Finally, our review of HP's first 13.3" ultrabook, the Folio 13. With an Intel Core i5 processor, a 128 GB SSD and a 1.8-cm-thick body, is it enough to make the 11" MacBook Air and Asus UX31E tremble in their boots?
The Folio 13's aluminium lid looks impressive coming out of the box. Once open, you notice that the contours of the keyboard are also in aluminium. Things are already looking better than the Sony Vaio T13. But while Folio 13 is well assembled and has no play between the parts, the black plastic bottom sort of ruins the effect. In our opinion, the UX31E and MacBook Air have the upper hand when it comes to design.
The chiclet keyboard is well integrated in the chassis and the keys are just about the right size, providing for soft and quiet typing. One interesting thing about the keyboard is that you don't have to press Fn to use the shortcuts (for the volume, brightness and keyboard settings). The company went with the assumption that since people tend to use shortcuts more often than F1, F2, etc., the Fn key should activate those instead. Once you get used to it, this is much more practical.
The Folio 13 also earns a few points for having backlit keys. However, the backlighting can't be adjusted to the light in the room. There are only two modes: ON and OFF.
The 720p webcam gives detailed images in lightly coloured areas, but in darker areas there's an incredible amount of noise. But by slightly overexposing the image you can gain a proper amount of detail in these areas.
The Folio 13 has enough connectivity to suit most people's needs. There's only one video port (HDMI), although the fact that there's no VGA shouldn't be much of a problem, since HDMI is so common today on monitors, video projectors and, of course, TVs. One good point about the Folio 13 is the USB ports on either side of the body (1 USB 2.0 on the right and 1 USB 3.0 on the left). That way both lefties and righties can plug in their mice with no hassle and you don't end up blocking one of the ports once you plug in a large peripheral device. The Folio 13 also has an SD card reader, an RJ45 port—which means you don't have to buy an adapter—and a microphone/headphone combo jack (for a hands-free kit).
Heat levels with the components under stress
Images taken with Fluke Ti25 Thermal Imager
While the left-hand side of the keyboard has a slight tendency to heat up—this is more of an issue during summer than winter—the heat levels are always reasonable. However, the ventilation system is not the quietest. When the computer is on but not being used, the noise won't be loud enough to bother anyone, unless you're in a completely silent room. But while you're working on the computer it's impossible not to notice the sound.
Now on to the colours. Take a look at this graph. As you can see, in terms of colour accuracy the Folio 13 is an utter train wreck (delta E of 12.5) that only a calibration profile can save. And the contrast is even worse (215:1). That's nothing, even for a notebook. Another dark black stain on the display is the brightness, which never exceeds 200 cd/m². With figures like that and the glossy screen, there is absolutely no way to avoid reflections from direct light sources (the sun, that lamp sitting behind you...). The 1366 x 768 resolution is fairly common; text is perfectly legible on it. Both HP and Sony are behind the competition on this point—Asus made the switch to 1600 x 900 months ago on its 13.3" ultrabook (UX31E).
Frequency response: lows on the left, highs on the right. The peak around 20 Hz is a measurement artefact.
Based on our measurements, the headphone signal shows linear behaviour, good dynamics and decent stereo representation. That's exactly what you want out of a headphone signal.
The volume could be higher, but that's true with most of the competition, too. The speakers give a good audio reproduction without (much) saturation, even when the volume's on max.
The Folio 13 has the same Intel Core i5-2467M CPU as the 2011 version of the 11-inch MacBook Air and the more recent Asus UX21E. The i5-2467M can handle any task you throw at it. But, far from being the best processor of its generation, it does take a bit longer than models like the i5-2410M (+58% on average over the course of our testing process).
Thanks to the 128 GB SSD, the Folio 13 starts up and connects via Wi-Fi in under 30 seconds. Shut down time is 7 seconds, at most.
There are no surprises here. Without a dedicated graphics card, the range of recent games the Folio 13 can play in its native resolution is limited to games like FIFA 11. And even then you can't be too demanding with detail (you'll get medium, at best), unless you want the frame rate to drop. With older games, like Half Life 2, there's more room for manoeuvre.
While this isn't the best laptop for gaming, the Intel HD 3000 chipset enables it to decode 1080p video with no problems.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
Good news! The Folio 13 lasted a full six hours during our battery life tests, which include video playback with the headphones in, the Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off and the screen at 100 cd/m². This puts the Folio 13 a full 30 minutes ahead of the UX31E, and 15 minutes behind the 13" Apple MacBook Air, the current record-holder. So the battery life is excellent for this type of product.
Like any ultrabook worthy of the name, it fits easily into your backpack. At 1.5 kg it isn't the lightest one, but it's good enough for you to carry around without scheduling an appointment with your chiropractor.