LISBON — Porsche is releasing a laptop, and like its automotive namesake, it’s not going to be cheap.
In fact, the $2,495 13-inch Porsche Design Book One manages to make Apple’s (AAPL) $1,799 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar look downright affordable. It’s also a striking but hefty piece of work with a screen you can rotate 360 degrees or detach to use as a standalone tablet — a first for a laptop.
And it just might get the attention of passersby… in the same way that rolling up to a stoplight in a 911 or, worse yet, a Cayenne SUV might get you a few side-eyes.
After initially unveiling the Book One in February, Porsche Design brought the laptop to the IFA Global Press Conference here for a hands-on inspection by the assembled press.
Porsche Design, a subsidiary of the German automaker, is best known for selling watches and sunglasses, but more recently has branched out into building gadgets such as a sound bar built around exhaust parts from a 911 GT3 (No, really).
Give Porsche this much credit: The Book One does not demand attention in the way that Acer’s bright-red Ferrari-branded laptops did. From across a room, the Porsche laptop, designed with input from Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC), could pass for any other Windows machine.
Except for one major difference. This laptop is both a hybrid laptop-tablet and a convertible laptop-tablet.
Like Microsoft’s Surface Book, the Book One’s 13.3-inch screen detaches for standalone use as a touchscreen tablet complete with a single Thunderbolt 3 (high-powered USB-C) port.
When attached, you can rotate the Book One’s screen on nifty hinges that Porsche says were inspired by transmission parts. Flip the display all the way back and can use it as a tablet with a full set of ports.
Porsche’s laptop, like many new, slimmer systems, charges via its USB-C port, so you can use any other USB-C charger instead of being stuck with a proprietary power block. It also includes two standard USB ports and a microSD memory-card slot.
The One’s 512GB solid-state drive and 16GB of RAM double the storage and memory of many laptops, and its new Intel Core i7 processor is among the fastest available.
Porsche says the notebook’s battery will last 14 hours on a charge and can be recharged in two hours. There’s also a backlit keyboard and an included Wacom stylus that attaches magnetically to the side of the One’s display.
The Porsche felt heavier than 3.5 pounds when I picked it up — an extra half a pound and change of weight compared to my aging MacBook Air was more noticeable than I expected.
By the numbers
When the Book One ships in mid-May, it will join a growing cast of high-end laptops with roughly 13-inch screens that are lighter and start at much lower prices.
The Surface Book, for example, begins at $1,299 and weighs between 3.3 pounds and 3.5 pounds depending on its configuration. Among convertibles, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon goes for $1,329 and up and weighs as little as 2.5 pounds, the 2.9-pound HP (HPQ) Spectre x360 convertible series starts at $1,090, and Dell’s XPS 13, 2.7 pounds and up, can be had for just $999.
And then there’s that Touch Bar MacBook, which starts at $1,800 and weighs 3 pounds. Compared to other laptops from competing brands, that might seem high, but it’s a relative bargain next to the Book One.
Still, you can configure the MacBook Pro with enough extras and goodies to push its price up to $4,299. My colleague David Pogue, for example, wound up dropping $3,000 on the machine, which has left him with some qualms.
Likewise, you can spend the same on a Surface Book if you max out its storage at a 1TB and go for the fastest possible Intel Core i7 chip, while an X1 Carbon and an XPS 13 with the same options will cost $2,719 and $2,200, respectively. The Spectre x360, however, notches $1,710 with those upgrades.
The Book One doesn’t offer any custom-configuration options, so the only way you can spend more than $2,495 is if you let the dealer talk you into the undercoating package. (Kidding!)
There is no substitute
Whipping out a laptop with “Porsche” splashed across the top does make a statement that opening a Dell, HP, Lenovo or Apple does not. It suggests that you paid a premium for performance, or at least the appearance of it, and presumably have more money where that came from.
Perhaps onlookers may take note and expect to see you use this thing to shop for yachts, book travel on private jets or conduct insider trading.
You, in turn, may want to return their gaze, smirk, and, like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business,” intone: “Porsche. There is no substitute.”
(Disclosure: The IFA organizers covered travel costs for the attending press, including my own.)
More from Rob: