Hands on: HP EliteBook Folio G1 review

Possibly the best laptop at CES

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The HP EliteBook Folio G1 is a business-class device with consumer-class style. It's got everything you need to work and play with pizzazz.

For

  • Lightweight
  • Super thin
  • 4K

Against

  • Core M-only
  • USB C-only

If you're looking for a business-class laptop that features exquisite consumer-grade style, you should keep your eye on the HP EliteBook Folio G1. The EliteBook is ideal for on-the-go workers who require excellent performance, more than a full workday of battery life and a durable chassis that can withstand constant portation (based on some of the promises HP has made about the device).

Starting at $999 (about £615, AU$1,540), the 12-inch EliteBook is incredibly light and thin. It is just 0.49 inches thick (12.4mm), and it weighs only 2.2 pounds (0.99kg). At first glance, the EliteBook is reminiscent of the MacBook and the MacBook Air. That's because it's built with a similar aluminum enclosure that wraps around the entire notebook.

However, when you open the EliteBook you'll notice a gorgeous diamond trim that spans the edges of the upper and lower base. This is a subtle touch that adds a nice bit of unique character to an already stylish laptop. Additionally, HP used a gorgeous single piece aluminum hinge that shines when the light hits it. The pretty hinge is sturdy and flexible enough to open and close smoothly (and only when you want it to).

HP EliteBook Folio G1

Specs

One thing that might turn you off of the EliteBook is that it only features USB-C ports. HP provided two of the new ports should you need to connect an external device while also charging the laptop. But that's all. There are no other ports anywhere else on this device.

Unfortunately, those who still use USB-3 and HDMI peripherals are going to have to buy an adapter if they choose to purchase the EliteBook. It's a simple fix for a simple problem. However, one of the main reasons you'll want to purchase the EliteBook is because of its portability. Having to carry an extra dongle around dampens the experience of buying such a tiny notebook.

HP EliteBook Folio G1

The EliteBook is powered by 8GB of RAM and second generation Intel Core M processors (M3, M5 and M7). Based on our anecdotal experience with the Core M processors, a Core M7 will give you roughly the same experience as an Intel Core i5 Skylake chip.

So, if you outfit your EliteBook with the top-of-the-line Core M you should be able to experience high-level performance. But, if you're looking for mobile workstation-grade performance, the EliteBook won't be right for you, as Core M is designed primarily to power mobile devices that don't run taxing programs for video editing or graphic design.

If your main to goal is to look at gorgeous video (rather than editing it), the EliteBook is perfectly suited for you. It comes standard with a full HD touchscreen that can be upgraded to UHD (otherwise known as 4K). This is a tremendous screen that is among the best I've ever experienced, especially for a device that's as light and thin as the EliteBook is.

HP EliteBook Folio G1

The full HD edition of the EliteBook can run on a single charge for 10 hours, according to HP. HP did not reveal how long the 4K version of this laptop would stay charged, but suffice to say, it won't last nearly as long.

What we don't know

Maximum storage capacity will be 256GB, which is a bummer. Most business-grade devices top out around 512GB or 1TB.

As I mentioned above, we don't know how long the 4K version of the EliteBook will last on a single charge. If HP can push the battery for 7-8 hours, that would be quite nice. But if the battery tops out at 4-6 hours, it won't be worth the extra pixels, and the extra cash.

HP EliteBook Folio G1

This leads me to my next point, and it's a crucial one: we don't know how much extra HP will charge for the 4K upgrade. The standard version of the laptop is $999. If HP can keep the upgrade to about $1,250, then this will be a sweet deal.

Early verdict

HP EliteBook Folio G1

The HP EliteBook Folio G1 will be one of the most celebrated laptops of CES 2016. The EliteBook is beautiful, durable, slim and lightweight – the holy quadfecta of laptop design. It's got unique features that catch the eye and will make your credit card buzz.

Once we've run the EliteBook through our full gauntlet of benchmarks, and once we know for sure how much the upgrades will cost, we'll be able to make a firm recommendation as to whether or not you should purchase this device.

If HP can meet some of the expectations I've laid out above, then you're looking at a contender for best laptop of 2016.

But until we know more – keep your eye out for the HP EliteBook Folio G1. It hits stores in March.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.