The HP Folio 13 is aimed more at the business rather than consumer market, and consequently is less flashy than some of the other Ultrabooks that have emerged so far. That it is not to say it isn’t attractive itself - far from it in fact.
The Folio 13’s charms may be more subtle than other Ultrabooks, but on closer inspection it is clear that it is remarkably well designed, achieving the crucial ‘wow’ factor that would have formed part of Intel’s brief in an understated way.
The silver brushed metal chassis surrounds the matching blacks on the chiclet keyboard, screen bezel and trackpad making for a cohesive, sleek finish.
Switch on the keyboard backlight and few would disagree that HP has succeeded in building a rather gorgeous machine that gives a classy edge to a business-use laptop.
While the Folio is not the lightest of Ultrabooks, at just less than 1.5 Kg it is still very easy to throw into a bag and carry around without wearing your shoulder out.
At 18mm it is middling in terms of thinness and forgoes the tapered edges of the Mac Book Air and some other ultrathins. The flipside of this means that it is reassuringly robust, with the screen moving sturdily into place when opened. With barely a hint of flex at any point of the chassis this gives the feel of a premium laptop, as you would expect.
Getting to grips with using the Folio 13 is relatively hassle-free. The beautifully weighted tiled keyboard is a joy to use for extensive typing, while the rubberised plastic coating stops digits from sliding around. The page up and page down keys feel somewhat crammed in to fit the keyboard's confines, but just take a few moments to get used to.
The touchpad is a success on the whole, with the multitouch scrolling easy to use, though there is a slight stiffness in the left and right clicks. The pinch zoom is over sensitive at times, with a slightly misjudged pincer movement resulting in zooming in and out almost reminiscent of the dizzying staircase scene in Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
The audio on the Folio is impressive considering the size of the machine. The bass might be scant but the front facing Dolby Advanced Audio speaker bar is crystal clear, surprisingly loud and overall a fantastically well designed and delivered addition to the machine.
The 13.3 inch screen is decent if unremarkable, 1366 x 768 as the rough standard for most of the initial flock of Ultrabooks. The glossy screen can at times be difficult in terms of glare, but mostly it caused little problems, and has very good brightness levels.
Loitering around the side of the machine is enough connectivity to make the case for business use. HP have supplied two USBs, one of which is USB 3.0, as well as a full sized HDMI port and Ethernet connection. These mean that the Folio 13 is ideally suited to BYOD fans.
Furthermore there is an SD card slot, very useful from the perspective of business use by professionals, and almost essential in terms of giving expansion options over the 128GB solid state drive.
Using an SSD in the place of the more traditional hard disk drives found in notebooks obviously means a significant drop in capacity, but from a business use perspective this is not massively important, and in an era of cloud storage it is less of a problem than we first expected. For those who are intent on storing large amounts of media an external hard drive is a worthwhile investment, considering the impressively cheap storage options available even at terabyte sizes.
In terms of performance the Folio 13 has the standard Intel spec of a Core i5-2467 processor, in this case Sandy Bridge, and along with 4GB of DDR3 RAM means that the Folio 13 can deal with just about everything you would expect from an ultraportable.
The Folio is by no means aimed at gaming, but still manages to support games from the past couple of years running at a fairly impressive rate with Intel’s HD3000 graphics, and even new titles with most of the graphic features turned down a bit.
Multitasking is rarely a problem, and HD video does not tax the machine, running smoothly when hooked up to a larger screen.
The battery life is another area where the Folio 13 really excels, and we were suitably impressed by the usage - approaching seven hours that could be wrung from the machine with low settings and light usage. A more realistic figure for the general mix of web browsing, word processing, intermittent Spotify or YouTube use still gave a thoroughly decent life of around five hours plus.
This is an example of the real usefulness of the Folio 13. The peace of mind that comes from not having to find the nearest plug to fill up the battery every couple of hours can really not be overstated, particularly for business use.
Indeed, the usual jolt of fear when the battery icon approaches vanishes when you get used to battery life that has a fair crack at running all day, and this makes for a truly ‘ultraportable’ device.