Ultrabooks aimed at business users are relatively thin on the ground, and HP is staking an early claim with the Folio — currently its key competitor is the impressive Toshiba Portégé Z830. A potential attraction of the Folio is its battery life — HP is claiming up to 9.5 hours for this 13.3in. notebook.
The Folio 13 is typical of the new wave of ultrabooks in being a small, lightweight, minimalist design. Robustness is a potential worry, and you can certainly bend the system's brushed-aluminium lid, but we've seen more flex in many ultraportables and the chassis is generally solid.
HP Folio 13-2000: a 13.3in. business ultrabook measuring just 1.8cm thick
The base section is black and has a rubberised finish of the kind we're more used to seeing on smartphones. HP says it provides a 'soft-touch' grip that provides some traction for the fingers.
Starting at 1.5kg, the Folio 13 is undoubtedly lightweight, although it can't quite match the 1.12kg Toshiba Portégé Z830 or Sony's 1.18kg VAIO Z. The Folio 13's dimensions (22.02cm wide by 31.85cm deep by 1.8cm thick) match up well to the Portégé Z830's 22.7cm by 31.6cm by 0.83–1.59cm.
There's no clasp mechanism to close and release the lid, but a small ridge on the centre top of the lid section makes it easy to open up the Folio 13 when you're ready to start working. Wed recommend you invest in a protective slipcase for safe transportation.
The keyboard is a standard isolation-style unit with well spaced, spongy and comfortable keys. The Fn key row is half height and the arrow keys in the bottom right corner have very small up and down keys that may be a challenge for those with large fingers. The four corner keys have curved outer edges, which makes them slightly small but doesn't negatively affect their usability.
The Folio 13's isolation-style keyboard is comfortable to type on, but the backlighting is manual rather than automatic
The keyboard is backlit but the lighting is not automatic — instead, you turn it on and off with the F5 key. This arguably saves on battery power, but you'll need to find the F5 key in darker conditions. The backlight itself bleeds around the edges of the keys a little; if you're sitting in anything other than a completely upright position this is a little distracting.
There are media playback, Wi-Fi toggling and screen brightness controls on some of the top row of keys. These functions are accessed by a single key press rather than needing the Fn key too. This may take a little getting used to, but is actually perfectly logical and intuitive.
There's a narrow speaker grille above the keyboard, and the on/off switch is here too, on the left. It's a tiny lozenge that we found a little difficult to press. A very small white light blinks when the notebook is in standby.
Beneath the keyboard a large trackpad caters for a full horizontal pass of the screen in a single sweep. It has integrated buttons, whose active areas are marked out. The buttons themselves are a little stiff. Multitouch support, by contrast, is very responsive. You can disable the touchpad by tapping a small icon in its top left corner, and to remind you it is off a red light is illuminated above it.
The screen measures 13.3in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. There's a reflective coating on the screen that makes it difficult to work with a light source behind you; even at maximum brightness the display is rather dull, and viewing angles aren't particularly good on either the vertical or horizontal planes.
We're not enamoured of the 'double bezel', in which the screen is surrounded by a narrow pixel-made black frame, before the chassis provides its own thin bezel. We found this arrangement oddly distracting.
The Folio's hot air is vented from the underside of the chassis. The underside didn't get particularly warm during our testing, but anyone who likes to work with the computer on their knees might want to take note.
The Folio 13 isn't entirely silent, either, a faint hum constantly emanating from the underside vents. It's only a gentle noise, but it was slightly distracting in quiet environments.
In a peculiar design twist, the ports and connectors are all marked with icons on the underside of the chassis. We wonder who will ever turn the notebook over to discover which port is for HDMI, which for USB and so on.
The Folio 13 runs Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor with 4GB of RAM in support. Graphics are managed by the CPU-integrated Intel HD 3000 module.
As well as Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), the Folio 13 supports Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi) notebook-to-TV technology too. Bluetooth 3.0 is also present, plus Gigabit Ethernet.
There is a 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen and HP preinstalls both Skype and the CyberLink YouCam software. YouCam is rather consumer-grade, with its frames and visual effects, fake talking heads and backgrounds, image distortions and so on. But it can be used for straightforward image and video capture, can upload to YouTube and Facebook, and can even do time-lapse and motion-detection recording, so it's quite versatile.
For storage there's a 128GB SSD — the storage medium of choice for ultrabooks. Some of this is reserved for a recovery partition, leaving just 81GB free on our review sample.
HP has configured the Folio 13 with TPM 1.2, which will please security-conscious users and their IT managers. However, as with all ultrabooks to date, there's no fingerprint recognition for added login security.
There's no optical drive either — another defining ultrabook characteristic. The ports and connectors are all full size and mostly ranged on the left edge of the chassis: working from the back towards the front, we find the power socket, an Ethernet (RJ-45) connector, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot. The right edge offers a single USB 2.0 port and a microphone/headphone combo jack. Note that there's no analogue VGA port.
The HP Folio 13 delivered a slightly lower Windows Experience Index (WEI) than Toshiba's Portégé Z830 at 4.7 (out of 7.9) compared to 5.2. However it achieved a higher top score of 7.5 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) — the Portégé scored 6.8 for this subsystem. The remaining subsystem scores were 7.2 for RAM (Memory operations per second), 6.3 for Processor (Calculations per second), 6.2 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) and 4.7 for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). Overall, there's plenty of horsepower here for mainstream business workloads.
The average-quality screen doesn't make the Folio 13 a great platform for giving presentations to small groups while you're on the road. As far as sound output goes, there's plenty of volume from the speakers, but as is often the case with notebooks, it's light on bass and heavy on treble.
According to HP, you'll get up to 9.5 hours of life from a full battery. We tested the system with Wi-Fi on and the HP Recommended power plan selected, before playing video from a USB stick continuously for as long as possible. It delivered 5 hours 29 minutes of life under these conditions, suggesting that you'd need to apply some fairly stringent power and workload management to reach HP's putative 9.5 hours.
The HP Folio 13 is a neatly designed ultrabook that's solidly built and has a comfortable keyboard. However, there are only two USB ports, the screen is unimpressive and storage capacity is limited. Something of a mixed bag, then.