HP are one of the biggest laptop movers in the world, but over the years, they mostly focused on cheap machines, with little consideration for design and attention to details.
That has changed recently, and laptops like the HP Folio 13 we’re reviewing here or the HP Envy Spectre 14 were designed to prove that HP can be a competitive player when it comes to ultrabooks.
I’ve got to play with the Folio 13 over these last days and also saw it in action at CES back in January. It’s not an eye catcher like the Asus or the Lenovo ultra-portables, but it’s not hideous either and HP promises to be a very competitive pick for budget oriented potential ultrabook buyers.
If that’s true or not, you’ll learn from the following article, an in-depth review of the HP Folio 13 ultrabook.
Exterior and design
Aesthetically, the HP Folio 13 can be characterized as “dull”. You get brushed aluminum on the hood and on the palm-rest, plus plastic on the bottom, on the sides and around the screen. Overall, the package isn’t bad, but is not memorable either, like the Lenovo U300S or the Asus Zenbooks.
Speaking of inches and ounces, the HP is a bit thicker (0.7 inches) and heavier (3.3 pounds) than the average ultrabook. Still, I barely noticed the differences and I’m pretty sure you won’t either.
Solid built, but a bit dull looking
HP probably sacrificed a slender silhouette in order to get more ports on the Folio and that’s for sure a decision many of you will appreciate, as you get a standard Ethernet port, full-size HDMI, USB 3.0 and 2.0 slots and a card-reader on this machine, alongside the classic headphone/mic jack and the webcam.
So, while not at all ostentatious, the HP Folio is a solid built machine and packs the functionality you’ll be missing on most competitors these days.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard on the Folio 13 is excellent. The keys are proper sized and spaced, plus offer the tactile response and travel you won’t find on most other ultrabooks. As a bonus, the keyboad is also backlit, although you are not able to adjust the illumination level.
There’s one thing i don’t like though: the gap between the keys is filled with the glossy black plastic that’s gonna catch dirt and smudges.
Excellent illuminated keyboard
The trackpad on the other hand ain’t as good. HP went for the click-able touchpad, dropping the dedicated click buttons. And while the touch area feels right and is accurate, plus supports all sort of multi-touch gestures, you’ll really need to press it hard to register any clicks. So, as long as you don’t have to click things, the trackpad is fine, but once you do…
Palm rejection also fails to work more often than it does, but at least you can easily disable the trackpad by double-tapping that small rectangle on its top-left corner.
Stiff trackpad though
There’s a standard 13.3 inch 1366 x 768 px display on the HP Folio, but It’s not one of the best in the class for sure.
First, the panel is dim and if trying to use the laptop outside or in a brighter room, you’ll hardly see anything on the screen, even with pushing the resolution to 100%. Second, there’s a glossy finish that won’t help you either. And third, the viewing angles (especially vertical ones) are as poor as you can expect from a low-quality TN panel, like we have here.
Those being said, the screen is for sure a deal-breaker for the HP Folio 13 and tiny details I usually appreciate, like the narrow matte bezel (which is kind of cheap to be frank, aesthetically speaking), don’t even matter anymore.
Hardware and performances
The hardware is pretty basic, with the default configuration offering a Core i5-2467M ULV processor, Intel HD 3000 graphics, 4 GB of memory, 128 GB SSD storage and Windows 7 Home Premium.
So there’s not much to say about performances, the Folio 13 does perform within its classes averages, being able to deal fine with everyday multitasking (browser with several tabs, text processing app, listening to music, chatting) and also with Full HD multimedia content, if needed. Games though are a no no, given the integrated Intel graphics solution.
The SSD is quite fast, especially if we consider that other similar priced ultrabooks opted for a much slower one (See Toshiba), but not as fast as that SATA 3 drive you get on the Zenbooks. The Folio boots from cold in under 30 second and resumes from sleep in about 3 seconds.
Software wise, HP bundles a bunch of apps on the Folio, most of them crap-ware, but some actually decently useful for business customers, like HP ProtectTools (that’s not available on all configs though).
There’s a 59W battery inside the HP Folio 13 and that’s bigger than all the other ultrabooks offer right now. Hence, there’s no surprise that the Folio provides the best battery life per charge in the class, averaging around 7 hours of daily use.
That can stretch beyond, if only using the computer for very light activities (editing texts, no wireless), but also shrink substantially when trying for instance to edit a video clip.
Still, with those 7 hours of life, the HP will last at least 1-2 hours more than the other ultrabooks and longer than the 13.3 inch Aple MBA as well.
Noise, heat, speakers and others
While it’s not bothering noisy, the fan inside the HP Folio 13 is active most of the time, even when running basic tasks. It manages to keep the laptop rather cool in this case, but once running a HD clip for a longer time or even multiple programs at the same time, the laptop will get quite hot fast.
The bottom can get even close to scorching temperatures (above 100 F), thus making the Folio unusable on your lap, and the top gets warm too, around the middle and left side of the keyboard. All these despite HP claiming they’ve implemented this innovative HP CoolSense technology that should make the laptop run cooler.
Runs hot, despite HP’s Coolsense technology onboard
The speakers aren’t bad, in fact they are quite punchy and decently good in terms of audio quality. They don’t carry the Beats Audio brand though, like other HP laptops do these days. Perhaps on the next generation.
Pricing and availability
The title o this review mentions “excellent bang for the buck”, and you’ve seen above what to expect in terms of bang.
Let’s talk about the buck now: the HP Folio 13 starts at $899, that’s for the tested configuration, with the Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB SSD. And YES, you do get the SSD for this kind of money, while other similarly priced ultrabooks mostly offer hybrid storage options (Samsung, Acer) or a very slow SSD (Toshiba).
Of course, the price mentioned above is the official list price-tag, the HP Folio 13 is probably going to sell for less online.
There are plenty of things to love about the HP Folio 13 and not that many things to hate.
The Folio 13 is not the best looking ultrabook out there, but it’s not that bad either, just nothing impressive. The hardware, the keyboard and the speakers though are just some of the things you’ll like about this unit. On the other hand, you’ll resent the screen (which is just bad, no matter how you put it) and the fact that the laptop does tend to get hot when pushed.
Plenty of things to like about the HP Folio 13 ultrabook
Are these deal-breakers? Perhaps, but if we consider the excellent price tag, they might not. So, while not perfect, the HP Folio 13 does pack excellent value for the money and this might be just enough to persuade many of you, potential ultrabook buyers.