The initial bum rush of ultrabooks resulted in, with limited exception, a lot of designs that took most of their cues from Apple's MacBook Air. Even Dell's XPS 13, otherwise very different from what came before it, still maintained that wedge shape. Yet HP went a bit of a different route with their Folio 13 and demonstrated the same kind of outside the box thinking that many of the larger vendors are demonstrating these days.

HP's engineers took a look at Intel's ultrabook spec and, rather than see how small they could get their design, opted to see just how much they could pack into the spec. The result is the Folio 13, an ultrabook designed to bridge their consumer and business lines and offer the best an ultrabook can offer.

The ultrabook spec is pretty well defined without much in the way of wiggle room for the hardware itself, leaving vendors to differentiate largely on overall chassis design and price. The initial rush of ultrabooks included systems from Toshiba, Asus, and Acer that largely aped Apple's MacBook Air wedge shape and aluminum shell design, but HP and Dell played things close to the chest initially. HP's Folio 13 actually predates Dell's XPS 13, but both are intriguing designs that deviate from the norm in their own ways. Let's start with the specifications of our Folio 13 review unit.

HP Folio 13 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2467M
(2x1.6GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.3GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 1x4GB Micron DDR3-1600 (Maximum 1x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
LG Philips LP133WH4-TJA1
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM810 128GB mSATA SSD @ SATA 3Gbps
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino 1030 802.11b/g/n
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio IDT 92HD99BXX HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone/mic combo jack
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 60Wh
Front Side -
Right Side USB 2.0
Headphone/mic combo jack
Left Side AC adaptor
Ethernet jack
USB 3.0
SD card reader
Back Side Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.54" x 8.67" x 0.7" (WxDxH)
319mm x 220mm x 18mm
Weight 3.3 lbs
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $899
As configured: $1,019

While most of HP's notebooks allow some level of customization, the Folio 13 really only has one internal hardware configuration, and you're looking at it. While some of the exterior elements are certainly a fresh approach for ultrabooks, HP has strangely opted to be much more conservative with speccing their ultrabook than other vendors have, and there are a few places where the Folio 13 is going to definitely lag behind the competition.

The Intel Core i5-2467M processor isn't slow by any stretch of the imagination, but it's the only ULV Core i5 we've tested this generation, with other vendors either just going for the cheapest chip (Toshiba's i3) or an expensive but faster i7. At a 1.6GHz nominal clock speed and able to turbo up to 2.1GHz on both cores or 2.3GHz on a single core, it's not a total slouch but it's also not the fastest chip around either.

HP also inexplicably uses only one memory channel on the i5's controller, and while the DDR3 is clocked higher at 1600MHz that can't make up for halving the memory bus width. Ultimately this shouldn't be a huge detriment to performance, but it's still performance left on the table. That single channel is populated by 4GB of RAM, too, which is enough for most tasks but is still shy of what can be achieved with most modern notebooks and even some modern ultrabooks.

Handling SSD storage duties is a Samsung PM810 running at SATA 3Gbps. Anecdotally, in real world usage I've found most of the benefit of running an SSD is felt just by virtue of the difference in responsiveness between an SSD and a mechanical hard disk drive. Connectivity is thankfully pretty good for this class of notebook, though: HP includes a USB 3.0 port and HDMI on top of the usual ports we've come to expect, along with a gigabit ethernet port for wired networking.

Ultimately, though, the specs on the Folio 13 are rather tame for an ultrabook, which is all the more perplexing since other vendors were able to cram more power into smaller designs. When I met with HP a few months ago when they were debuting the Folio 13, they showed me the interior and said they pretty much just doubled down on the battery, which is why the Folio 13 is also slightly bigger and heavier than other ultrabooks. Whether or not that gamble paid off remains to be seen.

In and Around the HP Folio 13
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  • Jamezrp - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I agree with pretty much everything said, but what about comparing the scores to the MacBook Air? That's probably the most popular ultrabook available, and frankly all of these tests were done on it. I hate to have to go back and forth to see the comparisons, especially since I own a MBA and am thinking of trading it in, potentially for a different ultrabook, or maybe just for the next model.
  • Pneumothorax - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Just keep your MBA for now. With the exception of exception of sonys $2000 overpriced ultra book, you have the best screen, keyboard, and trackpad currently. It's funny how everybody claims apple is overpricing their stuff and claiming they're making 50% profit, but how come no pc manufacturer has released a sub $600 ultra book with a hi res screen, decent trackpad, and blacklit keyboard?
  • snuuggles - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    Agreed. I personally despise OSX, but the hardware is quite clearly superior to anything I've seen. It's not even a close call.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Unless you have the $2000 original MBA, you should keep your machine.

    Wait another year, then Win8 Ultra-Mega-Tablet-Books will be reasonably mature.

    You have a solid machine, don't waste it.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I'd rather get a refurbed MacBook Air for $1099 than this. Much better screen, and thinner and lighter. I've never owned a Mac in my life, but I have to give them credit for making a product that still sets the standard.
  • jabro - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    This is really not a mystery:

    "HP also inexplicably uses only one memory channel on the i5's controller...."

    HP is being cheap, just like most laptop makers. These days a 1 x 4GB DDR3 DIMM configuration is cheaper than a 2 x 2GB module configuration, and the "upgrade" option to 2 x 4GB comes with a very premium price. In fact, you are seeing the 1 DIMM configuration in TONS of the laptops on sale today. The prevalence of the single DIMM/single memory channel configuration is just another example of why, in many ways, PC laptops today are not as good as they used to be a few years ago (just like the dearth of true 8-bit color LCP panels, or 16:10 ratio screens, and decent keyboards, etc.). Yes, PC laptops are cheap, but there seems to be less and less differentiation in the market with each year. While I do acknowledged that there are some exceptions at the high end of the price range, I think that this is also partly why Apple has cleaned up in the high end of the laptop market (bless them, they still ship 16:10 monitors in the MB Pro line).
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    The difference is there isn't any way to configure the Folio 13 in dual channel, and that's what I'm getting at.
  • jabber - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    HP/Compaq have a history of doing this. Even back as far as 2004/5 they were producing AMD and Intel based laptops only using single channel ram setups when dual channel was available.

    I know, I had a couple of them over the years. Bizarre.

    It's annoying when you know that your prized laptop is missing it's last 5% of performance due to HP not spending 5c to allow it.
  • arthur449 - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    What's really impressed me lately about HP's notebooks, compared to others, is their keyboard. Starting with the HP DM1Z (AMD E-350 "Brazos" debut) they've had surprisingly large and capable keyboards in their smaller laptops. The fact that this ultrabook includes a backlit version is also somewhat impressive as, last I checked, that HP only made that option available on their ENVY product line.

    And, while I don't have any physical experience with this particular computer, the lack of SATA 6Gbps and dual channel memory don't seem like they're hurting its overall usability.

    You're right Dustin. There are no perfect ultrabooks on the market right now. They're all creatively finding some way of shooting themselves in the foot. But, if I had to choose one, it would probably be this one, simply for the keyboard and cool ('n quiet) operation. That is, I would choose this one if it didn't have that hilariously awful LCD panel. As it stands now, this ultrabook and those that include panels like it can go die in a fire.
  • apinkel - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I agree that the folio is the best of the PC ultra-book lot at this point in time.

    Every ultrabook keyboard has been a non-starter for me. Sounds like this one actually has a bit of travel and is decent enough. I also need an ethernet port so I'm glad they included that here. I've currently got an x301 with a ULV 1.4ghz chip and since it's performance is enough for my needs I'm sure this machine would be more than sufficient.

    The screen (16:9 and too low-res) and the clickpad are the only knocks I have with this machine.

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