HP has been making personal computers since nearly the invention of PCs. I've got a long history of owning HP laptops and I've seen both ends of the spectrum come out of their factories. I've had great notebooks that have lasted years and some that have come from the factory with defects. Today, I have the joy of evaluating the HP Folio 13, one of several Ultrabooks which HP offers.
This term Ultrabook is a trademark of Intel and is used on computers that meet certain requirements set forth by Intel, which include battery life, quick start from sleep, thickness (or thinness) and several others. Intel is strongly pushing these new computers and has spent lots of money advertising them on TV-I'm sure you've seen at least one of their ads.
Unfortunately, most Ultrabooks carry a price tag that is several hundred dollars higher than Intel's target price of $699. When Windows 8 releases, however, you'll see a flurry of touchscreen-enabled Ultrabooks hitting the market. At that time, older models, such as this very capable Folio 13, will likely see a price drop or at least that is what we hope to see.
At $999, this Ultrabook isn't the cheapest in the pack and it certainly isn't the most expensive. It sits competing with several other models, including the MacBook Air which is an Ultrabook's biggest competitor.
Let's get into it then and see how we go with it.
Specifications, Configurations, Pricing and Packaging
The unit we're reviewing today comes as a pre-configured unit and the Folio 13 line doesn't feature any variations from the version we're reviewing. It sports an Intel Core i5-2467M processor clocked at 1.6GHz. This is a dual-core part that features Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost up to 2.3GHz.
It uses Intel's integrated HD3000 graphics which powers a 1366x768 13.3-inch screen. The 128GB solid state flash drive provides adequate storage and provides for a quick boot and a speedy wake-up from sleep. The 4GB of RAM in the machine could be a bit low, depending on usage situations, but it follows my general rule-of-thumb of 1GB per thread.
As far as connectivity goes, it features standard 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth. Furthermore, it supports Intel's Wireless Display. The backlit keyboard is a nice touch as it's not an Intel requirement and really aids night time usability. HP says the included battery is good for nine hours; we'll test that claim later in the review.
The Folio 13 is a one-configuration unit available for $999 direct from HP. Due to this, you are limited to the features and performance that comes stock, but it helps avoid having to make decisions about which are worthy upgrades.
Since I received this unit after a few other reviewers, I am unable to provide pictures of the retail packaging.
Temperatures, Cooling and Noise
As you can see in the picture below, the keyboard gets pretty toasty when the system is under load and this can cause discomfort during use. With a maximum temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit, you're not going to want to type for much more than a couple of minutes. With all temperatures above 90 degrees, the whole thing could be used as a space heater. Fortunately, you're usually not stressing the system heavily when typing, so this shouldn't be too much of an issue.
If you're using it while gaming, the system could reach these temperatures, though it's unlikely you'll be playing any seriously demanding games on the integrated HD 3000 graphics. The backside of the laptop also heats up while being stressed, so it's a good idea to use the system while on a table or cooling pad if you're going to be pushing the CPU.
A maximum temperature of 132 degrees Fahrenheit can certainly cause issues with using a laptop directly on your lap. If the machine is too hot it can cause permanent discoloration of the skin. Due to this, I would recommend only using this system on a solid surface.
The reason for this heat is the slimness of the form-factor. Without the luxury of space, everything has to be slimmed down, including the cooling system. This yields smaller, louder fans which have to push more air across a smaller heatsink area. As a result, when this system is pushed, it gets loud. Even sitting at idle typing this, I can hear the fan running.
During normal use, including writing this review, I never experienced heat near what is seen above. The computer is actually an extremely nice system, despite the heat it can produce. Considering most are buying an Ultrabook to be portable so that they can take it to class for taking notes and other lightweight uses, it really is a good fit.
Keyboard, TouchPad, Screen and other User Interfaces
Keyboard and TouchPad
I'm somewhat of a picky keyboard user and somewhat peculiar in what I like. Let me offer this disclaimer before I continue: Everyone likes something a bit different in a keyboard. Sometimes a keyboard is great and sometimes I may be the only one in the world who likes it. I suggest checking out a model with a keyboard I like in a local store before agreeing that the keyboards I like are ones you like. That said, I think you'll find that most of the keyboards I like, you'll like.
There's not too much to say about the keyboard on this HP. It isn't something to write home about, but it's also much better than most. I like typing on this machine much more than I do on the ASUS Zenbook line or the Samsung Series 7 line. However, as a laptop keyboard, it doesn't hold a candle to my desktop keyboard.
The key travel is fine, not too long or too short. It's pretty quiet when typing, so you should be able to use it in bed while someone else sleeps next to you. This, too, is where the backlight comes in handy. The backlighting is soft white glow, not blindingly bright like some, but not too dark to where it doesn't help. The color is also nice as it is not harsh to look at when it's dark.
Typing on the keyboard is comfortable enough that you could use it for several hours on end without getting sore. The edge of the palm rests has a nice bevel to it so as to not be sharp and hurt your wrists. Since HP is marketing this as a business laptop, the keyboard should be pretty durable and be able to take a pounding day after day.
The touchpad is one of those single, seamless designs like used on the Apple MacBook line of products. A painted grey line dictates where one should press for right and left click, though the entire touchpad can be pressed.
Annoyingly, tapping the touchpad makes a loud noise. It's not clear if this was by design and to provide an audible click or if it can be chalked up to manufacturing issues. The bottom line is it is louder than fully clicking the touchpad down and is rather annoying as I prefer to tap my touchpad because it is usually quieter than pressing.
HP has also equipped the touchpad with some multi-touch features. As the whole touchpad can be depressed for a click, doing so with two fingers results in a right click. Swiping two fingers up, down or side-to-side results in page scrolling and using to fingers to pinch will zoom out, just like on an iOS device.
The screen on the Folio 13 is a glossy 1366 x 768 13.3-inch screen. Considering they are marketing this as a business Ultrabook or one that can be used in business, it seems a bit odd that they opted to equip the machine with a glossy screen. Usually business laptops come with matte screens to reduce glare.
The brightness of the screen is adequate, but nothing to be blown away by. It can be used in bright sunlight, though it could present some difficulty depending on the angle of the sun. In shade, however, the screen is plenty bright and works well, save for the difficulty of seeing through the glare.
The machine is a bit smaller than competitors' offerings due to the tiny bezel that surrounds the screen. This combined with the glossy screen work together to provide a slick looking device. The resolution is the only major place that the Folio 13 lacks. At 1366 x 768, you're missing quite a bit of screen area that could be used for viewing bigger pictures and large spreadsheets. It's not unheard of for a 13.3-inch screen to receive something more like a 1600x900 resolution and those extra pixels go a long way towards a machine's usability, especially in the workplace where massive spreadsheets run rampant.
The bottom line is that the screen is sufficient for the machine in really all aspects. Viewing angles are decent, but not going to break records. Color reproduction, while not perfect, is good enough, though not for a professional. Resolution, as previously stated, is not terrible for a 13.3-inch screen, but would have been much better at 1600 x 900.
View our full testing methodology article.
- Accessory Port Testing
Ports to which an external storage device can be connected to are tested using HD Tune Pro to obtain their maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds. USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA ports are tested using a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD that is capable of saturating the theoretical bandwidth available.
The Corsair Neutron GTX is housed inside an Icy Dock external enclosure which features a SATA I/II/III to USB 3.0 and eSATA converter.
- Gaming Tests
3DMark Vantage is ran on the Performance preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.
3DMark 11 is run on the Performance preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.
- System Tests
PCMark 7 is run to get an overall idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.
MobileMark 2012 is another test run to get a feeling for the system performance taken as a whole. MobileMark 2012 uses real-world applications as part of the benchmark. We use the Office Productivity suite which includes applications like Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word. The test also reports battery life as all tests are run on battery. Higher is better for both results.
CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high, as most operating system files are small files.
- Battery Life
PowerMark is used to measure battery life of the system when set to "Balanced" and "Performance" power plans. This test simulates several different activities, but uses custom built applications.
Accessory Port Layout and Performance
The left side, from back to front, features the power, Ethernet, HDMI and USB 3.0, along with a multi-function card reader. The placement towards the rear of the system is good in that it will allow a mouse to be used alongside the system without bumping into plugged-in accessories.
The right side, from back to front, features the audio jack, which doubles as a microphone jack and a USB 2.0 port. Ultrabooks such as this one are often lacking the plethora of ports found on larger counterparts due to thinness requirements and lack of space inside the case for more. A dock or USB hub will be needed to run more than two devices.
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
Here you can see that the HP's USB 2.0 implementation performs slightly worse than the other laptop we currently have in the lab. These results will expand as we sample more devices. A read speed of 27.9MB/s is fairly respectable considering the maximum theoretical throughput is only 35MB/s.
Here the average write speed falls to about half of the theoretical max and is 5MB/s slower than the other sample we have in the lab.
USB 3.0 is another story, however. The HP's implementation absolutely smashes that of the iBUYPOWER's in both read and write averages. The Folio 13 manages an average read speed of 112.3MB/s, which is over 30MB/s higher than the iBUYPOWER.
The HP muscles out the iBUYPOWER in USB 3.0 write speed as well, managing an average of 111.3MB/s, which is a respectable score. However, the theoretical speed for USB 3.0 devices should be near 400MB/s, something the test SSD is capable of, but the Folio's USB 3.0 clearly isn't.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmarkvantage
3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPUs.
I really wish I had some other Ultrabooks to compare this HP Folio 13 to, but for the moment, it's going to have to compete with a gaming laptop. A score of 1230 is really pretty paltry, but for laptops, especially of this form factor, and lacking a discrete GPU, is not too terrible.
As I've maintained throughout this review, the Intel HD 3000 graphics just won't cut it for any sort of serious gaming and the score reflects this. However, the CPU score of 5117 shows that for CPU-based tasks, this laptop will perform for most people's needs. However, it still pales in comparison to the quad-core present in the iBUYPOWER Valkyrie.
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
As Intel's HD3000 graphics chip does not support DirectX 11, this test is unable to be run on the system. Keep this in mind if you were planning on playing DirectX 11-based titles on the system.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com/benchmarks/
PCMark 7 is a great utility for testing a PC's all-around capabilities. It tests all aspects of the computer, from graphics performance to hard disk performance and attempts to put a score on it, which is not an easy task.
Interestingly enough, the cheaper and lower spec'd HP Folio beats out the iBUYPOWER in this test. Whereas the Valkyrie is a great gaming machine, it's clearly not the best for all-around use. In this instance, I'm sure the HP's SSD helped boost the score enormously while simultaneously lowering that of the Valkyrie.
In some of the more individualized tests, the Valkyrie destroys the HP. These suites include the entertainment and creativity suites, but the HP has the upper hand in the storage test suite. This is important in a computer's "snappiness" and the SSD beats out the traditional hard drive easily.
Mobile Mark 2012
Version and / or Patch Used: 18.104.22.168
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Product Homepage: http://bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 is a premier benchmarking tool produced by BAPCo. It has several different scenarios built-in and allows you to choose which to run. It runs the test on battery life so that it produces both a score for the performance aspect and a run time for battery life.
For our testing, we chose the Office Productivity line of testing. The "Performance Qualification Rating" and battery life (in minutes) is reported below in the charts.
As you can see, the higher spec'd iBUYPOWER Valkyrie had much higher performance, but that performance came at a cost of battery life. A score of 75 is respectable for an Ultrabook and the battery life that comes with that score is even better.
As you can see, the battery life of the HP Folio 13 sits at 335 minutes or 5 hours and 35 minutes, which is a really great result. Running for this length of time should manage to get most people through their day. With a few battery life optimizations, such as dimming the screen, the battery should manage over 6 hours.
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://www.crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
As you can see in the graph, the Folio 13's SSD proves to be much faster than the Valkyrie's traditional hard drive. This makes booting faster and the operating system feel snappier, even though the processor is slower.
The results are similar for write speeds. The Folio 13's SSD proves to be much quicker at writes, as would be expected, than a traditional hard drive. There is nothing surprising about these results, though HP could have opted for a faster SSD, even though taking the win here.
Battery Life Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
Download here: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
PowerMark is a benchmark produced by Futuremark that simulates different usage scenarios in order to determine battery life. It loops these different scenarios infinitely until the battery hits 15% and then gives us an estimated battery life time. For our testing, we use all four different scenarios. These are video playback, gaming, web browsing and word processing.
Tests are ran twice, once with the computer's Power Options set to Balanced and another with the computer's Power options set to High Performance.
As you can see in the chart above, lower specs definitely help out with the battery life. The higher power parts in the Valkyrie hamper the length of time it can run on battery, even with its larger battery. If you're going for battery life, the HP Folio 13 is the better choice of the two and one of the better overall choices you can make.
Interestingly enough, the difference between Balanced and Performance is only 0:07 on the Folio and on the Valkyrie it actually does better on Performance setting. This just goes to show that the power settings aren't nearly as important as what you are doing on the system.
I currently have 90% battery left and Windows is reporting I still have 6:30 left to go. As you can see, this is much higher than the reported battery life above as I am strictly typing this document. The results given above are a good, mixed usage scenario and, unless gaming or stressing the CPU, most users should be able to beat our results. They are a lower end of the range the time should fall into.
Picking the right laptop isn't an easy choice, especially if you are ordering online. It's my job as a reviewer to point out the flaws in the product and it's not always an easy job. Thankfully, the HP Folio 13 hasn't provided any serious issues to report to you.
Overall, the product is great. Aside from a few minor quirks, such as the touchpad sound described previously, the system is exactly what a user should be expecting from an Ultrabook and is likely very close to what Intel had in mind when they wrote the specifications.
It's thin - 0.7-inches thick - and stylish. The styling is reminiscent of the HP Elitebooks, a design that is simplistic and beautiful. It's light. Weighing in at a mere 3.3 pounds, the thing is lighter than most textbooks and holds more information and can do so much more than a textbook. Continuing down the college line, the battery life is more than enough to last through your longest classes, though you may have to recharge if they are too processor intensive. Furthermore, the backlit keyboard works great for those classes where it's dark because the teacher is using a projector.
I haven't found where the Folio has particularly lacked in a certain aspect, other than the screen. From now on, manufacturers should start putting screens with a minimum resolution of 1600x900 into Ultrabooks and laptops. 1366x768 just limits productivity too much. Oh, and you probably expected it, but it's still worth mentioning that this system is not a performance beast for gaming, but for office and typing applications, it's fairly fast.
So, where does that leave us? If you're heading off for college and need a laptop to take with you from class to class for taking notes, the Folio 13 is a great option and should be on your list. If you're going to be using it for more than notes, such as programming, video editing or gaming, you might need to look for something other than an Ultrabook, something with more power.
It's one of the few computers where I have opened the box, picked it up, turned it on and immediately went to see how much it was and if I could afford it. I like it that much. And really, it's just a bunch of well executed features. There's nothing unheard of on this machine, but what's there works well.
Recently I've been shopping for an Ultrabook for college. I've tried two others and subsequently returned them. If I had purchased this one, I would have kept it. This right here says just how much I like the product. One final thought: Thank you, HP, for finally getting rid of the lighted logo on the back of the screen. If you ever want to bring it back, please put in a switch.