The initial bum rush of ultrabooks resulted in, with limited exception, a lot of designs that took most of their cues from Apple's MacBook Air. Even Dell's XPS 13, otherwise very different from what came before it, still maintained that wedge shape. Yet HP went a bit of a different route with their Folio 13 and demonstrated the same kind of outside the box thinking that many of the larger vendors are demonstrating these days.

HP's engineers took a look at Intel's ultrabook spec and, rather than see how small they could get their design, opted to see just how much they could pack into the spec. The result is the Folio 13, an ultrabook designed to bridge their consumer and business lines and offer the best an ultrabook can offer.

The ultrabook spec is pretty well defined without much in the way of wiggle room for the hardware itself, leaving vendors to differentiate largely on overall chassis design and price. The initial rush of ultrabooks included systems from Toshiba, Asus, and Acer that largely aped Apple's MacBook Air wedge shape and aluminum shell design, but HP and Dell played things close to the chest initially. HP's Folio 13 actually predates Dell's XPS 13, but both are intriguing designs that deviate from the norm in their own ways. Let's start with the specifications of our Folio 13 review unit.

HP Folio 13 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2467M
(2x1.6GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.3GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 1x4GB Micron DDR3-1600 (Maximum 1x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
LG Philips LP133WH4-TJA1
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM810 128GB mSATA SSD @ SATA 3Gbps
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino 1030 802.11b/g/n
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio IDT 92HD99BXX HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone/mic combo jack
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 60Wh
Front Side -
Right Side USB 2.0
Headphone/mic combo jack
Left Side AC adaptor
Ethernet jack
HDMI
USB 3.0
SD card reader
Back Side Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.54" x 8.67" x 0.7" (WxDxH)
319mm x 220mm x 18mm
Weight 3.3 lbs
1.5kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $899
As configured: $1,019

While most of HP's notebooks allow some level of customization, the Folio 13 really only has one internal hardware configuration, and you're looking at it. While some of the exterior elements are certainly a fresh approach for ultrabooks, HP has strangely opted to be much more conservative with speccing their ultrabook than other vendors have, and there are a few places where the Folio 13 is going to definitely lag behind the competition.

The Intel Core i5-2467M processor isn't slow by any stretch of the imagination, but it's the only ULV Core i5 we've tested this generation, with other vendors either just going for the cheapest chip (Toshiba's i3) or an expensive but faster i7. At a 1.6GHz nominal clock speed and able to turbo up to 2.1GHz on both cores or 2.3GHz on a single core, it's not a total slouch but it's also not the fastest chip around either.

HP also inexplicably uses only one memory channel on the i5's controller, and while the DDR3 is clocked higher at 1600MHz that can't make up for halving the memory bus width. Ultimately this shouldn't be a huge detriment to performance, but it's still performance left on the table. That single channel is populated by 4GB of RAM, too, which is enough for most tasks but is still shy of what can be achieved with most modern notebooks and even some modern ultrabooks.

Handling SSD storage duties is a Samsung PM810 running at SATA 3Gbps. Anecdotally, in real world usage I've found most of the benefit of running an SSD is felt just by virtue of the difference in responsiveness between an SSD and a mechanical hard disk drive. Connectivity is thankfully pretty good for this class of notebook, though: HP includes a USB 3.0 port and HDMI on top of the usual ports we've come to expect, along with a gigabit ethernet port for wired networking.

Ultimately, though, the specs on the Folio 13 are rather tame for an ultrabook, which is all the more perplexing since other vendors were able to cram more power into smaller designs. When I met with HP a few months ago when they were debuting the Folio 13, they showed me the interior and said they pretty much just doubled down on the battery, which is why the Folio 13 is also slightly bigger and heavier than other ultrabooks. Whether or not that gamble paid off remains to be seen.

In and Around the HP Folio 13
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  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    So it has a low end CPU, only one memory slot, a 1366x768 screen, HPs bloody AWFUL touchpad, Intel 3000 graphics.

    That sounds like par for the course for HP. Although the one memory slot thing is especially odd. Nothing else is significant. I would never buy an HP laptop with their all-in-one touchpad.

    It's so bad that even if somehow the rest of the laptop was great (it isn't) I wouldn't consider it.
    Reply
  • ShieTar - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    You write

    "HP's engineers took a look at Intel's ultrabook spec and, rather than see how small they could get their design, opted to see just how much they could pack into the spec."

    and then

    "HP has strangely opted to be much more conservative with speccing their ultrabook than other vendors have"

    and also

    "Ultimately, though, the Folio 13 is rather tame for an ultrabook, all the more perplexing since other vendors were able to cram more power into smaller designs."

    It seems to me like your first line is not based in reality, but that they rather opted to see just how much profit margin the can get away with.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Look at the size of the integrated battery, ports available, and the quality of the keyboard compared to other ultrabooks. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Yeah, this machine really is a puzzling design choice.

    I've long lusted for the "RAZR Maxx" of Ultrabooks. Take a thin machine and fill it up with battery until it is about the thickness of a "non-thin" machine.

    But HP managed to tank efficiency enough that it doesn't matter. Quite disappointing.
    Reply
  • rkhpedersen - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    Why do you keep mentioning the battery? According to yourself it does not deliver. Reply
  • JNo - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I concur, there's a lot of contradictory (and therefore confusing) statements in this review Dustin. Your main positives seem to be the keyboard and a 'boxy' design that isn't leveraged for other benefits. You then say it's your favourite ultrabook to date along with the Dell whilst complaining about all the shortcomings. The reasons for it being favoured seem thin on the ground and at odds with the rest of your tone. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    The reasons to favor one laptop over another almost always come down to the feel of the system in actual use -- and I'm not talking about speed and performance. I too think the boxier design with deeper key presses is a good thing -- the ultra-thin wedges on other ultrabooks leave the typing experience severely compromised. The rest of the stuff HP did is certainly "deviating from the norm", but unfortunately much of it is in a not-so-good way.

    Single-channel RAM probably only costs 5-10% performance at best (e.g. in graphics tests where IGP and CPU are being pegged), but when a smaller laptop can have two SO-DIMM slots there's no good reason for the change. Locking down the CPU is okay, as the i5 ULV works well enough, but was that necessary? The larger battery on paper should be great, but it fails to deliver (likely from lack of careful power tuning optimizations).

    Despite the above, the pricing is still reasonable compared to the competition. I'd love a better display (as always), but the Folio runs cooler and quieter than other ultrabooks and the keyboard is more comfortable to type on, with most other areas being more or less "equal". So yes, that makes it a "favorite", but as noted in the conclusion it's still flawed.
    Reply
  • french toast - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Can i make a request? I have noticed from other sites that both batterylife AND performance fluctuates wildely when notebooks/ultrabooks are run off battery instead of mains....

    From what i can tell most of your tests come from the mains to test absolute best case scenario performance..where as in most cases that form factor is going to be used on the move, so the most relevant benchmark/gaming scores are going to come off battery power, not mains.

    I have noticed that Intel 17w chips perform SIGNIFICANTLY worse when running off battery compared to Mains...likely AMD also, would it then be possible to include in the same graphs the benchmarks/gaming score from running off the deviced battery so readers can see the REAL performance whilst out and about...i just don't think the performance measurements are representative for the scenario it would be used.

    I enjoy your reviews by the way ;) Thanks.
    Reply
  • jamawass - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Jarred Walton recently tested an AMD based notebook which showed gaming performance does not deteriorate on battery power compared to intel. Reply
  • french toast - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    The point im getting at, and somewhat backed up by what you have said, is that intel iGP is terrible when running off a battery in comparison to AMD.

    What people think they are getting and what they actually get in real world are not the same things, you don't but a laptop to have it plugged into the mains, they are designed to be carried around..i just think it would be more approapriate to test with and with out battery in the same chart...its more accurate...other websites do it.
    http://techreport.com/articles.x/21902/7

    I will wait a while if i don't get noticed down in the comments section i will email in with a request, would be really great if Anandtech could do this IMO.
    Reply

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