13,025 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test. That crushes the Spectre Folio (Core i7-8500Y, 8GB of RAM), which notched a lowly 7,647.

The Surface Pro 6 matched 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 12 seconds in our Excel Macro Test. The Spectre Folio took three times as long, with a result of 3 minutes and 37 seconds.

Our Handbrake test, which involves converting a 4K clip into 1080p resolution, was also a blowout. The Surface Pro 6 completed the task in 23 minutes and 22 seconds, less than half the time the Spectre Folio (49:45) needed.

MORE: Surface Pro 6 Beats New iPad Pro in Bend Test

If it's any consolation, the 256GB SSD in the Spectre Folio 13 (318 megabytes per second) duplicated a 4.97GB file of mixed-media faster than the Surface Pro 6's (203 MBps) 512GB hard drive.

Winner: Surface Pro 6

Battery Life

Both 2-in-1s last a full day on a charge, but the Spectre Folio 13 will give you a bit more reassurance away from an outlet. The low-power CPU in the Folio helped it achieve a very good runtime of 10 hours and 18 minutes.

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The Surface Pro 6 powered down after 9 hours and 20 minutes, which is an excellent result when you factor in performance.

Winner: Spectre Folio

Value and Price

The Spectre Folio starts at $1,299 for a configuration with a Core i5-8200Y CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Our LTE-connected review unit cost $1,608 and came loaded with an Intel Core i7-8500Y CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an Intel UHD 615 GPU. Increasing storage space to 512GB costs an extra $140, and another $1,040 will get you a 2TB SSD, for a grand total of $2,539. For cellular connectivity, you can add an LTE modem to the Spectre Folio for  $159.

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The base model of the Surface Pro 6 (Platinum only) costs $999 and comes with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Adding the keyboard brings the price to $1,028, and the Surface pen costs another $99 on top of that. Opting for 256GB of storage costs an egregious $300 more than the 128GB model, uping the price of $1,428 with the accessories. Another model with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD costs $1,699 without the keyboard or pen.

Winner: Draw

Overall Winner

  HP Spectre Folio Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Design (10) 9 8
Ports (10) 6 6
Display (15) 12 13
Keyboard/Touchpad (10) 12 12
Performance (20) 12 17
Battery Life (20) 17 15
Value (10) 5 5
Overall (100) 73 76

As you can see, the Spectre Folio and Surface Pro 6 are evenly matched. Which of these two laptops you should choose will come down to your needs and preferences. If you want the most power, then go with the Surface Pro 6. The tablet's U-series CPU provides better performance than the Y-series chips in the Folio. The Surface Pro 6 is also significantly smaller and lighter than the Spectre Folio, so it may suit frequently travelers better.

On the flip side, if you prefer a more traditional laptop, and you care about how comfortable it is to use in your lap, then the Spectre Folio is an excellent choice. The HP laptop also has a larger display, an hour longer battery life and multiple USB-C ports.

In the end, you can't go wrong with either device, and we wouldn't blame you for basing your decision on your preference between fashionable leather and sleek black metal.

Credit: Laptop Mag

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