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
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
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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  • vignyan - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I am sorry - but I think the industry should not provide 768 displays for screens larger than 7" anymore. =)
  • Oderdigg - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Very accurate review other than some spelling errors :). I bought 2 for work to test them out and I was happy with what you got considering they were $1000. My only gripe was the glossy 768p panel and the track pad. The track pad isn't a huge issue as we use good mice. I mean, who doesn't?

    Seems to be a lot of haters in this thread. Are people expecting a $600 laptop that's as good as a MBA? Let's be realistic. This isn't for gaming, CAD or a desktop replacement. This for people who need a quick laptop without spending too much money (MBA) and still deliver enough performance to showcase websites, cloud technology etc.

    I have an HP 8460w and that thing moves. Then again, it's about 2.5X more expensive.
  • fruityloon - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Can the spec for the screen resolution be written as 1366x768 instead of 16:9 768p ? It makes glancing thru a tad easier.
  • robinthakur - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    If Apple can ship a tablet with a 2048x1536 resolution with an insanely thin profile for $499, why would I accept anything less in a full laptop costing way more? You mightsay that the average consumer wouldn't know the difference, but if they simply do a side by side comparison with a product which has been in the retail channel as of the end of February the difference speaks for itself. No sale HP, the MBA is vastly superior in nearly every department and holds its value in the second hand market way better.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    Keep in mind that one of the differences with iPad and Ultrabooks is that Apple is in full control of the OS, hardware, and software on iPad. They released the original as a 1024x768 device, and quadrupling that resolution with the new iPad is a simple matter. Any apps that don't know how to support other resolutions just see the display as a 1024x768 device and the graphics drivers handle the scaling -- which, incidentally, can make lower resolution apps and images look like crap.

    The GUI on iOS for iPad also runs at a set aspect ratio and they basically have two PPI settings that they need to target -- the original 132 PPI, and the new 264 PPI. If you look at the home screen on an iPad 2 vs. iPad "3", the only real difference is the iPad 3 looks a lot sharper. Now move over to Windows (or OS X), and suddenly you have DPI settings that don't actually scale across all applications -- there are many, many situations in which an app will look anywhere from slightly off to downright horrible if you use something other than the Windows default 96 DPI.

    Another major issue: if you're using the 96 DPI setting on a 13" 1080p display, all the text and images become smaller, to the point where people in their 40s and later could become very frustrated by eye strain. (I had a client at one point where I helped them get set up with new PCs and 24" 1920x1200 LCDs; the receptionists and secretaries threw a fit and I finally ended up running all the displays at 1280x800 -- they were all happy, even though everything was slightly blurry and they had to do a lot more scrolling!)

    In other words, I fully understand why not every laptop should have an ultra high resolution LCD; until Windows can handle DPI scaling across all apps without any funny business, legibility for a majority of users at the 96 DPI setting is what most companies will target. That said, you can still do a lot better than 1366x768, low contrast, crappy viewing angles LCDs. Samsung's PLS and the other IPS offerings are needed (hopefully with better color accuracy and gamut), and I continue to bemoan the loss of 16:10 laptops (Mac being one of the few holdouts).

    Ideally, I'd like to see 1280x800 at 11.6", 1280x800 or 1440x900 at 13.3", 1440x900 or 1680x1050 at 14", 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 at 15.6", and 1920x1200 at 17.3". Since that's not likely to happen any time soon, at least we could get 1600x900 as common offerings on 13 and 14" laptops, and 1080p on 15.6" and above. The lack of vertical screen real estate on 768p is irritating, but at the same time 1600x900 can be a bit much for a lot of people at 13.3", and certainly it would be difficult to read on an 11.6" panel. Just my two cents.
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    Following the norm.
  • thxdts - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    waited a while as the first ultrabooks on the market didn't have a backlit keyboard and full size ethernet port for a business environment, for the first generation of ultrabook I like it for what it does, Win 7 with virtual instant on when you open the lid from standby mode is awesome, the SSD hard drive really helps. For next version, i would like them to offer an IPS screen as an optional upgrade as well as 2 DIMM slots
  • ezelitis - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    i bought dell 6 months ago and it beats this junk in every way. in same price. however mine is 17inch.
    on that scale mine would be even better.
    mine opinion is that this is an april joke.
    hp has delivered 2years old junk.
  • ezelitis - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    after a few years hp will have a new challengers like smart phones.
  • Mugur - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    And I have just one thing to say: it has the worst screen I've seen in the past 10 years in a notebook. Period. The lack of contrast, brightness and you name it... is astonishing. The cheapest Acer netbook has a better screen by far, far...

    I am used to see poor screens in HP since this is what I use at work. With one notable exception (my EliteBook 8760w) every screen was low quality (and of course all ProBooks have 1366x768). But the Folio 13 display has set a standard for low quality even for HP.

    So, in my opinion, if you're buying this for yourself, just get the Asus Zenbook. Not the greatest display, but 1600x900, thinner, lighter and great battery life for its size.

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