Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch display is … what’s a better word than “average” … oh yes, lackluster. I suppose the term lackluster is only applicable to the colors–which are pale without much contrast–and the unimpressive 1366×768 (720p) resolution. The glossy screen surface, on the other hand, is full of luster. The glossy screen is so full of luster (or reflections) that you’ll often have to move the screen forward and back to find a viewing angle that isn’t obscured by reflection from room lights or sunlight if you’re working outdoors. Since HP considers the Folio 13 to be a hybrid of a premium consumer laptop and a business laptop for road warriors, there really needs to be a matte or anti-glare screen option.
As with all TN panels, the viewing angles on the Folio 13’s screen are pretty average: The screen looks great when viewed from straight on or from a modest horizontal angle, but the colors appear washed out when viewed from above and colors look inverted when viewed from below. Maybe someone at HP will get the memo about offering a matte IPS screen option for premium notebooks like this.
On a happier note, the Folio 13 does a pretty impressive job with audio performance for a thin and light ultrabook. The two stereo speakers are located above the keyboard and between the two screen hinges. These speakers carry the “Dolby Advanced Audio” branding and it’s fair to say there’s something more impressive about the sound quality coming from these speakers than what we hear coming from even the speakers found in the HP ProBook 5330m which carries the Beats Audio label. Part of the sound quality comes from the fact that HP was smart enough to place the speakers so the sound is directed up and toward the user, and serious audiophiles will still want to use headphones or external speakers, but HP clearly put a premium on the built-in speaker performance.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size chiclet-style keyboard is quiet and features a simple layout. The individual keys are matte black but the keyboard surround is glossy (which is prone to collecting nasty-looking fingerprint smudges while you type). The keyboard support structure is fine, but there is a hint of flex or “bounce” in the middle of the keyboard if you type with significant pressure. Individual key travel and feedback (the difference you feel between when a button is pressed or not) is quite good and makes typing a breeze.
The Folio 13 features a bright LED-backlit keyboard that helps you see what you’re typing in a dark room or on a dimly-lit airplane. This is a very nice feature but it would have been better if there were two brightness settings (high and low) rather than just an “on” and “off” setting. Something for HP to consider for the next generation Folio.
The Synaptics touchpad is actually a Synaptics “clickpad” (a touchpad surface which lets you press down anywhere to produce a click). There are no dedicated left and right mouse buttons but HP marked the button area with gray lines so you know where to press for a traditional left and right click. Of course, this only matters if the left and right click work … and they don’t. At least they don’t work easily using the default settings.
If you are an “old fashioned” touchpad user like me (call me a traditionalist) who uses one finger to move the cursor and another finger or thumb to press the touchpad buttons then you’ll constantly have the cursor jumping to the wrong spot or not registering a left or right click most of the time. Those traditional touchpad users will need to open the Synaptics driver settings and change the settings. If you are a more modern touchpad user who uses a single finger for both cursor movement and “tap to click” and uses two-finger scroll then the clickpad isn’t so bad.