In and Around the HP Folio 13

After reviewing nothing but wedge-shaped ultrabooks, the HP Folio 13 is actually a bit of a breath of fresh air. HP's design here doesn't actually deviate all that much from the rest of their notebook lineup; aesthetically it sits right between their consumer and enterprise lines (much as it's intended to), and as I mentioned before they eschewed the wedge shape and kept the build right at the 18mm cusp of Intel's ultrabook spec.

The top lid and interior surface of the Folio 13 are aluminum, while the screen bezel and bottom of the notebook appear to be either carbon fiber or a rubberized treatment on matte plastic; either way, it's soft, light, durable, and attractive. In fact the only gloss on the Folio 13 is surrounding the keyboard and on the screen's interior bezel (which houses the webcam.)

Where HP can claim a major victory with the Folio 13 is the keyboard proper. Ultrabook keyboards, by virtue of the form factor, tend to be very shallow and can be difficult to use. Since HP's engineers seem to have gone in reverse and tried to see how big they could get the Folio while keeping it thin, light, and within spec, the result is a keyboard that has much better depth and travel. It's still not perfect and feels a little on the mushy side, but compared to the others I've tested it's much more comfortable. And as a special bonus: it's backlit.

Unfortunately, despite having an excellent keyboard for an ultrabook, the Folio 13's touchpad is another poorly implemented clickpad. As we've mentioned before and as Anand has even said to me personally, PC vendors still can't seem to get this part of the design down. Honestly I'm at a loss as to why they keep trying, as I have yet to use one that provides a tangible benefit over just using a traditional touchpad and pair of mouse buttons. At this point the only vendor with dedicated mouse buttons on their ultrabook is Toshiba. During testing I found the clickpad had such a hard time detecting misclicks that I was largely forced to use an external mouse.

Gallery: HP Folio 13

Finally, the screen on the Folio 13 is another poor-quality 768p TN panel. It's not really worth going through the full rigamarole for something that bothers all of us; suffice to say it's "competitive" with the majority of what's out there in this class, though hopefully the days of dismal notebook screens are drawing to a close as tablet screens push things forward.

LCD Analysis - Contrast

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

The remainder of the results are available in Bench, but you can tell the Folio 13's screen isn't very good even by ultrabook standards. The best in an otherwise bad bunch are the ASUS Zenbook UX31E, which at least sports at 1600x900 resolution, and the vastly more expensive Sony Vaio Z2, which runs at full 1080p but costs nearly twice what some of the other ultraportables do.

Introducing the HP Folio 13 System Performance
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  • thxdts - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    how many of the detractors have actually used one? the battery life (I get 8 hrs) and the super fast resume when i open the lid (2 seconds on average) makes it worthwhile in a very slim and light weight package. For lugging around such a lightweight laptop with a backlit keyboard running Windows 7, full size ethernet port for regular business environment, it is worth the $999 price.
  • Mugur - Friday, April 20, 2012 - link

    I used one and I disagree. There are ultrabooks much better than this one. I mentioned the Asus because I've seen it and it's thinner, lighter, the design is much better IMHO and the screen is in another class, with 1600x900 resolution. Same price here as this Folio, but with a faster processor.

    And FYI, all ultrabooks (with the exception of Acer probably) have 2-3 seconds resume from suspend.
  • thxdts - Friday, April 20, 2012 - link

    I looked at the Asus x31/x21 but they lacked 2 items i needed for my business/travel needs, 10 backlit keyboard for typing in dark and full size ethernet without a dongle for port testing, dongles are too easy to lose
  • cliffa3 - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    I only read one line of this review...the spec on the screen. I threw up a little in my mouth, decided to post this comment, then am moving on. I hope consumers start selecting based on what they see rather than just price or the specs on the box. It's sad that Apple has remained the only one that values screen quality. I held out hope for IBM/Lenovo for the longest but they caved.
  • linuxhead64 - Saturday, April 21, 2012 - link

    Even an HP Exec wouldn't use one, just look at the picture of HP Chairman Ray Lane using his MacBook Air at home.
  • omaudio - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    .3MP, 1.3MP, 2.0MP? So many reviews skip this detail but I think it is worth adding. Thx.
  • Jehnavi24 - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    Although the Folio didn't last the claimed 9.5 hours during our battery life test, performance was still adequate. Battery Eater Pro's Reader test went for a full 206 minutes before draining the battery.
  • megaphat - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    GF bought one of these recently. It was the i3 version for about $740 AUD which is an excellent price. Admittedly the laptop does have its shortcomings, such as the trackpad and resolution. And it only has 2.4GHz Wireless N (which is un-upgradeable due to HP's whitelist). It also doesn't have a tapered design.

    But on the plus side, its a very sleek piece of kit. It looks much better in person than a lot of the other ultrabooks. The brushed aluminium and rubberised black plastic work well together giving it a professional guise. None of this silver painted plastic crap and HP have shown restraint with that awful glossy plastic. The backlit keyboard is great. The build quality of the machine is excellent. There are very few gaps and there is almost no screen flex. Much less so than my rickety VAIO S series. Honestly it feels about as firm as a Macbook Air. HP hasn't made many concessions on the connectivity front either, challenging the competition with USB 3, Ethernet, HDMI and an SD card reader (in addition to the usual suspects). The ethernet port takes up pretty much the entire width of the machine. And the SSD is lightening fast compared to those old 5200rpm drives.

    Due to the good build quality and strong port complement I'd recommend this machine to the power user, especially someone who travels.

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