Just in time for Christmas, HP outs its ultrabook, the Folio 13 — and it's good.
It's a little on the tubby side for an ultrabook, at 1.49kg, but only just, and it makes up for it by having incredibly good, rigid build quality. It's not quite the "pick up from the corner of the screen" rigidness that the MacBook Air possesses, but there's still reassuringly little flex.
The 1366x768, 13.3-inch screen is passable — it looks a little washed out, and the vertical viewing angles are narrow, as to be expected with cheap TN screens — but it isn't offensively bad by any means. What is curious is HP's "bezel in a bezel" set-up, where a glossy black rim sits inside a matte black rim, the ultimate effect making the screen look smaller than it is.
The gloss bezel inside the matte bezel makes the screen look smaller than it is.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)
The backlit keyboard and the touch pad are lovely, making this a laptop you'll be happy to use for long bouts. HP's inverted the F1-F12 keys, so their alternate functions (screen brightness, volume, external monitor switching, etc) are now the primary functions. To get F1-F12, you'll need to hold down the Fn key. If you don't like this, it can be switched back in the BIOS.
You get the usual single USB 3.0 and single USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and an SD card reader with the Folio, as expected, along with a headset port. A nice addition, though, is a gigabit Ethernet, something otherwise only offered by Toshiba Satellite Z830 in the ultrabook space. Bizarrely, HP has chosen to put the port labels under the laptop, and, since it has chosen not to use a blue-coloured tongue for the USB 3.0 port, this means that you may need to lift the laptop to remind you which side it's on.
Internals are typical fare; an Intel Core i5 2467 @ 1.6GHz, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB Samsung SSD. Communications are offered via Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n 2.4GHz.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
HP Folio 13 (Core i5 @ 1.6GHz, 128GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
The Handbrake results are strange — despite having almost identical hardware to the Toshiba, the Folio really doesn't like our video encoding test. After trying to track down the root cause, we can only grasp at this straw: HP's heat management perhaps isn't the best, causing the processor to slow down more than usual under extreme load.
In day-to-day use, this is unlikely to impact you too much, but if you plan on putting your ultrabook through the hard yards, it's something to look out for. We've got in touch with HP to see if we can find the core issue, and hopefully we'll have more information soon.
Things return to normalcy with our iTunes and Photoshop benchmark, returning results within margin of error compared to the Toshiba. But the multimedia multitasking test, which includes Handbrake, penalises the HP once again.
Battery life (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 6h 27m
- HP Folio 13 (Core i5 @ 1.6GHz, 128GB SSD)
- 5h 23m
- Asus ZenBook UX31 (Core i7 @ 1.8GHZ, 256GB SSD)
- 5h 8m
- Toshiba Satellite Z830 (Core i5 @ 1.6GHz, 128GB SSD)
- 3h 21m
- Asus ZenBook UX21 (Core i7 @ 1.8GHz, 128GB SSD)
- 2h 54m
- Acer Aspire S3 (Core i5 @ 1.6GHz, 320GB HDD)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The HP far and away dominates the battery benchmark test. While companies have been advertising "all-day" battery life for some time, it looks like the reality might slowly be catching up with the marketing.
Great build quality, phenomenal battery life and a lovely keyboard/touch pad combo make HP's Folio 13 one of our favourite ultrabooks. It doesn't perform as well under extreme load as its competition — we're hoping this curly problem is something that can be addressed by HP in the future. As of now, though, for day-to-day use, this is our go-to machine.