HP Folio 13 - Review
Overall Score 9/10
- 13.3in screen
- 128GB SSD
- 4GB RAM
- Core i5--2467M processor
- Intel's WiDi technology
- Price as reviewed: £850
The nascent Ultrabook market is still trying to find its feet and manufacturers are trying to find the perfect balance between portability and performance. On the one hand users want the sleek lines of a MacBook Air but on the other hand they don't want to give up the flexibility of a fully-featured laptop.
Just for clarification, the Ultrabook is a new category of ultraportable laptops introduced by Intel as a way of getting manufacturers to produce slim-and-light Windows laptops comparable to the MacBook Air - and of course using its own latest processors.
There are a number of loose criteria which manufacturers are all sticking to so far, in order to be included in the Ultrabook gang. Naturally all Ultrabooks are using the latest Sandy Bridge Core i3/i5/i7 chips, they need to be using SSD or hybrid-SSD storage, have a minimum of 4GB of RAM, measure less than an inch thick and (so far) all Ultrabooks feature a stylish metal or part-metal chassis. The HP Folio 13 certainly lives up to all these criteria.
HP Folio 13: Design and Feel
The Folio 13 does not quite have the premium look of some Ultrabooks, and features a rather square design when compared to the tapered look of other Ultrabooks, such as the Asus Zenbook UX21 and of course the MacBook Air. However while it may leave you feeling a little cold on initial inspection, when you pick it up the Folio 13 feels solid, yet slim and light.
Overall the laptop has a uniform thickness of 18mm and has a footprint of 319 x 220mm. One area where the Folio 13 strays from the Ultrabook standard which has been set so far is in terms of weight. The Folio 13 weighs in at 1.49kg which is .09kg heavier than the limit previously set, but we did say the Ultrabooks specs were rather loose and we certainly did not feel the added weight when carrying it around. Indeed it's not the most chubby of Ultrabooks, with the Samsung Series 5 weighing in at a huge (comparatively) 1.78kg.
The top lid is finished in a very classy looking brushed-aluminium which is relatively resistant to finger-prints. The bottom of the laptop is however made of plastic and while some Ultrabooks out there like the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s are all metal, we don't mind the matte plastic finish on the bottom of the Folio 13. Like most Ultrabooks, the bottom of the laptop does not give the user access to the battery - unless, that is, you're pretty handy with a screwdriver.
Inside, the Folio 13 is dominated by two colours. The keyboard surround, speaker grille and palmrest match the brushed aluminium cover while the keyboard, hinges, touchpad and screen bezel are all black. This gives the laptops a nice clean look and with just the single power button breaking the sleek lines, it is certainly an attractive looking laptop.
HP Folio 13: Screen, Keyboard and Touchpad
The 13.3in screen on the Folio 13 is a typical laptop screen, using the inferior TN LCD LED-backlit technology with a resolution of 1366 x 768. There is nothing wrong with the screen as such, it's just that we are now getting used to seeing beautiful Full HD IPS screens on tablets and these laptop screens just cannot compete.
On first inspection the screen bezel looks quite narrow and this is certainly true, however once you power up the laptop, you'll find a secondary bezel of black pixels ringing the screen, which is a bit cheeky, but HP is not the first laptop manufacturer to do this.
As with all TN panels, the minute you move the screen back or forward too much it becomes almost unwatchable. Tilting it back, the contrast becomes unwatchable while tilting it too far forward sees the screen become washed out. Viewing angles from the side are just as narrow and the screen's reflective finish doesn't do it any favours.
Moving onto the keyboard, and things get a lot better. The typing experience on the Folio 13 is excellent. While we would have like a little bit more travel in the keys themselves, the feel and response of the keys was excellent.
There is a slight flex to the keyboard, but this is to be expected in a laptop of this price and while the glossy plastic in between the keys is not ideal, it doesn't detract too much from the overall look. The layout of the chiclet keyboard is excellent and the fact it is backlit is an added bonus. Tapping F5 turns this feature on and off rather than using a sensor to measure ambient light which some may prefer, but pressing a button every now and then didn't trouble us too much.
Turning on and off the backlighting is not the only control built into the top row of buttons. The media playback controls, volume, Wi-Fi and brightness controls can all be accessed without the need to press a discrete Fn button.
Moving onto the touchpad, like most Ultrabooks, the Folio 13 goes for the integrated button approach rather than having distinct buttons. Overall the touchpad works well with the drivers from Synaptics pretty well tuned. The button mechanism is not as smooth as a that found on a MacBook but it is certainly not the worst we've seen (which for Ultrabooks had to be on the Zenbook) and didn't leave us feeling frustrated.
A whole range of multi touch gestures like two-finger rotation, pinch-to-zoom and three finger swipes to navigate web browsers are all available though not turned on as standard. One final feature, common to almost all HP touchpads nowadays is the ability to disable the touchpad by double-tapping the icon in the upper left-hand corner.
HP Folio 13: Connectivity and Hardware
One of the main issues people have with Ultrabooks in general is the lack of connectivity. This is because of the slimness of the laptops, but because the Folio 13 employs a flat design, the connectivity is not as compromised as much.
On the left hand side you will find the power socket, Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI port, USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot. On the right-hand side you'll find a second USB port (2.0 this time) and a combination headphone/mic socket. All in all, the HP Folio 13 offers one of the most comprehensive set of connections we've seen on an Ultrabook. Also included are the usual Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g/n.
So far so good, but what about the inside I hear you ask. Well the Folio 13 is powered by Intel's dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i5-2467M processor running at 1.6GHz but can Turbo clock up to 2.3GHz and supports up to four virtual cores. This is backed up by 4GB of RAM. Graphics processing is taken care of by the Intel HD 3000 integrated chip - like pretty much all other Ultrabooks - which is enough for some light gaming but chuck something more demanding at it and it will fall down pretty quickly.
HP Folio 13: Performance
HP's Ultrabook comes with an 128GB SSD (Samsung MZMPA128HMFU SATA II drive) and together with the processor and 4GB of RAM we found that the Folio 13 managed to handle everything we threw at it. Even when we powered up the HD trailer of The Hobbit on YouTube and streamed it to our HDTV using the in-built Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) technology and a Belkin Screencast WiDi set-top box, we found no lag despite also running a mutli-tabbed browser, Photoshop and Microsoft Word at the same time.
Performance in real world terms is very good. In our tests the laptop booted from cold in an average of 18.8 seconds which is quick by any standard. One of the features of all Ultrabooks is the ability to restart from sleep quickly and the Folio 13 is no different, restarting from sleep in around 2.7 seconds.
Battery life is another major tenet of the Ultrabook philosophy and the Folio 13 is just about the best we've seen so far. In battery tests from Engadget and The Verge, the Folio 13 topped the list of its Ultrabooks in terms of battery and this lined up with how we found the real world use which lasted a lot longer than any other Ultrabook we've used.
HP Folio 13: Value
The HP Folio 13 costs £849 (incl VAT) with a 128GB SSD, Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM. There are currently no upgrade options available from HP but for this configuration we think that the Folio 13 offers excellent value for money.
With one of the best typing experiences we've seen in a long time, excellent connectivity and superb battery life you won't get a better deal out there at the moment. Of course there are some concessions to be made, including the less-than-premium plastic base plate and a certain utilitarian styling, but if you can get over this then the Folio 13 is the best value Ulterabook available.
HP Folio 13: Verdict
The Folio 13 is entering an increasingly crowed Ultrabook market place. It doesn't have the sleek good looks of a MacBook Air but get over the issue of a somewhat square-jawed look, and you 'll find a computer worthy of your love. A superb keyboard, excellent connectivity, excellent performance and the longest battery life of any Ultrabook so far and for £850 the HP Folio represents great value.
- Battery Life: 10/10
- Design: 8/10
- Performance: 9/10
- Features: 9/10
- Screen Quality: 7/10
- Value: 9/10
- Great keyboard
- Superb connectivity
- Good value
- Great battery life
- Staid design
- Below average screen