HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review

Too many Windows laptops have the build quality of something that falls from a Christmas cracker. The HP EliteBook is altogether different, using enough milled aluminium and magnesium alloy to have Apple looking over its shoulder.

Also see: Best Black Friday Laptop Deals

Fruity computing comparisons can’t stop there, as this executive notebook shares much with the 2015 MacBook. It’s a little larger at 308 x 207mm, and thicker at 16.8mm rather than 13.4mm. And it feels incredible tough, its 1.25kg metal mass beautifully balanced when closed.

HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review: Price

This isn't a cheap laptop. You can buy the EliteBook 1020 G1 for £1892.40 from HP, or £1749 from LaptopsDirect. When you buy from HP, you can upgrade the warranty to three-year 'Travel next business day' cover for £182.40.

If you don't need - or want - a touchscreen, then you can opt for the significantly cheaper H9V72EA model which costs £1120 from LaptopsDirect.

HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review: Features and design

HP has blessed the 1020 with ports around the chassis – one USB 3.0 each side, plus an HDMI, microSD slot and Kensington lock to the left. Headset jack and power inlet are on the right. There’s also a proprietary multi-pin port for an included dongle to provide VGA and ethernet.

Our sample had a 2560 x 1440 IPS display, a glossy touchscreen with no reflective treatment, or at least none that was effective. The keyboard is a pleasure to type upon, firm Scrabble tiles with two-level white backlight. The trackpad is unusual, a Synaptics ForcePad like Apple’s Force Touch pad that’s also based on strain gauges to detect pressure. Unlike the MacBook version though, there’s no haptic feedback to indicate what you’re doing, making operation less certain.

A Windows 8.1 Pro licence is included with rights to Windows 7 Professional, although our sample arrived upgraded to Windows 10 Pro.

HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review

Inside, this EliteBook runs an 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y51 with 8GB of soldered memory and a 256GB Samsung M.2 SSD, connected by SATA rather than PCIe. The Core M is Intel’s attempt at a processor man enough to run Windows without a cooling fan. With the fast SSD it here works fine, although performance is sometimes limited by aggressive power throttling that limits speed with rising internal heat.

HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review: Performance

Geekbench showed good numbers of 2341 points single-core and 3800 both cores. A more real-world test with PCMark 8 demands the system run longer and highlights power management, here scoring 1804 points in the Home unit, and 2192 points when accelerated by integrated graphics.

Gaming is out, the Intel HD Graphics 5300 in this Core M more suited to Solitaire than Call of Duty. We averaged 18fps in Tomb Raider (720p, Normal), limping to 29fps (but a 21fps min) in glorious Low detail.

The glassy display had good contrast at around 700:1 and 99 percent sRGB coverage, while colour accuracy was a commendable 1.48 Delta E. Backlighting is PWM though, disappointing in a premium product. Not everyone will notice screen flicker caused by this lower-cost technology, but some will, and it's something to bear in mind.

HP EliteBook 1020 G1 review

Despite the frugal CPU and 36Wh polymer battery, the EliteBook only lasted six hours in our streaming video test. The Core-M MacBook with comparably sized screen and battery lasted over 11 hours, approaching twice the runtime.

HP Elitebook 1020 G1: Specs

  • 12.5-inch (2560 x 1440) 235ppi gloss IPS touchscreen
  • Windows 8.1 Pro (supplied and tested with Windows 10)
  • 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y51 (2.6GHz Turbo) 2C, 4T
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (not upgradable)
  • 256GB M.2 SATA SSD (Samsung PM851)
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO (Intel Wireless-AC 7265)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • HDMI 1.4
  • fingerprint sensor, Kensington Security Slot, side dock for ethernet and VGA dongle (supplied)
  • microSD card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam with dual mics
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard, two-level white backlight
  • buttonless trackpad 84 x 54mm (Synaptics ForcePad)
  • 36Wh lithium-ion polymer battery
  • 45W mains charger with IEC C6 inlet
  • 308x207x16.8mm
  • 1246g
  • 12.5-inch (2560 x 1440) 235ppi gloss IPS touchscreen
  • Windows 8.1 Pro (supplied and tested with Windows 10)
  • 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y51 (2.6GHz Turbo) 2C, 4T
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (not upgradable)
  • 256GB M.2 SATA SSD (Samsung PM851)
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO (Intel Wireless-AC 7265)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • HDMI 1.4
  • fingerprint sensor, Kensington Security Slot, side dock for ethernet and VGA dongle (supplied)
  • microSD card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam with dual mics
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard, two-level white backlight
  • buttonless trackpad 84 x 54mm (Synaptics ForcePad)
  • 36Wh lithium-ion polymer battery
  • 45W mains charger with IEC C6 inlet
  • 308x207x16.8mm
  • 1246g

OUR VERDICT

Build quality is faultless and the 1020 G1 has twice the USB count of the MacBook, if less compact and with half the battery life. The reflective touchscreen is the main blight on an otherwise superbly machined executive laptop, which is why we'd recommend the non-touch version instead. Even so, the MacBook is cheaper at £1049 and, unless you specifically need Windows, it's the better buy.