HP’s 13-inch Ultrabook: The HP Folio – First Look

by Reads (97,445)

HP doesn’t get irony. Palm once created the Foleo, a proto-netbook, to pair with your PalmOS-powered smartphone. It got panned so hard it was never released. HP bought and killed Palm, and is now releasing the HP Folio, a 13-inch ultrabook. Can the Folio succeed where the Foleo didn’t?

If you read our Toshiba ultrabook review, you’ll find that we declared it winner of the first rounds of these budding ultrabook wars, thanks in parts to its super lightweight, outstanding port selection and generally good design, not to mention price. HP’s new 13-inch Folio strikes many of those same chords, making this a contender in the fight.

HP Folio 13 HP Folio 13

The Folio 13 is a clear evolution from HP’s EliteBook lineup of professional offerings. While the Folio isn’t intended to perform those same rigorous calculations, it’s definitely still aimed at the business user on the go, a point HP stresses several times in the promotional materials. Of course, none of that will stop some eager consumers from jumping to order one, however, since the specifications and price point alone are enough to make any computer shopper stop and take a look.

Be sure to check out our full gallery of HP Folio 13 images!

HP Folio 13The Folio is thin. Not quite as thin as some notebooks we’ve seen, and when sat next to an 11-inch MacBook Air, it looks downright portly. Looks can be deceiving, however, and when comparing the two machines directly in front of you, it’s easy to see just how wildly the MacBook Air tapers toward the edges in order to help maintain the illusion of mystique. The Folio, in contrast, tapers not a whit, jutting right out to its predefined edges.

Now that we’ve covered how much the Folio looks like an EliteBook (and it should be mentioned here that this is not an attempt at criticism, as in fact the EliteBooks are some of the snazziest-looking pro-grade notebooks available). Opening it up changes things a bit, with a black, backlit keyboard and solid back trackpad changing the overall look and feel. Like the new ENVY notebooks, the trackpad is disableable, and the keyboard has a quality backlighting feel – that sounds strange to say, but we mean that it doesn’t bleed everywhere and blind you for having the audacity to use your notebook in the dark.

HP Folio 13 HP Folio 13

For an ultrabook, the new Folio does pretty well with port selection, though it can’t quite reach what Toshiba offers. There are a total of two USB ports on the notebook, one of which is USB 3.0 SuperSpeed-capable. Other ports include an SD card slot, combination microphone and headphone jack, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI video out.

Still, those ports come at a cost – the HP Folio is thicker and heavier than we’d really like. At 3.3 pounds, it’s almost a full pound heavier than the 2.5 pound Toshiba ultrabook, and with a Z-measurement of 18mm, it’s thicker, too. Of course, some of that is due to the outstanding build quality we found the HP Folio to possess. A metal lid complements metal trim and metal palmrests and metal, well, almost metal everything. For all that, it is a bit thicker and heavier, it’s also sleeker than most of the current ultrabook competition.

HP Folio 13 HP Folio 13

The display used in the Folio is a 13.3-inch, LED-backlit model. This screen offers users a resolution of 1366×768, putting it on par with all the other thin notebooks with the notable exception of Apple’s MacBook Air (which shows off a 1440×900 panel). Viewing angles were pretty good, but not amazing, about what you’d expect from a reasonably decent TN panel. It’s too bad that HP couldn’t squeeze in one of those bright, wide-viewing-angle Radiance displays from the new ENVY notebooks (72% NTSC!), but that would have driven up both cost and thickness.

And cost, at least, is one area where the HP Folio is extremely competitive. HP is going to sell the machine for just $899.99; the Best Buy exclusive Toshiba ultrabook is thought to be that manufacturer’s response to a potential HP product. For those nine hundred dollars, you get a reasonably robust set of specifications, including that spacious 128GB mSSD:

HP Folio 13 Specifications:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium  64-bit
  • 13.3? HD LED Display
  • Intel Core i5-2467M CPU
  • 4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM)
  • 128GB mSATA
  • 6-cell, 59WHr battery
  • 802.11 b/g/n (Broadcom Valentine) Bluetooth 4.0
HP Folio 13See that 6 cell, 59WHr battery? HP is promising a solid 9 hours of battery life from that, which should rank it very well against options from other manufacturers.
As we mentioned earlier, HP is extremely specific in convincing everyone that this is a machine for MOBILE PROFESSIONALS. Why they seem so bent on that key phrase eludes us though, because the Folio is one good-lookin’ machine. It offers one of the better port selections of the recent ultrabook niche, and pairs that with solid technical specifications, great design and build quality and, not least of all, that 9 hours of battery life. Is HP trying to prevent consumers from comparing it to the MacBook Air, which stands elsewhere in terms of its form factor and portability? Who could say….
Is it our new favorite? Hmmm. The Toshiba probably gets to keep that title. For now, at least. Once we get one of these puppies in house for a full review, though, the tables could change in an instant. If we’ve wet your whistle though, you’ll be able to pick one of these guys up on December 7th, just a few short weeks away. If you’re looking at picking up a new ultrasleek notebook, the HP Folio should be on your list – and for me at least, joins the Toshiba Z830 and the Apple MacBook Air as one of the three best superthin notebooks you can get.
Be sure to stop back soon for our full review of HP’s first ulrabook, the HP Folio 13. 



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