HP EliteBook Folio 1020 review

A sleek business ultraportable that’s definitely not boring

Price
£956
  • Lightweight; Sturdy; Comfortable keyboard; Plenty of ports; Quiet, fanless design
  • Somewhat pointless pressure sensitive touchpad; Scaling issues with high resolution display; Highly reflective screen finish

HP gets attention for all the wrong reasons, from its recent split into two separate companies - HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise - to its embarrassing former CEO currently seeking political office. HP Inc should instead get attention for its high quality products, such as the EliteBook Folio 1020.

Casing

The latest in a long line of business-oriented ultra portable laptops, the Folio 1020 has features that make life easier for IT departments in an attractive casing that will appeal to vain C-level executives and rank-and-file workers agitating for a BYOD policy.

The Folio 1020 bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops with its sturdy yet slender tapered metal casing and the black glass around its display surround. It weighs in at 1.3kg which is easy to carry around all day.

Security

While HP's use of a Core M processor will invite comparisons to Apple's 12in Retina MacBook, the Folio 1020 is very different from Apple's flagship ultraportable - not least because of its various security features.

IT departments will like the BIOSphere and SureStart features which, HP claims, can restore the BIOS to its default state in the event of a malware attack directed at it. A more prosaic everyday feature is the fingerprint reader nestled beneath the keyboard. It's nowhere near as fast as the fingerprint readers built into recent iOS and Android devices, but it was still accurate, easy to set up and didn't suffer from too many false negatives.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Ports

The Folio 1020 also differs from the Retina MacBook when it comes to its keyboard. The large keys have far more travel than those on the MacBook. This, combined with its crisp feedback, make typing not only accurate but also fast and comfortable without the period of adjustment needed for the MacBook's keyboard.

While the Folio 1020 isn't as slender as its Cupertino designed rival, HP has put the extra space to good use by squeezing in plenty of ports. There's a pair of USB3 ports, a HDMI connector, a port replicator socket, a Kensington security slot and a micro SD slot. Although photographers would prefer a full-sized SD slot, a micro SD slot is a reasonable compromise given the relatively limited amount of space available. Plus it's more convenient for quickly transferring data to and from micro SD-capable smartphones and tablets without having to rely on the cloud.

HP has aped Apple in equipping the Folio 1020 with a pressure-sensitive touchpad, but we remain unconvinced of the utility of this technology in a laptop. You can press harder on the bottom right of touchpad to right click or press down hard on an icon to then drag and drop it without having to continuously hold your finger down. The lack of tactile feedback and imperfect responsiveness make these pressure-dependent gestures tricky to achieve though.

Battery Life, Performance and Screen

Far more impressive and useful is the Folio 1020's battery life. It lasted just over ten hours in our light use test. Although we've seen other laptops, based on Core M or otherwise, last even longer, this is still a respectable score. It should last through all but the most hectic of working days and is long enough to get you through most transatlantic flights with ease.

The 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y51 processor, which can Turbo Boost to 1.3GHz, paired with 8GB of memory isn't cut out for video editing, but it's otherwise perfectly capable of handling other office tasks. When it lacks in raw speed, it makes up for in lack of noise - its fanless design makes this laptop very, very quiet.

HP has shimmied 2560x1440 pixels into the 12.5in screen. By default, text looks unreadably small but you can adjust Windows 10's display scaling options to compensate for this. Unfortunately, scaling problems remain in many Windows programs when used on such a high pixel density display such as this one from fuzzy graphics to wildly different text sizes in different programs.

While the screen itself is high quality with good colour accuracy and contrast, the distractingly reflective glossy finish can make this hard to appreciate. The resulting glare, especially when used under office fluorescent strip lighting, can be very distracting.

Conclusions

Despite problems with its screen, the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 is still a very good ultraportable laptop. HP's list price of nearly 1500 ex VAT is hard to stomach, but thankfully it can be had at a much more reasonable 956 ex VAT if you shop around. Its excellent build quality, good battery life, comfortable keyboard, wide selection of ports, quiet operation and useful security features make it a top-notch lightweight business laptop. If you don't need its security features, then it's worth considering alternatives with even longer battery life such as Apple's various MacBooks and the latest Dell XPS 13.

Verdict

A slender and sturdy lightweight laptop, but a few niggles stop it from getting our unconditional recommendation

ProcessorDual-core 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y51
RAM8
Dimensions210x310x16mm
Weight1.3kg
Screen size12.5in
Screen resolution2560x1440
Graphics adaptorIntel HD 5300
Total storage256GB SSD
Operating systemWindows 7 Professional/Windows 10 Pro
Parts and labour warrantyOne year
Detailshttp://store.hp.com/us/en/mlp/business-solutions/laptops-and-workstations
Part numberH9V73EA
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