Intel's Ultrabook initiative was announced last year to stimulate sales of notebooks in the tablet fever. No fewer than a dozen computers want to be your new companion – some more effective than others. Suppliers like LG have presented highly competent ultra-thin devices that can keep up with Apple's MacBook Air in terms of raw data. However, they also fail to meet any of Intel's guiding principles by exceeding the price below $ 1,000.
There are only so many people willing to spend more than $ 1,300 on a finger-thick machine, and many of them are already loyal Apple customers. The reality is that the average consumer wants to believe they are buying a premium product, but don't necessarily want to pay premium prices. It's a tough nut to crack, and most PC manufacturers have failed when it comes to ultra-thin notebooks, be it from overcharging or too many corners.
LG's $ 1,500 X-Note Z330 is incredibly thin (14.7mm) and light (1.21kg), but its internals are identical to ultrabooks that are 50% cheaper or more. Conversely, the Acer Aspire S3 stormed out of the gates last October for an affordable price below $ 1,000 but was criticized for having a cheap plastic case, poor audio quality and viewing angles, a stiff keyboard, short battery life, and tons Bloatware has to boot.
The HP Folio 13 strikes a balance between the two extremes and costs an attractive $ 900. At the same time, it offers the same core components that you can find in even the most expensive ultrabooks. The system has been available for a few months so our review is not particularly timely. However, after purchasing a device a few weeks ago, we felt it deserved attention, given how many system manufacturers got the formula wrong despite Intel's guidance.
HP Folio 13-1020us – $ 900
Visually, the Folio 13 is reminiscent of the HP Envy and Elitebook product lines, which is also reminiscent of Apple's MacBook Pros. HP has done an admirable job of giving its premium notebooks a minimalist, professional look. The Folio 13 has brushed aluminum on the top cover and around the keyboard / touchpad, while the bottom has a soft, rubbery coating. Both surfaces work flawlessly and minimize fingerprints.
The glossy display inevitably attracts hand fat, but there is enough non-glossy space around the bezel to open and close the system without frequent contact. The glossy screen is also less than desirable for use in bright environments. I can see a partial reflection when looking at a dark picture in my poorly lit apartment. In addition, the Folio's screen isn't particularly bright at the maximum setting.
As I delve into this, the TN panel's 1366 x 768 leaves much to be desired in terms of viewing angles and contrast, especially when compared to the 1440 x 900 panel on the 13.3-inch MacBook Air. I note that I adjust the display frequently to minimize the washed look and glare. To be fair, the same could be said of an unfortunate number of laptops valued at over $ 1,000, and the $ 900 MSRP of Folio 13 helps mitigate the blow.
The Folio's keyboard feels better than average for an ultraportable. There is little to no flex when typing, and the keys are a good size and spaced apart. The buttons are backlit with white LEDs with a brightness setting (on or off). And while the backlit buttons are a nice touch, the glossy display can detract from the experience if you catch a glimpse of the keyboard's reflection (the screen is sloped down to exaggerate that effect below).
The one-piece touchpad sits flush with the aluminum deck. It looks good and works well enough, even though it's not perfect. The surface requires frequent cleaning as it loses its smooth feel after little use, while the mouse click buttons are stiff and imprecise (clicking towards the bottom corners is sometimes not registered). On the positive side, multi-touch gestures like scrolling with two fingers and pinch-zooming are handy.
As with the other external devices, the Folio's Dolby Advanced Audio soundbar blends in well with the design. It sits between the display's hinges so you don't have to worry if you accidentally cover a speaker. In terms of quality, the audio is flat, but it's also very loud and clear, which is probably desirable for a business-minded ultrabook.
As with all ultrabooks, connectivity is quite limited, but the Folio offers an SD card reader that many competitors don't have. The card slot is located to the left of a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI 1.4 port and a Gigabit Ethernet socket, while on the right side there is only a single USB 2.0 port and an audio output / microphone combination socket. Of course, 802.11b / g / n Wi-Fi is available, as is Bluetooth 4.0.