HP Elite Folio review: an expensive mishmash of mobile-centric features


HP has managed to make a name for itself by making attractive and unique laptops. Its Specter laptops are among the prettiest PCs on the market, while the Original Spectrum Folio was a mind-boggling mix of leather and metal. The company continues to chase superlatives like “thinnest” or “lightest” with its Elite Dragonfly series, but it also brings eye-catching features to its portfolio. the HP Elite Folio is a real mishmash of those ideas – it has a leather construction, a pull-forward touchscreen, Snapdragon 8cx power supply, LTE connectivity, and a stylus with Wacom technology. On paper, this is a compelling mix of features. But at a huge $ 1,889, the Elite Folio is horribly expensive for a Windows machine on ARM.

Design

Benefits

  • Unique model
  • Convenient stylus and slot
  • Good battery life

One of HP’s greatest strengths is its unique and attractive designs. In a sea of ​​rounded metallic rectangles, the Elite Folio certainly stands out. Its exterior covered in vegan leather is tasteful and soft to the touch. Carry it everywhere almost made me feel professional.

Gallery: HP Elite Folio Review Photos | 20 photos

The opening of the Elite Folio, however, is a bit tricky. Because it has a pull-out screen, sometimes the panel pops out of the lid when I just try to open it in laptop mode. This happens about 50% of the time – I wish there was a lock to keep the screen in place when I don’t want it to slide forward.

When the laptop is set up, everything works as it should. The hinge is strong enough to hold the screen at any angle, and the small slot between the screen and keyboard that houses and charges the included HP Slim Active Pen is handy. By the way, that little slot is also where you’ll find the SIM tray – it’s hidden under the right end. Honestly, it’s a little hard to find if you don’t know where to look: I had to ask HP where my SIM card should go.

Speakers surround the keyboard, and a USB-C port sits on either side of the machine, with a headphone jack on the right. While there is no fingerprint sensor for logins, you can use facial recognition through the 720p infrared hybrid webcam. I also appreciate the mechanical privacy shutter here, although I wish the top bezel was a bit thinner.

Display and audio

HP Elite Folio Engadget review photo:

Cherylnn Low / Engadget

The thick top bezel gives the Elite Folio’s 3: 2 panel a very tall look, although this could simply be due to my eyes adjusting after spending most of my time on a 16: 9 system. It should be noted that the Surface Laptop 4 has the same aspect ratio but its bezels are slightly thinner.

Bulky borders aren’t that important (plus it makes it easier to display the screen without accidentally launching an app). I am more embarrassed by the display itself. While I like the higher aspect ratio and the 1920 x 1280 resolution makes the images and text crisp on the 13.5 inch panel, I struggled to see most of the things below the sunlight. I’ve spent most of the last year using the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex as my primary driver, and compared to its QLED display, the Elite Folio’s LCD screen looks spotty and weak.

On the other hand, HP’s audio setup here is surprisingly solid. The speakers are loud and clear. I would prefer heavier bass and clearer mids on songs like Doja Cat’s Must know and Maroon 5’s Lost, but the sound quality was better than many other laptops.

Keyboard, trackpad and webcam

HP Elite Folio Engadget review photo:

Cherylnn Low / Engadget

Another advantage of the Elite Folio over most subnotebooks of this size is its keyboard. HP offers knobs with a 1.3mm travel, which is one of the deepest setups I’ve tested. The layout is also well spaced and there are no undersized keys here. The adjustable backlight is also nice. I found the buttons to take a bit too much force to push in, but that’s something I could get used to over time.

The trackpad is good too. It’s responsive, amply sized, and multi-finger gestures work well. Nothing super surprising or unique, but also nothing to complain about. I have a bone to choose from with the webcam, however. While I liked the convenience of the biometric login via the Elite Folio’s 720p camera, I hated the way it made me look during video calls. The images were dark and spotty and I looked like one of the ghosts hidden in the background of The Haunting of Hill House.

Pull-out stylus and display

HP Elite Folio Engadget review photo:

Cherylnn Low / Engadget

Something else HP is offering that companies like Microsoft and Lenovo don’t (and Samsung ditched its latest laptops) is a slot for the included stylus. That, and the Elite Folio’s advance screen make tasks like drawing sketches or taking notes a breeze. You can do this with the screen propped up in front of the keyboard or push it down so that it lays flat like a tablet.

In all of these setups the Elite Folio performed well and I found the palm rejection effective by scribbling a few handwritten ramblings in Paint. The HP Elite Slim Active Pen uses Wacom technology, detects 4,096 pressure levels and also offers tilt sensitivity. It was responsive and fluid as I drew a terrible rendering of the beach (my fault, not the pen). When I was ready to switch back to laptop mode, I appreciated the little button on the bottom edge of the screen that helps pull it up. The display also rotated rapidly between portrait and landscape orientations in the midst of these transitions.

Performance

I wish I could say the same about the overall performance of the Elite Folio. It uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 with 16GB of RAM, and like most Windows machines on ARM we’ve tested, it’s choppy. When I was going between writing this review and checking my Slack pings, it took a few seconds for the web app to load and display all my posts.

I use the same browser-based setup as Slack on my daily driver (an Intel-powered PC) and rarely experience such delays. Of course, it’s possible that Slack is partly to blame, but I also experienced similar delays when setting up the Elite Folio. The benchmarks and my usual suite of apps took a lot longer to install than on most other systems.

Reference

Geekbench 5 (CPU – single core / multicore)

HP Elite Folio (Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)

764/3 041

Apple MacBook Air 2020 (Apple M1)

1,619 / 6,292

Acer Aspire 5 (Intel Core i3-1115G4)

1,316 / 2,583

The benchmarks aren’t a perfect representation of performance, but they still tell us how the Elite Folio compares to similar machines. On Geekbench 5, Elite Folio scores were less than half that of an M1-powered MacBook Air or Pro, and were also lost to Intel systems like the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360. slightly better than an Acer Aspire 5 powered by Core i3, but it costs around a third of the price.

I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, so instead of once again ranting about the limited app compatibility and glitchy Windows emulator software on ARM, I’ll just say this: Apple has proven it to be possible to make ARM-based laptops that perform extremely well – Microsoft needs to seriously step up its game.

Battery life and connectivity

One of the main things that Snapdragon laptops have going for them is their incredible battery life and fast cellular connections. HP promises up to 20 hours of video playback on a charge, but the Elite Folio actually shut down after 15 hours and 14 minutes in our downscaling test. With lower screen brightness, the machine could potentially hit HP’s estimated mark. That said, the Elite Folio’s runtime already beats most subnotebooks we’ve tested, like the 2020 MacBook Air and HP’s own Elite Dragonfly and Elitebook x360. But it fell within minutes of the Surface Laptop 4 (15 inches) and the Galaxy Book Pro 360 (15 inches).

System

Time

HP Elite Folio

15:14

Apple MacBook Air 2020

11:34

HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7

14:23

Another thing I love about Snapdragon PCs is their reliable LTE connections. The Elite Folio supports gigabit LTE, and you can also get a model with 5G, but only sub-6 and not mmWave. To complement the broadband wireless options, WiFi 6.

Wrap

There’s a lot to love about the Elite Folio – its unique design, handy stylus, good battery life, and excellent cellular connectivity. But I can’t in good conscience tell you to shell out $ 1,889 for a Windows machine on ARM until Microsoft improves the system. Of course, HP isn’t exactly targeting the average consumer, as this is part of its “Elite” line of commercial laptops, but in this case, it mainly means that the Folio has user-friendly software and security. for IT deployment. It’s still too expensive for a laptop that boots up with a messy operating system, and the Elite Folio doesn’t do enough to overcome this drawback.

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