Computerworld

HP Folio 13-1008TU Ultrabook

The Folio 13 is well built, looks good and is a pleasure to use. It's most definitely one of the best Ultrabooks on the Aussie market.

HP's Folio 13-1008TU is an excellent Ultrabook. It's slim, well built, light and it has a good range of connectivity built in to it. Most importantly, it's a very comfortable laptop to use: it comes with a smooth and responsive Synaptics touchpad and its keyboard has soft, backlit keys that are a joy to hit.

Design and build quality

The Folio 13 has a 13.3in screen and weighs 1.5kg. It's not as light as other Ultrabooks, such as the Toshiba Satellite Z830, but it's a well balanced notebook that doesn't feel heavy to handle. It has a thickness of around 18mm with its lid closed (the base is about 12mm on its own), and this thickness is the same from the rear of the unit to the front. This is unlike the Ultrabooks from ASUS and Acer, which have designs that taper towards the front (somewhat uncomfortably in the case of the ASUS Zenbook). The brushed aluminium finish on the lid and the 85mm wide palm rest feels great to touch. It's also strong and it looks splendid to boot. HP is aiming this Ultrabook at the business user and it definitely looks like something you'd proud to show off around the office or at a meeting.

The hinges of the laptop are a little stiffer than the ones found on the Toshiba and ASUS Ultrabooks, meaning you can't open the lid with one hand while the notebook is resting on a hard, flat surface. We found its LED-backlit screen (which has a 1366x768 resolution) to be vibrant and high in contrast. We had no problems viewing details in photos and watching videos with dark scenes, and its vertical viewing angles were good enough for us not to have to adjust the tilt angle every time we moved slightly. However, it's a glossy screen, so you'll need to be prepared to fight reflections from light sources located behind you. The screen has a thin frame around it (7mm either side, and 11mm at the top) and it looks stylish, but a black border remains between the screen and the frame.

Speakers are located across the top of the base and they are quite loud considering how small the laptop is. The on-screen volume indicator isn't reliable though as you can still hear sound even when the indicator is not showing any bars.

Usability

We really like the chiclet keyboard, which has a standard layout. The keys are soft and possess good travel; overall, we found it to be a very comfortable keyboard to use. The keys are smooth, yet not slippery and they are backlit so that you can work well into the night. The backlight has to be enabled and disabled manually and there is no timer on it, which means it's always on even when you haven't touched a key in a while.

HP Folio 13 backlit keyboard

The backlit keyboard in action.

We like the reversed actions of the function keys, which allow you to change screen brightness, enable the keyboard backlight and manipulate volume and media player controls all without having to press the 'Fn' key. If you prefer traditional function keys, you can reverse their actions in the BIOS. The only thing we're not fond of on this keyboard is the squished placement of the 'up' and 'down' arrows, which can make them a little hard to differentiate by feel alone — but this is a nitpick as we eventually got used to these keys.

The touchpad is large (110x62mm), smooth and completely brilliant. It's the best touchpad we've used in an Ultrabook so far. In our tests, it was responsive, didn't feel resistive, performed multi-finger gestures without any problems (including three-finger swipes) and we never had to repeat an action while using it. Its left- and right-click buttons are located under the touchpad, and the extra area over the buttons can be used to move the pointer. We didn't have any problems whatsoever when pressing these buttons to perform drag-and-drop operations.

You can use this Ultrabook comfortably on your lap for long periods of time, even though it does get a little warm. Its cooling fan has vent holes located underneath the laptop to draw in cool air and it spits this air out of the rear. If you use it on your lap, the underside vent holes can get blocked, which will lead to a little more warming, and also a little more noise as the fan starts to work harder. The Folio wasn't annoyingly noisy during our tests, but it's a laptop that does emit a constant whir when it's idle and this gets louder when the CPU is under strain.

HP Folio 13 cooling

The Folio's cooling vents.

Next page: Specifications, performance, battery life and conclusion

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Specifications and performance

The fan is used to cool a configuration that we have seen before: a low-voltage, 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M CPU with two cores and Hyper-Threading, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics and a 128GB solid state drive (a Samsung MZMPA128HMFU-000). It performed mostly as expected, recording 59sec in the Blender 3D rendering test, 1min 8sec in the iTunes MP3 encoding test and 3440 in the 3DMark06 graphics test. However, it was a little slower than expected in the DVD-to-Xvid file conversion test, taking 1hr 13min to complete this. The Toshiba Z830, which has the same configuration, finished this test in 1hr 7min.

Nevertheless, the HP felt quick and responsive during everyday use and part of this can be put down to its SSD, which recorded a fast average rate of 88 megabytes second in our file copy tests; in CrystalDiskMark, it achieved read and write rates of 224MBps and 187MBps, respectively.

The laptop resumed almost instantaneously when it came out of sleep mode and we didn't notice too much HP bloatware in the background (there is some support-based stuff that you might want to remove, as well as shortcuts to services you might not need to use such as RaRa Music).

You can use the HP Folio 13 for slightly more demanding tasks than just Web browsing and creating documents. It can also be used to perform relatively basic video and photo editing tasks. It doesn't have too much storage space for this sort of work, but it does have a USB 3.0 port on its left side so that you can plug in a fast and large external hard drive. The right side of the unit has a USB 2.0 port. (It has one less USB port than the Toshiba.) You also get a built-in HDMI port (full sized), Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a webcam, an SD card slot and a combination headphone and microphone port. A dock with more video and audio options is available, too.

Battery life

The Folio 13 has a sealed chassis, which means you can't easily replace the battery. However, it's a long-lasting, 6-cell battery. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the laptop ran for a stunning 5hr 18min. This is over an hour longer than the Toshiba Satellite and almost two hours longer than the ASUS and Acer Ultrabooks. When using the laptop for Web browsing, typing up documents and looking at photos, we got around seven hours out of it. During this time we also used the keyboard backlight sparingly.

Conclusion

Overall, the HP Folio 13-1008TU Ultrabook is excellent. It's not the lightest unit in its class (the Toshiba is 1.1kg compared to the HP's 1.5kg), but it's solidly built, very comfortable to use, has USB 3.0 and supplies long battery life. Its screen also isn't too bad and its performance was quite swift. It could use an extra USB port and also a timer for its keyboard backlight, but those are only minor quibbles.