And just like that, HP joined the Ultrabook party. After announcing the Folio in Australia yesterday, the company went and made it official here in the states too. And man, do we get the feeling the outfit's been watching the competition very closely: this guy starts at $900 and comes standard with a 128GB mSATA SSD and a backlit keyboard. Provided it comes close to matching its promise of nine hours of battery life, it could give the identically priced Toshiba Portege Z830 a run for its money. Not to mention, it undercuts the MacBook Air ($1,299 and up), along with the ASUS Zenbook UX31 and Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, both of which start at $1,100 with a 128GB SSD and no backlit keyboard. Good on ya, HP.

What's that, you say? You want more specs? Rounding out the list, the Folio has a 13.3-inch (1366 x 768) display, optional TPM circuitry and comes standard with a Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM, a six-cell battery and HP's CoolSense technology. Additionally, it offers a fairly robust selection of ports, including HDMI, Ethernet, USB 2.0 and 3.0, a memory card reader and a combined headphone / mic socket. The trade-off, though, is a slightly thicker chassis than what other Ultrabooks are offering: 3.3 pounds and 18mm (0.7 inches) thick. It'll be available in the US starting December 7th, but we've already managed to snag a few minutes with it, which means we've got photos, video and impressions for you to peek now. So what are you waiting for? Meet us after the break for our hands-on preview.
Gallery | 7 Photos

HP Folio 13 Ultrabook

Gallery | 18 Photos

HP Folio hands-on


Look and feel

We'll get this out of the way early: at 3.3 pounds and 18mm thick, the Folio is "chunky" for an Ultrabook, to the extent that such a laptop can really be unwieldy. Perhaps if we held this in one hand and the 2.9-pound UX31 in the other, we'd feel the difference. But if you're handling the Folio on its own, what you've got, quite simply, is a lightweight laptop. Period. What's more, it's particularly easy to grip in one hand, given that the bottom side is coated in a pleasant soft-touch material. As for its shape, this feels most similar to the Aspire S3 in that it has rounded corners and doesn't taper down to a razer-thin sliver.

Even HP will tell you the Folio could have been skinnier and lighter, but that might have meant skimping on ports. It's worth repeating that this has a fuller assortment of sockets than pretty much anything else on the market. For comparison's sake, the Air has two USB 2.0 ports, Thunderbolt and an SD slot (on the 13-inch model only). The UX31 has USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, along with mini-HDMI and mini-VGA ports (it comes with VGA and Ethernet adapters). The U300s has USB 3.0 and HDMI. So far, the Portege Z830 is the only other model with USB 3.0, HDMI and Ethernet and -- unfortunately for HP -- it weighs a scant 2.5 pounds.

Particularly once you lift the lid, it's clear that HP cut some corners to hit that $900 price point, which is pretty much the same thing we had to say about the identically priced S3. Mainly, we're talking about the fact that HP opted for plain, plastic keys instead of an all-metal 'board like the one ASUS used in its Zenbooks. Still, if we're pitting one $899 Ultrabook against the other in a beauty contest, the Folio handily trumps the S3 (not to mention, the dated-looking Z830). Whereas the S3 has a split personality (metal on the outside, plastic under the lid), the Folio has a brushed metal lid with a matching palm rest and keyboard deck. In fact, it's almost entirely made of metal, save for the bottom. What's more, the Folio's deck is almost entirely devoid of buttons and branding, which gives it a tasteful, if somewhat spartan look.

In our brief hands-on, the keys exhibited some bounce while we typed, and so far we're cautiously optimistic that they won't be as shallow as the Aspire S3 and UX31's keyboards. At least the panel seems sturdy, though we'll of course be curious to see how it holds up through hours of furious typing. Moving on, the Folio has a buttonless touchpad with left and right click zones clearly demarcated with a thin line. In general, we prefer to wait until our full review to cast judgment on such things, and in this case we were playing with a pre-production (read: not final) model. So who knows what kind of fine-tuning HP do between now and December 7th? However much it needs to make this thing flawless, we hope.

Display

One of the first things we noticed about the Folio is that the bezels are relatively narrow, at least compared to what you'll usually see paired with such a common 1366 x 768 display. At first glance, before HP shared any of the specs, we even wondered if we were looking at an LG Shuriken panel, which allows a 14-inch panel to fit in a chassis meant for a 13-inch display. As we got closer to the machine (and got confirmation from HP), we realized it's not a Shuriken display, but that doesn't dampen our appreciation for the bezels one bit. As for the viewing angles, well, look at some of our hands-on photos and decide for yourself. Our early take is that they're on par with what you'd get from other TN displays, which is to say, they're not great (but not necessarily terrible either).

Outlook

Incredibly, HP is careful to say the Folio 13 mainly for business customers. It's almost as if the company is afraid of being pitted against a certain other skinny, aluminum-clad laptop. But if the Folio is as exemplary in practice as it is on paper, then HP might be thinking too small. Based on its design, specs and price alone, it has enormous potential. At this price, we can see it being a hit not just among suits, but the Best Buy-shopping masses.

Still, its performance and ergonomics have the potential to make or break it. For instance, how close does it come to living up to that nine-hour battery life claim? What's it like typing 5,000 words on that keyboard? How precise will the final trackpad be? And how fast is its SSD compared to the UX31's SATA III? All questions we'll just have to tackle in our full review.

Show full PR text
HP Unveils Its First Business Ultrabook, Offering Industry's Best Battery Life
HP Folio13 designed to bridge gap between professional and personal life

PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 16, 2011 – HP today introduced its first business Ultrabook, which features a thin and light design, strong security options and a responsive solid state hard drive for the ultimate mobile experience.

The HP Folio13 also delivers up to 9.0 hours of battery life, the highest performance available among Ultrabook devices currently on the market.

With battery life to get you through the workday, users are no longer saddled with carrying power adapters to charge their notebook PC. Plus, a wide array of ports, including Ethernet, eliminates the need to carry dongles. Mobile professionals can now stay productive and get through their entire business day – from home to business and back home – with only the HP Folio13.

Measuring less than 18 millimeters thin and utilizing an ultraslim 13.3- inch diagonal high-definition (HD) BrightView display, the HP Folio13 weighs just 3.3 pounds. It combines the cool industrial design found on consumer products with the security and usability business users demand.

Powered by the latest Intel® Core processors, the HP Folio13 also includes Intel Rapid Start Technology, which gets your system up and running fast to help you save time.

The HP Folio13 includes a backlit keyboard for mobile users who work in low-light conditions. A full array of ports, including RJ-45 and USB 3.0, allows users greater flexibility to connect to the information they need. The HP Folio13 also includes a solid state drive (SSD) with 128 GB of storage for fast response times and increased reliability.

An optional TPM Embedded Security Chip protects data in email as well as information on the hard drive for security-conscious users.

The HP Folio13 features HP CoolSense technology, which uses advanced hardware and intelligent software for a noticeably cooler notebook. The notebook also includes an HP Imagepad for highly accurate, advanced multitouch gesture support.

Additional features include an HP TrueVision HD Webcam for brighter, cleaner HD images, and Dolby Advanced Audio.

The HP Folio13 also can be configured with a range of Microsoft Windows® 7 operating systems, including Windows 7 Professional. A three-year limited warranty is available through an optional HP Care Pack.

Users who need a desktop-like environment or additional audio, video, network and USB connectivity can connect the HP Folio13 to the optional HP USB 2.0 dock.

Pricing and availability
The HP Folio13 is expected to be available on Dec. 7 with a starting price of $899.99.