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HP EliteBook Folio G1 review: Slim and elegant business laptop with 4K touchscreen

By on August 1, 2016

HP’s EliteBook Folio G1 is the company’s thinnest and lightest laptop — up to 15 percent lighter than last year’s EliteBook 1020. Is that, plus its 4K 12.5-inch display, enough to make this elegant system a winner? If you’re attracted by Apple’s lightweight 12-inch MacBook but want to stick with Windows, you should certainly take a good look at the EliteBook Folio.

This laptop’s industrial design is top-notch, both in terms of looks and durability. On the design front, there’s a matte-silver chassis with curved edges and shiny silver trim to the base, wrist rest and hinge — all of which give the laptop a premium look and feel.

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HP’s 12.5-inch EliteBook Folio G1 comes in two models: with a full-HD non-touch screen, a 1.1GHz Core-m5-6Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD; and with a 4K touchscreen, a 1.2GHz Core-m7-6Y75 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 240GB SSD.

Meanwhile, durability is excellent — to the extent that the EliteBook Folio meets MIL-STD 810G. This means that, among other things, it should withstand drops from desk height onto a hard surface. The metal chassis is very solid and there’s no give in the lid section at all, despite it being just 4mm thick.

Laptops weighing less than 1kg are in short supply, but HP has just bolstered their number — so long as you can manage without a touchscreen. There are two versions of this 12.5-inch laptop available: the non-touch version weighs 0.97kg, while the touchscreen model adds a protective glass layer that brings the weight up to 1.07kg. That last 7g must have proved just too much for HP’s designers.

The non-touch model measures 292mm wide by 209mm deep by 11.9mm thick, while the touchscreen pushes the thickness up to 12.4mm. In both cases this is the maximum thickness — on my touch-enabled model it tapers to a very slim 7mm at the front.

HP makes much of the piano hinge that allows the screen to be laid flat on a desk for easier sharing of output with others. I rarely see this configuration used in the real world, and it’s a pity the more useful 360-degree rotation could not have been supported. That would have allowed the EliteBook Folio G1 to rival systems like Lenovo’s Yoga 900.

Touch support isn’t the only difference between the screens on the two EliteBook Folio models. The entry-level non-touch version has full-HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, or 176ppi), while the touch version I was sent for review has a 4K screen (3,840 x 2,160 pixels, or 352ppi). The 4K screen is absolutely superb: it’s bright enough that on a dull July morning in an unlit office I had to turn the brightness down to protect my eyes. Definition is excellent. My only gripe is that the screen is very reflective.

The audio subsystem, developed in conjunction with Bang & Olufsen, is impressive too. Volume is loud enough to reach across a meeting room, and sound quality will suffice for delivering presentations. This is another reason to regret the absence of a 360-degree hinge, which would make this an ideal laptop for business presentations to small groups.

The keyboard is pleasing to use. Even though it’s squeezed into a small chassis, the keys are well separated. There’s plenty of travel too, and the reassuring, solid click the keys deliver when pressed is a psychological aid to fast typing — for me anyway. The backlight has two brightness levels, which are easily selected via a Fn key. The touchpad is similarly responsive and easily toggled with a double tap in its upper right corner. An orange LED confirms that the touchpad is disabled.

Fn key shortcuts include call answer and decline buttons, complete with indicator lights — for use with Skype of course. There’s a dual microphone array sitting above the screen and a 720p webcam for video calls and for login via Windows Hello face recognition.

The two EliteBook Folio G1 models differ primarily in touch support and resolution, but these aren’t the only factors to consider.

The entry-level £949 (ex. VAT) model has a 1.1-2.7GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The more expensive £1,149 (ex. VAT) review model runs on an IntelCore m7-6Y75 1.2-3.1GHz processor with 8GB of RAM and a 240GB SSD.

Nothing wrong with these specs, but there are two major irritations.

First, ports and connectors are few and far between: there are just two Thunderbolt 3-compatible USB-C connectors on the right edge, plus a 3.5mm headset jack on the left. There are no further connectivity options, and one of the USB ports is used for charging the battery.

Second, and perhaps more importantly for mobile professionals, battery life is poor. I didn’t make it through a working day away from mains power, and suggest that a boost in the afternoon will be required if you want to work on the homeward commute. The lower-resolution screen on the entry-level EliteBook Folio G1 may be a better bet for longer battery life, but we have not been able to test this. My review unit became a bit warm around the USB port while charging, too.

Conclusions

In many respects, HP’s EliteBook Folio G1 is a stunning laptop. It’s small, light and elegant yet extremely robust, with a great 4K touchscreen in the more expensive version, a super keyboard and nifty keys for regular Skype users.

Battery life for the 4K model is poor, however, so if this is a problem you many need to consider the less expensive version with its lower-resolution full-HD screen, which is likely to draw less power.