The HP Folio 13 is the first entry into the Ultrabook market for the biggest PC producing company in the world, yes, even though HP’s former CEO wanted out of PCs it’s still numero uno. Now that HP is again refocused on their commitment to the PC industry new and innovative products like the Folio 13 will determine whether the company stays atop the mountain or falls off due to being out innovated and out marketed by the competition. HP was late to the Ultrabook game relative to Toshiba, Asus and Acer but it’s not about who’s first to the game but rather who can offer the best product and support and price today. After all, Apple wasn’t first company to the SmartPhone market but that certainly didn’t hurt their ability to be a huge player in that category. So, is the Folio 13 the best Ultrabook right now? Let’s investigate.
Packaging and in the Box
I ordered the Folio 13 and got it direct from HP via the Home and Home Office Store. The configuration is fixed and the only upgrade options were in regards to OS version, warranty or accessories. Here are the full specs for the HP Folio 13 as ordered:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6 GHz)
- Screen: 13.3-inch diagonal HD BrightView LED- backlit Display (1366 x 768)
- Memory: 4GB
- Graphics: Intel HD3000
- Storage: 128GB (Solid State Drive Flash Module)
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Ports: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, RJ-45, HDMI, SD Card Reader
- Battery: 6-cell
- Weight: 3.305lbs
- Web Cam: HP TrueVision HD Webcam
- Dimensions: 12.54″(L)x8.67″(W)x0.7″(max H)
- Warranty: 1-year
The above configuration cost $899.99, HP is not offering any discounts or coupons on this model at the current time. You can save a bit of money, around 6%, by purchasing via HP Academy student discount site. The Folio 13 arrived in a plain brown shipping box via FedEx:
Inside the box was the Folio 13, braced between Styrofoam protectors, power adapter and documentation.
Everything was packed well and, although presentation wasn’t anything out of the ordinary like you get with the Envy 17, it was still cleanly done.
HP Folio 13 Design
The Folio 13 has a very clean brushed aluminum lid finish on the lid and inside with a black finish accents on the sides, keyboard and touchpad area. The aluminum has a slight champagne tint to it, it’s rather odd in that the color changes slightly depending on the light in the room. Overall the design is very clean and professional looking. It borrows some design touches from the HP ProBook lineup, the ProBook 5330m comes to mind in particular. Inevitably you’ll hear comparisons to the MacBook Air simply because this is a thin laptop that uses an aluminum lid finish, there is no taper to the HP Folio 13 so the profile is actually quite different.
The plastic bezel around the screen is matte while the screen itself is glossy, I kind of like the contrast of matte and glossy here but others might disagree. The same black matte soft finish is used on the bottom of the laptop.
The keyboard uses a chiclet style design, borrowing from the consumer preferred aesthetic. Unfortunately HP chose to put a glossy tray under the keys, this makes for an area that shows and captures a lot of dust. The mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad and delineated by lines, again contributing to the overall clean look.
HP Folio 13 Weight and Thickness
The weight and thickness are of course a big factor with anything marketed as being an Ultrabook. Though an Ultrabook is supposed to be under 3.1lbs according to the guidelines set forth by Intel, the Folio 13 actually weighs in at around 3.3lbs. The thickness of 0.70-inches uniform from front to back is befitting of an Ultrabook, but the weight to me makes it rather ordinary. We recently wrote an article comparing the Folio 13 and ThinkPad X220 pointing out the fact the X220 is actually lighter than the Folio 13. The reason for the Folio 13 weight is due to the thick aluminum skin and metal chassis, which in turn makes it more durable, a good thing.
If you add in the weight of the power adapter and cord the total travel weight comes to 4.05lbs.
The Folio 13 feels solid as a rock thanks to its thick aluminum case. The lid and palm rest areas are all made of aluminum. In other areas strong plastics with a soft touch finish are used. Every part of the body is rigid and there is simply no flex to be found on this portable 13-incher. The screen hinges are very rigid, opening the screen requires two hands. The screen stays in place without wobble due to the extra firmness of the hinges. I really can’t find anything to fault with the build quality of the Folio 13, the emphasis was definitely placed on making the laptop rugged and durable rather than being as light as possible and sacrificing the build in some way.
HP Folio 13 Performance
While the intention of the Folio 13 is not to provide the most blazing computing performance you’ve seen, it is supposed to provide above average performance for everyday tasks and business needs and provide fast boot up and wake times so you’re not left twiddling thumbs and killing productivity. The Folio 13 achieves the latter by using a fast SSD, the Samsung PM800 128GB mSATA SSD in particular. The boot time to desktop is a mere 17-seconds:
The wake time from sleep is even faster, at around 5 seconds. You’ll be up and working in no time.
In terms of overall system performance, the combination of an Intel Core i5, SSD and 4GB of RAM really go a long way to preventing any lag. According to the Windows Experience Index the “achilles heel” is the Intel HD3000 graphics, but that’s only going to have an effect on applications, such as 3D games, that need a lot of 3D polygon rendering. The web, email, Office apps and Skype require no such processing, the Intel Core i5 will handle all of those applications in a snappy manner.
To get an idea of overall system performance we ran PCMark Vantage, PCMark 7 and 3DMark Vantage.
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||9,026 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM)||7,007 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1440 Review (Intel Core i3-370M, Intel HD, 6GB RAM)||4,931 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 – Intel Core i7-2630qm, Nvidia 550M 1GB, 8GB RAM, Intel SSD||12,160 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||6,056 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM||5,901 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||5,285 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM||3,204 PCMarks|
|Laptop||PCMark 7 Score|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||3,168 PCMarks|
|HP dv7t Quad (Intel Core i7 2670QM 2.20GHz, 2GB Radeon HD 6770M, 8GB RAM, Crucial M4)||4,308 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM)||2,022 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad W520 – Intel Core i7 2720QM, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Quadro 2000, Intel 320 SSD||4,299 PCMarks|
|HP Envy 17 3D – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 6850M 1GB, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||2,592 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad U400 – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD Radeon 6470M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD||2,287 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS 15z – Intel Core i7-2620M, Nvidia GT 525M, 8GB RAM, SSD||3,604 PCMarks|
Obviously the Folio 13 is able to outperform other larger Intel Core i5 equipped laptops simply due to its SSD. Having an SSD is really a big performance differentiator, more so than any extra GHz of clock speed on a processor is going to give you. We’ve come to a point where processors are so fast and efficient that it’s really faster storage that will net you the most gains, namely SSD.
Although 3D performance doesn’t matter much for this notebook, we ran 3DMark Vantage just to find out the score:
|Laptop||3DMark Vantage Score|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||1,513 3DMarks|
|HP dv7t Quad (Intel Core i7 2670QM 2.20GHz, 2GB Radeon HD 6770M, 8GB RAM, Crucial M4)||6,139 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv6z Quad Edition – AMD A8-3510MX, AMD 6620G Graphics||2,919 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition – Intel Core i7-2630qm, AMD 6770M Graphics||6,373 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dm4x – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 6GB RAM, Intel HD3000 Graphics||1,174 3DMarks|
As you would expect, the Folio 13 paled in comparison to larger laptops with dedicated graphics.
HP Folio 13 Screen
The Folio 13 comes with a 13.1-inch LED backlit screen with 1366 x 768 resolution. The panel technology is a standard TN, there is no IPS screen with wide viewing angles like the Apple iPad or HP Envy 15-3000 have. When you tilt the screen vertically colors tend to distort so it’s much better to view the screen straight on (perpendicular to the eyes).
HP chose to go with a glossy screen even though this is a business style laptop. This is unfortunate, the reflections from a glossy screen when you have strong lighting from behind can be really annoying. For instance, if you tilt the screen back a little it will immediately reflect any lights above and behind you like you see in the picture below on the right.
In the left hand image above you can see the Folio 13 next to the ThinkPad X220, the Folio 13 is reflecting me taking a picture while the X220 is not as it has an anti-glare matte screen.
Outside of these complaints, the Folio 13 has what I’d call a decent screen. It’s bright enough at the highest setting, although not overly bright and it won’t serve as an outdoor laptop. The color saturation and contrast are decent, though nothing exceptional. We’re still waiting for a laptop manufacturer to produce an Ultrabook with a higher than standard resolution screen, for now the 1366 x 768 resolution the Folio 13 has is as good as it gets.
Overall the Folio 13 screen gets a passing grade, but leaves room for improvement.
The number of ports you get on the Folio 13 is on par with other Ultrabooks, HP saw fit to included an SD card reader which is very nice to have and some other manufacturers, such as Lenovo with the U300s, have been excluding for whatever reason. Let’s take a tour of the ports on the Folio 13:
On the left hand side you get an Ethernet RJ-45 port, HDMI port, USB 3.0 port and SD card reader
On the ride side you a USB 3.0 port and headphone jack towards the back
On the back you just see the hinges and then heat vent of the Folio 13
Other than having less USB ports than a standard size laptop you really have all of the essentials provided here. The HDMI is the most popular consumer video connector today, if you wanted an old fashioned VGA monitor out port you can get an adapter for HDMI to VGA. Likewise, if you have a DisplayPort equipped monitor you can get an HDMI to DisplayPort converter for only around $12.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The Folio 13 keyboard definitely stands out in the world of Ultrabooks currently available. I’ve used the MacBook Air and Toshiba Z830, and the Folio 13 definitely has a more usable keyboard than either of those. The keys all have nice travel, not the shallow travel you find on the Toshiba Z830. The tactile feedback is also good, meaning you know exactly when a key has been struck and can release to strike the next key. The backlit keyboard, while looking very nice, also provides excellent usability in darkened rooms. While many people can touch type well, it’s hard to find those obscure keys such as Page Up and Page Down in the pitch black, so the backlight really helps in such situations.
While my feelings about the keyboard are very positive, that’s not the case for the touchpad. While the textured feel of the touchpad is nice and I found moving the cursor to work most of the time, now and again strokes did not register or the cursor would jump unintentionally. Worst of all are the integrated mouse buttons, they’re very stiff and it takes a lot of effort to push them down. They really interrupt the ability to make a quick mouse click as you forget each time that it takes a hearty push to get a click to register. I recommend using a travel mouse whenever you can for easier mouse input.
Heat and Noise
One important consideration with a small laptop is its cooling ability. Cram everything into a small space and the thermals get tougher to manage. Thankfully the Folio 13 does a good job of staying cool, the warmest spot I found on the laptop was near the back where the heat vent is. The bottom and palm rests stayed cool, around 80F which is very comfortable, the very back of the keyboard near the vent got as high as 98 F. That’s no big deal anyway, and since your hands don’t come close to that area a non-concern in terms of comfort.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the fan doing the work to keep the laptop cool emits an annoying high pitched whir. This will definitely annoy those sensitive to noise, it’s even audible with ambient noise in the room. Since the fan seems to run 90% of the time, this means for the majority of the time you’ll have to deal with this noise. I simply became used to it and it was background noise to my brain, but then again I have tinnitus so am pretty used to constant buzzing noises in my ear.
HP Folio 13 Battery Life
The Folio 13 has a 59Wh battery that HP rates at up to 9 hours of battery life. That’s an optimistic number, under normal usage conditions the battery life is still excellent based on my tests and usage. With brightness level set to 1/3, Wi-Fi on and a browser open refreshing every 60 seconds the battery achieved 8 hours and 2 minutes of life. If you were to do a torture test with video playing and brightness all the way up the battery life would fall to around 6 hours or just under. That’s still excellent, and enough to get you across the country on a flight.
HP Folio 13 Review Conclusion
While I’m not so sure the Folio 13 should be classified as a true Ultrabook, at 3.3lbs it’s heavier than ultraportables such as the ThinkPad X220, I still think it makes a great choice as a very capable performance portable laptop for business users or students that have the budget. It’s highly durable build is going to resist the bumps of business travel or campus, whichever your setting may be. The keyboard is very usable and has a great backlight and all the essential ports are in place. Design wise, the Folio 13 is both professional and sleek looking. The downsides include the annoying fan whir, hard to use integrated mouse buttons and average screen. For $899.99 the price is right and I’d take this over most other Ultrabooks on the market right now. We look forward to seeing what HP’s first consumer Ultrabook, the Envy 14 Spectre, has to offer!
- Keyboard is great, backlighting is nice extra
- Performance is very good for a 13” laptop, very fast 17-seconds boot
- Great 7 hour + battery life
- Excellent build, very durable feeling aluminum case
- Design is appealing and professional loking
- Integrated mouse buttons are hard to push
- Screen is quite average in quality, annoying glossy finish
- Glossy keyboard tray is a design mistake
- Fan makes high pitched whir, constantly on