- Thin and light
- MIL-STD rated
- Integrated mobile broadband
- Great screen
- Good performance
- Lacks integrated VGA and Ethernet ports
- Vulnerable SIM card slot
- ForcePad takes some learning
- MicroSD rather than full-size SD card slot
Many notebooks are labelled 'thin and light' when in fact they can be rather bulky and heavy. HP has managed to design the robust EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 with a maximum thickness of 1.59cm and a starting weight of 1.49kg. That's both thin and light in our book, although you do pay a premium and you don't get all of the features a business user might require.
HP has produced an eye-catching notebook here. Housed in an attractive slate-grey chassis, the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 is the thinnest EliteBook in HP's range, measuring 1.59cm at its thickest, tapering slightly at the back and more severely at the front. It's a system any executive should be happy to be seen with in a meeting.
It's not just about the visuals, either. The EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 has an aluminium shell that makes it feel very durable, with a particularly solid base. The notebook duly meets MIL-STD 810G standards for resistance to drop, shock, vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and temperature. There's some flex in the thin lid section, though, so you'll need a carry case to ensure full protection.
The Folio 1040 G1's thin profile means that the edges are not particularly deep, which affects the range of ports and connectors on offer. Indeed what's missing in this respect might be enough to put some business users off: there's no VGA-out and no Ethernet either.
You're not abandoned entirely here, though, as both Ethernet and VGA are catered for via a single dongle that's provided with the notebook. This connects to a slim port on the back of the right short edge, and provides full-size connectors. It's good that HP provides the dongle, but it's not a very elegant solution for anyone who needs VGA or Ethernet on a regular basis — and of course, you'll have to remember to put the dongle in your bag 'just in case'.
You may also struggle if you are a fan of SD cards. There is a MicroSD card slot on the chassis, but if you're using a camera or some other external device that relies on the larger SD format, you'll need another dongle.
The remaining connectors include two USB 3.0 ports (one with charging), a full-size DisplayPort and a headset/microphone combo jack. We'd have liked to see more USB ports in the mix. There's also a MicroSIM card slot on the right edge for the integrated LTE mobile broadband.
A SmartCard reader rounds off the tally of connectors; for added security, there's also a fingerprint scanner on the wrist rest.
Open up the system and you're greeted by a relatively wide keyboard area with chiclet-style keys that are extremely light-touch and comfortable to use. The keyboard is both backlit and spill resistant, as you'd expect from a high-end notebook.
The buttonless touchpad is something a bit different from the norm. HP calls it a ForcePad, referring to the fact that it's pressure sensitive. You can use the usual multi-finger gestures and can perform some functions like selection and file management with single-finger gestures. Pressing down hard with the cursor on a file, for example, lets you drag the file to a new location such as the desktop as if you were holding down a mouse button. The idea is to provide mouse-button functions without providing mouse buttons. It took us a while to get used to this, and we still hankered after the simplicity of a pointing stick and mouse buttons.
The screen measures 14 inches across the diagonal and in our review sample had a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. The (non-touch) display has the matte finish we like to see in business notebooks, and delivers impressive image qulaity with good viewing angles.
With a 2.1GHz (3.3GHz with Turbo Boost) Intel Core i7-4600U processor and 8GB of RAM, the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 is responsive and speedy. Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4400 GPU is perfectly capable of handling mainstream business workloads, and while the 256GB of SSD storage might seem on the sparse side, it's not out of line for a business ultrabook. Windows 7 Professional was installed on our review unit, but you get a license and media to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro if you prefer.
Wi-fi (dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (4.0) are both present, along with NFC. More interestingly, HP includes its Mobile Connect service. This provides contract free, pay-as-you-go LTE mobile broadband throughout Europe. Plans on offer include the ability to pay for mobile broadband in chunks of three hours if that's what you need, or by the day, week or month. Full pricing is available on HP's UK website.
We noted earlier that the MicroSIM card slot is on one edge of the chassis. The normal location is inside the battery tray, but the battery here is not removable (this is an ultrabook, remember). The slot is not protected by a cover, and is, as is usual, spring loaded. Consequently, the MicroSIM is really quite vulnerable. The same criticism can be levelled at the MicroSD card slot which is similarly unprotected.
Performance & battery life
The EliteBook Folio 1040 G1's Windows Experience Index (WEI) score, which has a maximum of 7.9 on Windows 7-based computers, was an impressive 6.5. The WEI score corresponds to the lowest of the component scores, which were as follows:
Processor (calculations per second) 7.2
Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second) 7.6
Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) 6.5
Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) 6.5
Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) 7.9
These figures confirm our impression that the Folio 1040 G1 is a fast and responsive business ultrabook, with the integrated graphics the lowest-scoring subsystem.
Battery life is pretty good, too. We were regularly able to work for a day without recourse to mains power, although on no occasion during testing did we have the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 working on battery power for a full eight hours. If that's the norm for you, then it's likely that the 6-cell 42Wh battery will need a boost during the day.
HP's EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 looks every inch a business executive's ultrabook, while its MIL-STD 810G rating means it should stand up to the rigours of life on the road. The high-resolution 14-inch screen is a pleasure to use, and the integrated mobile broadband will appeal to some.
The lack of touchscreen functionality probably won't be a deal-breaker for many business users — particularly for those who are happy to continue working with Windows 7. However, the absence of integrated VGA and Ethernet ports might be more significant. You'll pay a premium price too.