HP's keenly priced ultrabook means business
Ultrabooks, Intel's branding for thin and light laptops, are available from several big name computer manufacturers. HP is a latecomer to making Ultrabooks and while its Folio 13 model is aimed at businesses, it has plenty of features that will appeal to home users as well.
The Folio 13 doesn't look as flashy as other Ultrabooks, but it's still slender and attractive. The lid and wrist rest are made out of brushed metal while the underside is made out of a black rubber-like material that feels sturdy, but also grips to tables securely. As expected, it's light, weighing just 1.5kg.
Despite its slender dimensions, HP has still managed to squeeze in a useful selection of ports. There are full-size Ethernet and HDMI ports, which are often missing on other Ultrabooks, alongside a USB3 socket, a USB2 connector and a memory card slot.
Thinness and a low weight wouldn't be of much use if the battery didn't last long, but it lasted a lengthy eight hours and 45 minutes in our tests. In real life, this means it's less likely to run out of battery when you need it most.
All of the other Ultrabooks we've seen so far have had less than perfect keyboards, but the Folio has an excellent keyboard. The keys are large and feel responsive, giving just the right amount of feedback when pressed – they're neither too spongy nor too stiff. The keys also have a rubbery, non-slip grip and the lettering also lights up for working in the dark. The touchpad is large but the buttons, which are built into the bottom of the pad, feel too stiff and require a firm press.
One disappointment is the 13in screen. Its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is lower than the resolutions of other 13in Ultrabook screens, so less information is visible on the screen at any one time. It isn't as bright as other laptop screens, so for the best legibility you may have to set the brightness setting to maximum which can reduce battery life.
Another downside is the noticeably loud cooling fan which is audible even during simple tasks such as web browsing. It's annoying, especially when used in a quiet room, but the loud fan does ensure the bottom of the laptop never becomes uncomfortably warm.
The 1.6GHz Core i5 2467M processor and 4GB of RAM are fast enough for most everyday tasks, although you can't fit more RAM. 4GB is enough for now, but it may not be enough in future as software tends to become more memory intensive. The Intel integrated graphics chip is fast enough for playing high definition video and older games, but not the latest 3D titles.
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The Folio 13 is a very good ultra portable laptop at a great price. It only just misses out on an unconditional recommendation due to its dark screen and annoyingly audible cooling fan. If you can't live with these faults, the Apple Macbook Air is better but it costs more.
Attractive and sturdy design; long battery life; comfortable keyboard
Irritatingly loud cooling fan; screen isn't bright enough
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