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HP Folio 13

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What's hot: Class-leading battery life, very good backlit keyboard.

What's not: Dull design, dim display.


Reviewed April 6, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Ultrabooks are all the rage right now, and unlike netbooks, they're here to stay. In a few months we've seen models from several top manufacturers, and almost all have been products we liked and would recommend. HP's first entry is the HP Folio 13, a business oriented Ultrabook with long battery life, a good selection of ports (by limited Ultrabook standards) and long battery life. HP throws style out the window with the staid if not deadly dull Folio, but it has the keyboard and battery life that business users crave.

HP Folio 13

The Folio 13 has the usual stew pot of Ultrabook ingredients: an Intel Core i5 ULV 1.6GHz CPU, Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics, 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD drive. Oddly, HP doesn't offer a configurable model with a Core i7 or 256 gig SSD yet, though they might in the future since they do in general offer built to order options and other manufacturers offer CPU and storage upgrades. The Folio 13 is heavier than the 3 lb. average for Ultrabooks, it weighs 3.3 lbs. and it's a bit thicker too, though it's significantly thinner than mainstream notebooks. The notebook has a gloss 13.3", 1366 x 768 display, WiFi, Bluetooth and a backlit keyboard.

Design, Build Quality and Keyboard

HP's taken some flak lately when it comes to build quality, but our Folio 13 came from the store in perfect condition with no quality or fit and finish problems at all. While several manufacturers have gone with high end materials and seriously attractive designs to compete with the MacBook Air, we get the feeling HP threw this out as a business machine and left the good looks and fancy materials to the pricier HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook. While the Asus Zenbook looks like a modern work of industrial art and the Dell XPS 13 marries materials and quality finishes in unique ways, the HP has an understated aluminum lid, an aluminum keyboard deck and matte black plastic bottom that wraps around the sides. If you like clean lines and quiet design, the Folio has it. If you want some serious metal, a tapered design and other touches that say "I paid a grand for this!" the Folio isn't it.

HP Folio 13

There's some flex to the lid, but not nearly as much as on the Toshiba Portege Z830, and the soft touch plastic bottom has its merits: it stays cool and isn't slippery. The keyboard feels right at home in the HP Pavilion and Envy line: it's a slightly recessed Chiclet keyboard with good travel and tactile feel for an Ultrabook. Since the Folio is thicker than other Ultrabooks, HP had room to improve key travel vs. the super-thin and nearly travel-free Zenbook. The HP Folio 13, like the Dell XPS 13, is a top choice for those who do a lot of typing.

HP Folio 13

The keyboard has white backlighting that you can turn on and off via a key on the Fn row, and it lights the characters on each key and bleeds out from the edges of the keys. This isn't the LED for each key design that you find on the HP Envy line or the Dell Ultrabook. Still, it does the job and typing on an airplane at night is a cinch.

The trackpad is HP's usual buttonless Synaptics affair. For an Ultrabook it's roomy and it works fine for the basics: tap, drag, select. Two finger gestures for scrolling work well, but three and four finger gestures are a bit hit or miss (the same is true of most Windows Ultrabooks). The trackpad buttons are immensely stiff and unpleasant.

The Folio 13 has a healthy selection of ports by Ultrabook standards, and you get gigabit Ethernet and a full size SD card slot. There's an HDMI port for video out and three USB ports, one of which supports USB 3.0.


Deals and Shopping:


HP Folio 13 Video Review


This isn't the highpoint of our review. The HP Folio 13 has the dimmest Ultrabook display on the market, coming in at 210 nits brightness vs. 300 and better for competing brands. Indoors, this won't pose much of a problem, but if you work near a window or plan on taking this ultraportable outside to work, forget about it. Colors are balanced and pleasing, and contrast is good for a TN panel. Viewing angles, as with most Ultrabooks, aren't impressive, and we had to angle the display forward and back to hit the sweet spot for best brightness, contrast and colors. Like most Ultrabooks, the 13" display has 1366 x 768 resolution, which is a good match for readability. Which Ultrabooks have higher resolution? The MacBook Air has 1440 x 900 resolution, and the Asus Zenbook UX31 has 1600 x 900 for those of you with good eyes who can read small type.

HP's website lists Intel WiDi wireless display as a standard feature. Beware: the 1020US quick ship model that's also sold in many retail stores actually has Broadcom wireless rather than Intel wireless. Intel WiFi is a requirement for Intel WiDi wireless display.

Horsepower and Performance

There isn't a lot of variation among Ultrabooks for performance; MacBook Air (though technically not an Ultrabook) included. They all run on the same CPU, GPU, RAM allotment and have SSD drives. The fastest score around 10,000 in the PCMark Vantage benchmark and the slower ones score closer to 9,000. The Folio 13 lives at the slower end below 9,000, in part due to what we assume is aggressive power management to achieve class-leading battery life, and the slower SATA 2 SSD drive that benchmarks half as fast as the Asus Zenbook and Dell XPS 13 with SATA 3 SSD drives. Still, at the end of the day, you won't feel all that much difference between the fastest Core i5 Ultrabooks and the Folio. And HP aims this machine at the road warrior who's looking for cool operation and long runtimes rather than blazing performance.

The bottom of the machine never gets uncomfortably warm, and the CPU stays at a fairly cool 40 to 45 degrees Centigrade when doing business tasks. The fan on ours is quite audible and is on most of the time, and we find it distracting. The machine has HP CoolSense, software that adjusts the fan to match the ventilation situation (move it around a lot or put it on a blanket and the fan will ramp up).


PCMark Vantage
HP Folio 13 (Core i5, Sandy Bridge) 8936
HP Envy Spectre (Sandy Bridge) 9448
Vizio CT14 Think + Light (Ivy Bridge) 6961
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) 12,272
Sony Vaio T (Core i7 ULV Ivy Bridge Ultrabook) 12,120
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) 8152
Toshiba Portege Z835 (Core i7, Sandy Bridge) 8838

Battery Life

Here's where the Folio 13 shines. It has hands down the best battery life of any Ultrabook, and given that category's impressive average, that means a lot to road warriors who work far from AC outlets. Our Folio, with brightness set to 75%, consistently lasted 8 hours on a charge with WiFi on. We used the laptop in a mix of MS Office work, some Photoshop CS5 editing, viewing lots of web pages and a few YouTube videos. If battery life is paramount for you, this is your machine. In comparison, the Dell XPS 13 lasted 5.5 to 6 hours on a charge, and our Asus Zenbook UX31 lasted 5 to 6 hours depending on usage scenarios.


This is the man in the dull gray suit. He goes to work dutifully and gets the job done. He's tireless and reliable but not a standout. The Folio 13 isn't a looker and it doesn't ride with high class materials like some Ultrabooks, but it's sturdy, has a great keyboard and class leading battery life. We wish HP had gone with a brighter panel, though that might have brought down battery life to pedestrian levels. We like the low price and good selection of ports for an Ultrabook.

Related Reading:

Ultrabook Guide

Best Ultrabooks Rated

Dell XPS 13 vs. HP Folio 13 Comparison


Price: $899-$949 depending on where you shop

Web Site:


HP Folio 13


HP Folio 13


HP Folio 13


blog comments powered by Disqus


Display: 15", 1366 x 768 LED backlit display. Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics. HDMI port. No Intel WiDi on Broadcom wireless version, only available with Intel wireless option.

Battery: 6 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.

Performance: 1.6GHz Intel 2nd generation Intel Core i5-2467M ULV processor. 4 gigs RAM (soldered on motherboard) and 128 gig SATA2 SSD drive.

Size: 412.54 x 8.67 x .7 inches. Weight: 3.3 pounds.

Camera: HP TrueVision HD webcam.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm stereo headset jack. Dolby audio.

Networking: Integrated single band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth (Broadcom for both). Wired gigabit Ethernet.

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit.

Expansion and Ports: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, HDMI port, Ethernet RJ45, 3 USB ports (one is USB 3.0).



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