HP Folio 13 review

Can HP's sober-suited Folio 13 cut it in the fashion-conscious Ultrabook market?

HP Folio 13
The keyboard is backlit, but the light doesn't kick in automatically. You have to hit the F5 key to toggle it on or off yourself

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In the nascent but rapidly maturing Ultrabook market, the new HP Folio 13 faces some very stiff competition. On paper, it gets off to a slow start thanks to a number of rather mediocre specifications. The Intel Core i5-2467M CPU, for instance, isn't exactly a slouch. But it is lower in Intel's mobile processor hierarchy than the Core i7 models used by some Ultrabooks.

Indeed, the real problem is that one or two Ultrabooks with faster CPUs, such as the Acer Aspire S3, are actually cheaper. HP has compounded this problem by configuring the Folio 13 with just one memory channel.

We liked

This biggest performance benefit is the 128GB Samsung solid state drive. It goes an awfully long way to offsetting the ordinary CPU performance and should ensure the HP Folio 13 feels responsive while other Ultrabooks with lesser hard drives are suffering from disk performance problems. Connectivity is another strong point, thanks to a high speed USB 3.0 port.

By Ultrabook standards, the HP Folio 13 is pretty sober suited, too. There are certainly thinner, lighter and sexier looking Ultrabooks out there. That said, it's very solidly constructed, and the tactile experience reeks of quality. That's especially true of the backlit keyboard, which is a pleasure to use.

As for battery life, the HP Folio 13's 59Wh lithium pack will deliver around seven hours of typical mains-free internet browsing with wireless networking. Expect to add an hour or more with networking disabled.

We disliked

Like any Ultrabook with Intel graphics, the HP Folio 13 isn't much of a games machine. But thanks to Intel's QuickSync transcoder engine, it's very effective for video encoding.

Unlike the keyboard, the touchpad isn't much of a highlight. Up to a point, it's slick and responsive. It also supports multi-touch gestures. However, by virtue of lacking physical buttons it has a tendency to freeze up. Like all touchpads of this type, extracting smooth, seamless control out of it is something of an acquired skill.

All of which means the biggest bummer is the 13.3-inch LCD display. It's a little shocking to find premium portable PCs still shipping with displays as poor this this. The viewing angles are particularly pathetic.

This is a shortcoming shared with many, if not most, current Ultrabooks. However, if you have any experience of the latest tablets and smartphones with their excellent IPS screens, you'll be horribly disappointed by the HP Folio 13's washed out, weedy display.

Final verdict

Much of the explanation for the HP Folio 13's features and configuration is that this is an Ultrabook designed for the business market, and that means it has priorities other than raw CPU performance. Stability, reliability and security therefore feature highly.

Thanks to the Samsung SSD, real world performance and responsiveness is good, too. The problem is, anyone used to the latest IPS screens is going to really struggle with the dingy 13.3-inch display. It's an easy fix. Here's hoping HP sees fit to slot in a better display.


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