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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  • thxdts - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    how many of the detractors have actually used one? the battery life (I get 8 hrs) and the super fast resume when i open the lid (2 seconds on average) makes it worthwhile in a very slim and light weight package. For lugging around such a lightweight laptop with a backlit keyboard running Windows 7, full size ethernet port for regular business environment, it is worth the $999 price.
  • Mugur - Friday, April 20, 2012 - link

    I used one and I disagree. There are ultrabooks much better than this one. I mentioned the Asus because I've seen it and it's thinner, lighter, the design is much better IMHO and the screen is in another class, with 1600x900 resolution. Same price here as this Folio, but with a faster processor.

    And FYI, all ultrabooks (with the exception of Acer probably) have 2-3 seconds resume from suspend.
  • thxdts - Friday, April 20, 2012 - link

    I looked at the Asus x31/x21 but they lacked 2 items i needed for my business/travel needs, 10 backlit keyboard for typing in dark and full size ethernet without a dongle for port testing, dongles are too easy to lose
  • cliffa3 - Thursday, April 19, 2012 - link

    I only read one line of this review...the spec on the screen. I threw up a little in my mouth, decided to post this comment, then am moving on. I hope consumers start selecting based on what they see rather than just price or the specs on the box. It's sad that Apple has remained the only one that values screen quality. I held out hope for IBM/Lenovo for the longest but they caved.
  • linuxhead64 - Saturday, April 21, 2012 - link

    Even an HP Exec wouldn't use one, just look at the picture of HP Chairman Ray Lane using his MacBook Air at home.
  • omaudio - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    .3MP, 1.3MP, 2.0MP? So many reviews skip this detail but I think it is worth adding. Thx.
  • Jehnavi24 - Saturday, April 28, 2012 - link

    Although the Folio didn't last the claimed 9.5 hours during our battery life test, performance was still adequate. Battery Eater Pro's Reader test went for a full 206 minutes before draining the battery.
  • megaphat - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    GF bought one of these recently. It was the i3 version for about $740 AUD which is an excellent price. Admittedly the laptop does have its shortcomings, such as the trackpad and resolution. And it only has 2.4GHz Wireless N (which is un-upgradeable due to HP's whitelist). It also doesn't have a tapered design.

    But on the plus side, its a very sleek piece of kit. It looks much better in person than a lot of the other ultrabooks. The brushed aluminium and rubberised black plastic work well together giving it a professional guise. None of this silver painted plastic crap and HP have shown restraint with that awful glossy plastic. The backlit keyboard is great. The build quality of the machine is excellent. There are very few gaps and there is almost no screen flex. Much less so than my rickety VAIO S series. Honestly it feels about as firm as a Macbook Air. HP hasn't made many concessions on the connectivity front either, challenging the competition with USB 3, Ethernet, HDMI and an SD card reader (in addition to the usual suspects). The ethernet port takes up pretty much the entire width of the machine. And the SSD is lightening fast compared to those old 5200rpm drives.

    Due to the good build quality and strong port complement I'd recommend this machine to the power user, especially someone who travels.

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