HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review

The MacBook of the business world

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

With its modern design and unibody construction, the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 may look like a consumer Ultrabook, but it's designed for the enterprise with security and durability.

For

  • Sleek design and unibody construction
  • Durable construction with Military Specifications certification
  • Fingerprint scanner, enterprise security

Against

  • Underpowered Intel Core M performance
  • No full-sized SD card reader
  • Flexing in undercarriage cover
Scores in depth
HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review
HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review
HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review
HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review
HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review

If you think business notebooks have to be boring and boxy, think again. HP designed its premium EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 ($1,249, £820, AU$1,640) to look as sleek as a consumer-class Ultrabook without sacrificing durability, security and manageability.

With a 12.5-inch display, the EliteBook Folio G1 competes in the same space as the boxier enterprise-class HP EliteBook 820 G2 ($1,290, £845, AU$1,695), Lenovo ThinkPad X250 ($800, £525, AU$1,050), and Dell Latitude 12 7000 Series ($1,079, £710, AU$1,415).

In the consumer space, the Folio faces stiff competition from the five-star-rated Dell XPS 13 ($729, £480, AU$960) and Apple MacBook ($1,299, £850, AU$1,115). The Ultrabook also goes up against convertibles and hybrids, like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ($1,099, £720, AU$1,440) and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 ($799, £525, AU$1,050), though you'll have to add in the cost of the detachable keyboard cover with Microsoft's slate.

Design

If it wasn't for the giant HP logo on the notebook's silver machined aluminum lid, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 for Apple's 12-inch MacBook. Before Apple fans scream foul of a copycat design, the Folio was shown off publicly at the end of 2014, ahead of Apple's reveal of the MacBook earlier this year, and I am referencing the MacBook given its visibility and familiarity in the market today.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review

Rather than a small notch in the center edge of the keyboard deck, a tiny lip on the laptop lid makes it easy to open the Folio with one hand when it's sitting on your lap or on a desk. This gives the same effect as Apple's notched approach on the MacBook line, but HP's implementation results in a cleaner design with uninterrupted lines on the lid and keyboard deck.

Even though the Folio is the thinnest and lightest business-class machine, according to HP's claims, it is heavier and larger than consumer systems like the Dell XPS 13.

The optional QHD resolution IPS display on our review unit of the Folio is framed by a black bezel and coated with edge-to-edge glass. Dell's infinity makes the 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6-inch (30.4 x 20 x 1.5 cm) XPS 13 more compact than the 12.2 x 8.27 x 0.62-inch (31 x 21 x 1.57cm) Folio. The XPS is also lighter at 2.6 pounds (1.26kg), compared to the Folio's 2.68-pound (1.22kg) weight.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review

The screen looks gorgeous with bright colors, rich saturation and wide viewing angles. Windows 8.1 was able to scale the resolution so text and images didn't appear tiny with the increase in pixel count.

On the keyboard deck, like the MacBook, a strip of perforated speaker holes sits atop the keyboard, which comes with island-style keys. The Folio also comes with chamfered edges that frame the screen and the keyboard deck.

Unlike some other business-class notebooks, especially ones with a dedicated number pad like the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s mobile workstation, the Folio has a trackpad that's centered with the spacebar key. The symmetry makes it look more like a consumer notebook than a utilitarian business tool.

But don't let the consumer aesthetics fool you – there are plenty of features that business users will appreciate on the Folio, including Military Specifications (MIL-SPEC) 810G certification, a spill-resistant keyboard that directs spilled fluids out of a drainage hole on the bottom of the notebook, integrated fingerprint reader on the right side just below the keyboard, docking port that integrates with the HP UltraSlim Dock with cross-compatibility between different HP laptop models and optional TPM support.

The undercarriage of the Folio is coated with a soft-touch finish. Although I found some flexing on the bottom cover if I push hard – it doesn't feel as solid as the machined aluminum keyboard deck or the lid – the cover is still comprised of a magnesium alloy metal and helps keep the weight down.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 review

HP claims that up to 12 MIL-SPEC tests were performed, subjecting the Folio's durability against humidity, dust, vibration and drop.

Ports are located on the side edges of the Folio. HP included an adapter for the slim side docking port for users requiring legacy and ethernet ports.