HP's Folio 13 is the first of a new product line designed to appeal to both mainstream and business users. It isn't the thinnest or lightest Ultrabook around. But unless you're a fanatic about such things, it will probably fill your needs better than its thinner and lighter competitors.

It offers excellent performance and battery life, a fetchingly minimalist design, and a typing experience that some thinner units can't match.

Our consumer configuration of the HP Folio 13 revolves around an Intel Core i5-2467M, 4GB of 1333 MHz DDR3, and a performance-enhancing 128GB Samsung solid-state drive. The display is flawlessly backlit and crisp, at 13.3 inches with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. See also: Group test: what's the best ultraportable laptop?

A more expensive business version adds features such as a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) for security, a cleaner software image, and Windows 7 Professional rather than Windows 7 Home Premium.

The HP Folio 13's WorldBench 6 score of 118 is good for a Core i5-based machine, and in informal use the unit feels quite snappy. The integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics contribute to weak gaming framerates, which top out in the low 30fps at 800 x 600 resolution with low quality settings. Video, on the other hand, is smooth as silk, even when playing 1080p files. 

The battery lasted a healthy 6 hours, 46 minutes in the PCWorld test. If you need more time, though, you'll need to locate a power plug: the HP Folio 13 doesn't have a user-replaceable battery.

The HP Folio 13 comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port. Though both are black, the USB 3.0 port is marked underneath with the SuperSpeed USB logo. A single HDMI port is available to accommodate external displays, and there's an SD slot for loading photos from a camera. 

A headset jack combines headphones and mic into a single plug for audio input and output. The microphone sits next to the 1280 x 1024-pixel webcam for voice input. 

Connectivity is by gigabit ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.

The HP Folio 13's keyboard has a nice feel, primarily because the keys can travel farther than on ultrathin laptops, but there's little flex to the unit as a whole, which contributes to a more stable typing platform. The single-piece touchpad is appealing, too, but resistance – to dragging and to clicking – is a tad greater than on most laptops. The HP Folio 13 travels at 1.49kg plus AC adaptor.

HP displays a pull-quote (from another publication) on the Folio 13's webpage that calls the HP Folio 13's sound "fantastic". Listening through the headphones, one might conceivably make that argument. But the speakers? No way. Audio through them is loud but more than a tad muddy.

Superlatives such as "fantastic" should be reserved for laptops such as the Toshiba Qosmio X775 3D, which has a subwoofer that can reproduce some bass tones though the speakers. Still, the HP Folio 13's audio is a cut above the horrible sound you get from the speakers on most Windows Ultrabooks.

In stark contrast to the HP Folio 13's minimalist outward design is the busy Windows 7 Home Premium desktop you encounter when you first boot up. Shortcuts to eBay, HP Games (Wild Tangent), RaRa music, Zya music, and HP downloads – as well as a number of more staid HP utilities and Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition – look gaudy in contrast to the elegant externals. HP's background images don't match the unit's appearance particularly well either.

HP Folio 13: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) glossy LCD
  • Intel HD 3000 graphics
  • Windows Home Premium 64-bit
  • 4GB 1333MHz RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • HDMI
  • SD/SDHC card slot
  • 319 x 220 x 18mm
  • 1.49kg
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) glossy LCD
  • Intel HD 3000 graphics
  • Windows Home Premium 64-bit
  • 4GB 1333MHz RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • HDMI
  • SD/SDHC card slot
  • 319 x 220 x 18mm
  • 1.49kg

OUR VERDICT

The HP Folio 13 is a solid effort from HP that, instead of blindly shedding features and usability in the name of thin-and-light, strikes a reasonable balance. It may be a tad pricey for some shoppers, but including a solid-state drive always drives up a laptop's price. This model should definitely be on your short list of Ultrabooks to consider. Thicker and heavier than the average ultrabook, the Folio 13 may actually be a more sensible option for many users.

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