"If you need a 2-in-1 that you can take with you and get the job done, albeit a little more slowly, the Elite Folio is a great choice."

  • Comfortable construction thanks to vegan leather

  • Solid build quality

  • Pleasant display with an aspect ratio of 3: 2

  • Excellent keyboard and pen

  • Innovative 2-in-1 design

  • Performance limited to undemanding productivity

  • The battery life is not as good as some ARM laptops

  • Just one angle in media mode

Laptop designs can be generic, but every now and then something breaks the mold. That describes the HP Specter Folio when it was launched in 2018.

It was a unique 2-in-1 model – a leather-clad "pull-forward" design that was characterized by elegance and class. You can't buy this machine anymore, but if you liked the form factor and unusual materials, HP has a new option for you, the Elite Folio. This new device follows the same design guidelines and is aimed at HP commercial customers.

It's not just a cookie cutter from the Specter Folio, though. The Elite Folio is characterized by the use of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, the latest ARM processor for Windows 10 laptops. My test device was configured with this processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive (SSD), a 3.5-inch IPS 3: 2 display, and 4G LTE WWAN support. It's an expensive $ 1,890 laptop, making it a solid premium area. It's an interesting design with unusual materials – but is that enough to survive in the crowded 2-in-1 market?

design

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One of the biggest differences between the Elite Folio and the Specter Folio is that the former is made of "vegan leather" rather than the real leather used in the latter. What is "vegan leather"? In short, it's plastic – technically, polyurethane. It's called "vegan" because it's not animal-based – obviously more of a marketing than a technical distinction. In all honesty, I don't think the Elite Folio feels as warm and inviting – nor as sleek – as the Specter Folio. It's just not that elegant.

The Elite Folio still looks a bit like a leather-bound paper notebook, but the Specter Folio emulates that feeling far better. The Elite Folio is still quite unique, however, and its all-black color scheme goes well with vegan leather, making for a laptop that's not just another silver wedge.

By the way, the main reason HP gives for using the vegan leather is that it bonds better to the magnesium frame. This allows for a tighter fit along the edges – the Specter Folio's leather is wrapped, adding to the width and depth – and a slightly smaller chassis. I get the argument, but vegan leather just doesn't have the same appeal.

Otherwise the design is identical. Thanks to the flexibility of the vegan leather material, the display folds in the middle and can be pulled forward using the keyboard, creating a media mode. Keep pulling it forward and it becomes a tablet at a slight angle. It's a different take on the 2-in-1 and works well, if only at one angle instead of the many angles available with a 360 degree convertible or tablet with a stand.

I found the display a bit shaky in clamshell mode so I noticed it while typing. Most of the 360-degree convertibles I've used, like the HP Specter x360 14, have firmer hinges. And like the Specter Folio, the power button is on the keyboard and is hidden in all but the clamshell mode.

The Elite Folio feels pretty sturdy without bending or bending in the chassis. In this department it is on par with the Specter x360 14 and the Dell XPS 13. With that, the Elite Folio is in good company and you don't feel like you need to baby the laptop just because of its unique materials and design. Only time will tell how the vegan leather can withstand wear and tear.

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

In terms of size, the Elite Folio is 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.92 pounds. This compares to the Specter x360 14 at 0.67 inches and 2.95 pounds and the XPS 13 at 0.58 inches and 2.8 pounds. While the metal part of the base of the Elite Folio is quite thin, the lid is a bit thicker and the vegan leather provides additional bulk. The Elite Folio is therefore not as small as it could be if it were only made of metal.

Connectivity isn't the Elite Folio's greatest strength. You get two USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one on each side (both provide power to the laptop) and a 3.5mm audio jack. That's it. Thunderbolt is of course not supported due to the Qualcomm chipset. However, the wireless connectivity is robust with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. You can also choose between optional LTE 4 or 5G WWAN support. There is a SIM slot next to the pen (more on that later). HP opted for 5G Sub6 and not mmWave here.

performance

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So far, Windows on ARM processors has not been particularly convincing and nothing like the excellent performance that Apple gets out of its M1 ARM chip. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 is said to offer improved performance, and while I'd like to quantify this claimed improvement, it is difficult because many legacy Windows applications are unsupported. Most of our benchmarks don't run on the Elite Folio, so I can't provide a lot of objective data.

I was able to run Geekbench 5, and here the Elite Folio managed a meager 770 in single-core mode and a slightly better 3,028 in multi-core mode. Compared to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 1 in the Lenovo Flex 5G with 700 or 2,802 – not a big improvement. And of course, it's nothing compared to the results of the 11th generation Intel Core CPUs, not to mention the Ryzen 5000 chips and the Apple M1. For example, the HP Specter x360 14 with its Core i7-1165G7 scored 1,214 and 4,117, while the Asus ZenBook 13 UX325UA equipped with a Ryzen 7 5800U scored 1,423 and 6,758 points. Apple's MacBook Air with the M1 blew the field with 1,727 and 7,585. Only the Core i3-1115G4 in the Acer Aspire 5 achieved similar results with 1,214 and 2,544. By that standard alone, the Elite Folio is a slow laptop.

In actual use, I found it fast enough for typical productivity jobs like using Microsoft Office applications (which run natively on the chipset), surfing the Internet, and the like. I couldn't run any of our more robust benchmarks like the handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video for H.265, Cinebench 23, or our usual PCMark 10 benchmarks. I bet the Elite Folio isn't a computer that you want to use to edit large photos or videos. It's fanless and completely quiet, which is a plus and a boon to battery life.

I also couldn't test the graphics with our usual 3DMark benchmarks and Fortnite didn't install so I couldn't run this test either. The Elite Folio isn't a slot machine, which is fine as it isn't meant to be acted like one.

Display and speakers

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I was also unable to test the display with my colorimeter because there were no supported drivers. And that's a shame because it's a lovely 13.5-inch IPS display with a productivity-friendly 3: 2 aspect ratio that I'd like to quantify. The resolution is lower than I'd like it to be at 1,920 x 1,280, just slightly higher than Full HD, but I'm probably more concerned about higher resolutions than the typical productivity user. The screen was sharp, just not as sharp as I like it to be.

HP is announcing a brightness of 400 nits, and I'm sure the display will approach that metric. I never found it too dark in my normal work environment, but it wasn't bright enough to use outside in sunlight (as is the case with most laptops). HP is offering its latest Sure View Reflect privacy screen as an option. With the data protection function deactivated, it is much brighter at 1,000 nits. This is an option for anyone who wants a very bright display.

The colors looked bright and natural and not oversaturated. I can't confirm the accuracy, but I didn't see anything wrong using the display next to a Dell XPS 13. Netflix and other streaming videos didn't seem too light or too dark, so Gamma seems to get to the point.

Overall, I enjoyed using the display. Taller displays are so much more functional than old school 16: 9 panels, and that's how I can see the Elite Folio handle longer pages and documents in no time.

The two upward-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard provide enough volume to watch YouTube videos and the occasional Netflix shows. The mids and highs are clear and comfortable, but the bass is almost non-existent. It's a good sound system for such a small laptop, but you'll still need headphones for lengthy binge sessions and listening to music.

Keyboard and touchpad

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The Elite Folio uses a version of the Elite keyboard that is similar, but not exactly the same, to the version HP uses for its Specter line. It was designed to be consistent and very stable across the keyboard – and it shows. There is also sufficient 1.3mm of travel with a comfortable floor movement and a light touch. I don't find it quite as bouncy as the Specter Folio's keyboard, and that's why I still prefer this to the Elite Folio's, but the latter's keyboard is still among the best.

The touchpad of the Elite Folio is slightly larger than that of the Specter Folio thanks to the larger display and the additional space on the keyboard deck. It's not quite as big as the touchpad on the Specter x360 14. It was as responsive as all Microsoft Precision touchpads, and provides precise and reliable support for Windows 10's multi-touch gestures.

The Elite Folio's display is touch sensitive and responsive. The active pen with its own docking station and charging station above the keyboard is more interesting. It's a great solution for storing the pen, although it makes the pen more flat than round. I found it quite convenient to use, however. It supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt, and works well with the color features of Windows 10. The 3: 2 aspect ratio is also better for writing on the screen. It's wider when held upright as a tablet, and closer to a regular sheet of paper in terms of dimensions. HP estimates the pen takes 10 days and three hours a day to charge. However, you can also replenish it by keeping it in its right place.

An infrared camera and facial recognition have Windows 10 Hello support, and I found them quickly and reliably. HP has built in a physical privacy lock for the webcam. So you need to make sure this is open if you want to sign in with your face.

Battery life

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HP packed a 46-watt-hour battery into the tiny chassis of the Elite Folio, which is less than some of its competitors. For example, the Specter x360 14 has 67 watt hours available. The Qualcomm CPU is said to be very efficient, however, and so I expected the battery life to be excellent.

Again, I was limited in the number of benchmarks I could run. The PCMark 10 tests would not run on the Elite Folio, so I only limited myself to our web and video tests. In web tests running across a number of popular websites, the Elite Folio lasted just under 11 hours, compared to the Lenovo Flex 5G with the previous generation Snapdragon 8cx, which ran for 17 hours. The Elite Folio's longevity on this test was little better than the average of Intel's latest 11th generation Tiger Lake laptops – and many lasted much longer. The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 with a Core i7-1165G7, for example, lasted more than 1.5 hours longer. I expected the Elite Folio to perform better in this test.

In our video test running through a 1080p movie trailer, the Elite Folio lasted 19.5 hours. That's a strong performance, but here, too, it is way behind the 28 hours of the Lenovo Flex 5G. The Galaxy Book Pro 360 managed it to last 17.5 hours, and the Elite Folio was again underutilized due to its efficient ARM CPU.

There's no doubt that the Elite Folio will take a full working day, but it doesn't quite live up to its processor's promise. This could be due to the relatively low battery capacity, which depends on the low base portion of the laptop. In any case, the HP Elite Folio will last longer than the average Intel-based laptop, but it's by no means the most durable of the other Snapdragon-based laptops we tested.

Our opinion

The Specter Folio was a standout machine when it was introduced in 2018. Its leather was luxurious and its design was innovative. The Elite Folio features the same design, which has been slightly modified thanks to the 3: 2 aspect ratio of the display to be even more effective. I'll note that the vegan leather material isn't as viscerally appealing as the real leather of the Specter Folio, but it's still more comfortable than bare metal.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 was not challenged. Performance hasn't improved much over the previous generation, and what remains is a slower CPU that complicates things with limited application compatibility. The battery life of the Elite Folio is competitive with Intel-based laptops, but it should be better. It's not bad; It just doesn't live up to its potential.

Overall, with a great keyboard and pen, the laptop is pleasant to use and has fast, always-on connectivity options. If you need a 2-in-1 that you can take with you wherever you go and get the job done, albeit a little slower, then the Elite Folio is a great choice.

Are there alternatives?

The Lenovo Flex 5G may be using the previous generation processor, but it works almost as well as the Elite Folio and offers far better battery life. As with our other alternatives, it's several hundred dollars less. You just have to forego the pull-forward design and vegan leather.

The HP Specter x360 14 is a superior 2-in-1 for performance and competitive in battery life with a lower resolution display. We tested the model with the OLED display. This device is cheaper than the Elite Folio while also providing a superior visual experience.

The Dell XPS 13 9310 is a great choice if you don't need a 2-in-1 device. It's just as well built, has an excellent keyboard too, and outperforms the Elite Folio. When you get the Full HD display, you'll see similar battery life while spending hundreds less.

How long it will take?

Thanks to its robust construction, the Elite Folio should last for years – as long as the vegan leather material lasts, which we only know when it has been subjected to the usual treatment. There is only a one year warranty which is industry standard and is disappointing for a commercial laptop.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you have to work somewhere and like the pull-forward 2-in-1 design.

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