As for the visuals, HP has opted with a 13.3in LED backlight screen with 1366 x 768 native resolution. One immediate frustration is HP’s choice of a glossy finish. Happily the company’s ‘HD BrightView’ technology is less prone to reflection than some we have seen, but it remains infinitely less practical than matt panels.
On the flip side, while HP doesn’t divulge the screen specifications, colours are bright, viewing angles reasonably wide and the backlight is commendably even. Some may prefer a higher native resolution (like the 1600 x 900 pixels in the Asus Zenbook UX31) or the superb Samsung Series 9 900X3B, but 1366 x 768 remains the defacto choice in 13.3in Ultrabooks and shouldn’t alienate the majority. Of course, if you truly want a quality screen, the Series 9 with its PLS panel is currently your only Ultrabook choice.
Benchmarking time. Given Ultrabooks share the same chipset and typically opt for the 4GB RAM / Core i5-2467M combination alongside HD 3000 graphics, we didn’t expect breakout performance for the Folio and we didn’t get it. Intel’s integrated GPU is typically the weak point of Ultrabooks and this is again the case. Our tests start well enough as Trackmania Nations Forever scores a playable 39.9 frames per second (fps) average, virtually identical to the 39.4fps of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and 41.4fps of both the Asus ZenBook UX31 and Toshiba Satellite Z830.
The problem is this falls to just 13.9fps with the more demanding Stalker: Call of Pripyat, but again this is still par for the course with the U300s managing 13.8fps and the UX31 reaching 13.4fps. Both it and TrackMania Nations Forever were also only set to medium detail at a 1280 x 720 resolution, re-emphasising Sandy Bridge Ultrabooks are not gaming machines, though they happily play back 1080p video and remain snappy in the vast majority of Windows tasks.
Where HP does break from the pack, however, is arguably in an area of greater significance for potential Ultrabook owners: battery life. While the likes of Asus, Dell, Lenovo, LG and Samsung usually claim stamina of between five and eight hours for their entry-level Ultrabooks, HP stretches this to a claimed 9.5 hours. We find these figures are always absolute best case scenarios, but with seven hours 38 minutes in our test – besting our previous champion, the Satellite Z830, by a useful 20 minutes – the Folio 13 does impress.
Less clear cut is pricing. With an £849.99 RRP the Folio has one of the lowest official price tags, but others have seen their price drop significantly since. Most notable is the £650 Acer Aspire S3 though you sacrifice a ‘full’ SSD for a 320GB Hybrid SSD/HDD. The Folio certainly isn’t grossly overpriced, but it isn’t a total bargain either.