With nearly every laptop manufacturer throwing an ultrabook into the ring, it's often difficult to differentiate between them.
Rather than boast about super-slim dimensions and beautiful designs, HP's Folio 13 cuts back in key areas to offer a more modest ultrabook for a reasonable price.
It's packing an Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM and can be yours for £700.
Design and build quality
Unlike its new Spectre ultrabook, HP's Folio 13 is designed with functionality as a priority, rather than focusing on aesthetic appeal. The Folio doesn't offer a sleek glass top but instead opts for a subdued brushed metal grey. While it's not a look that would turn heads when pulled out in a coffee shop, it's certainly smart looking and is more suited to the professional environment than its glass-topped brother.
With a thickness of 18mm, it's not the slimmest ultrabook I've seen to date -- various new models are pushing the 15mm barrier -- but it's still considerably slimmer than most regular laptops. The fact that it's not wafer-thin like many of its ultrabook rivals may actually be a bonus if you want it to sit firmly on your office desk.
It may be packing more girth than the increasingly svelte ultrabook brigade, but it's still thinner than most regular laptops.
The brushed aluminium lid is particularly firm, as is the rubberised underside, resulting in a very sturdy machine. Of course, with such a slim body, there's no spare room inside that would allow for flex in the chassis, but it's still nice to feel such a solid laptop -- I had no worries at all about sliding it into a slim, unpadded messenger bag and heading off around town.
At 1.49kg, it's not going to win any medals for lightness -- there are numerous ultrabooks that pack less weight -- but you're unlikely to feel too bogged down if you're carrying it in a bag. The 13.3-inch Asus Zenbook UX31 is a slightly more bag-friendly 1.3kg, but whether you'd ever notice the difference is debatable.
The lid is firm and the build is pretty solid, so you can slap it about without too much risk of it cracking up.
Around the edges you'll find one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port, a full-sized SD card slot and even an Ethernet port, which will make hooking it up to your office connection a breeze. There's also an HDMI port so you can easily plug in a massive TV to enjoy movies when you're not busy working.
The keyboard uses square, isolated keys that are well spaced over the base. They're not huge tiles, so you need to be fairly accurate with your typing, but I found it quick and easy to get used to and very comfortable for long periods of typing. It's also backlit so tapping away into the night will be no trouble at all.
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The 13-inch screen has a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which doesn't match the 1,600x900-pixel resolution offered on models such as the Asus Zenbook UX31. That's a shame, considering the Zenbook is last year's model. I'd have hoped that new releases would at least be keeping up.
At the time when I previewed this laptop, I'd heard that the Folio 13 would be offered for around the £600 mark, which would have made the lower resolution much more palatable. Sadly it's not quite that cheap so I'm more disappointed not to see a better resolution in play here.
It is at least pretty bright so your office documents should look perfectly clear. The display is vivid too, making it fine for watching YouTube clips or TV shows. Viewing angles aren't bad so you won't need to sit completely rigid in front of it to get the best view.
One of the compromises made to keep down the price is a screen resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is easily beaten by some rivals.
Rather than dazzle us with seemingly infinite configuration options, the Folio 13 is currently available only with a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. Those are decent specs for a relatively competitive price so I'd expect at least an average performance.
I fired up the PCMark05 benchmark test and was given a pleasing score of 8,609. That doesn't challenge the UX31, which managed 11,650 from its Core i7 processor. Instead, the Folio 13 is more akin to the 11-inch UX21, which packs near-identical specs.
The UX21 achieved a slightly more impressive 9,802 on PCMark05 and both the Folio and UX21 notched up around 5,700 on the Geekbench test. The latter is currently selling for around £750 so if you want the power of the Folio in a smaller size, it might be a better option for you.
In general use I found the Folio to be speedy and responsive. It's perfectly capable of handling all your office tasks as well as playing back high-definition video, either on its own screen or on a big TV via the HDMI output. It'll also cope with some light photo editing -- such as tweaking your holiday snaps in Adobe Lightroom 4 -- but don't expect it to work quite so well if you start throwing super high-resolution raw images at it.
There's no dedicated GPU for gaming, but the Intel HD 3000 graphics built into the processor may let you play older titles if you dial the settings back. Rally game Dirt 3 was only able to run at a half-decent frame rate when I turned the resolution down a lot and knocked the quality settings back to minimum. That made the game look depressingly poor. The Folio 13 really isn't designed for gaming on the go though so it's difficult to hold that against it.
There's a 128GB solid state drive stuffed inside. SSDs offer faster read and write speeds than traditional hard disks, resulting in a much speedier resume-from-sleep time -- typically around 4-5 seconds in my testing. That will come in handy if you frequently need to bang out a quick email on the go.
Ultrabooks are built for working on the move so you'd expect the Folio to offer decent HP Pavilion dv3000 Battery life. Thankfully, it does. I ran my battery benchmark test and it kept going for just under 3 hours, which is very good. The test is extremely demanding and involves running the processor at a constant 100 per cent so you'll find you can get a much better time with careful use.
The HP Folio 13 certainly isn't the slimmest, lightest or best-looking ultrabook I've seen, nor does it have the best screen. But its smart appearance is likely to appeal to the professionals among you and the cutbacks in the screen resolution have resulted in a fair asking price.
If you need an affordable portable laptop with decent performance for work, and you want more screen real estate than an 11-inch model, the HP Folio 13 is a good option.