Looking to satisfy business users who need a laptop that's both portable and secure, HP has given its EliteBook Folio 1040 a major refresh for 2014. The EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 (starting at $1,299; $1,979 as reviewed) boasts a razor-sharp aluminum build, speedy Core i7 performance, and a robust suite of security apps designed to keep your most important files safe. While the new force-sensitive touchpad isn't for everyone, overall the Folio 1040 G1 is one of the best business Ultrabooks available.
The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 looks like the Brooks Brothers of business notebooks. While subtle, it has a powerful elegance. The lid is a dark-gray aluminum, with a large chrome HP logo in the center. The edges curve gently, and the notebook tapers ever so slightly from the back to the front.
Inside is the same dark-gray aluminum, with an air vent/speaker grille running the length of the deck above the black keyboard. A large touchpad sits below, and there's a fingerprint reader to the right.
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The EliteBook Folio's weight of 3.4 pounds puts it in the middle of other 14-inch notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 (3.15 pounds) is lighter, but both the Acer TravelMate P645 (3.5 pounds) and Dell Latitude 7440 (3.9 pounds) weigh slightly more. Measuring 13.31 x 9.19 x 0.63 inches, the EliteBook Folio has a wider footprint but is thinner than the Lenovo X1 Carbon (13.03 x 8.94 x 0.73 inches), Acer (12.9 x 9.3 x 0.8) and Dell (12.2 x 8.3 x 0.79 inches).
Durability and Security
The EliteBook is as tough as it is elegant, having passed 12 MIL-STD 810G tests for drop, vibration and dust resistance. To ensure the inside was as well protected as the exterior, HP loaded the Folio with a robust suite of security apps.
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The EliteBook Folio utilizes HP Sure Start, which HP claims is the first and only self-healing solution against BIOS attacks , which can severely infect your computer's firmware. Sure Start uses its own memory source and is separate from the CPU -- a feature that allows it to automatically detect malware and restore the BIOS to a clean state when necessary. Sure Start provides an audit log, so you can find out exactly when it defends your EliteBook from an attack.
HP Trust Circles is designed to ensure that your files don't end up in the wrong hands; you can place documents in an encrypted folder that can only be seen by specific users. The process is simple: You add members to your circle via email addresses and place files from your PC into a protected folder. You can create up to five trust circles with up to five members in each one.
The included HP BIOSphere solution allows an IT manager to create a standardized BIOS for all PCs in the same network, rather than configuring multiple notebooks individually.
Click to EnlargeThe notebook's fingerprint reader allows you to register two to 10 of your digits for secure logins. You can use your fingerprint to unlock the EliteBook, as well as to log in to any website that you've stored in the HP Password Manager. The EliteBook's fingerprint reader was responsive in our testing, as we were able to register our fingers with three or four repetitive swipes and log in to websites with a single stroke.
Click to EnlargeThe EliteBook Folio sports a black set of island keys coated by soft-touch material. We liked the cozy feel of each key, but we found the overall keyboard to be somewhat shallow. Despite this, we were able to type at a brisk 78 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, outperforming our norm of roughly 65 wpm.
The Folio's keyboard sports a bright-blue backlight for low-light situations, though we noticed some uneven lighting near the laptop's spacebar.
Click to EnlargeThe EliteBook Folio is the first notebook to use Synaptics' new ForcePad, which forgoes physical buttons and clicking in favor of a fully pressure-sensitive touchpad. Many traditional touchpad functions worked as well as they would with actual buttons. but we found this design choice jarring.
Tapping the ForcePad registers as a left click, and gently touching the bottom-right portion serves as a right click. We were able to highlight a large body of text by keeping our pointer finger pressed down near the bottom left while using our middle finger to guide the cursor. However, we missed the tactile feedback of having an actual clickpad, which lets you know that your selection has registered. We also found pressing down on a hard, immobile surface a little uncomfortable.
Click to EnlargeOn the plus side, the ForcePad was responsive during common multifinger gestures, such as pinching and spreading to zoom in and out. To drag and drop, we simply pressed hard on an item of choice and moved it around with a single finger.
You can customize your ForcePad experience within the touchpad's Settings menu, which allows you to toggle functions such as two-finger rotate and three-finger flick to slide through images .
The ForcePad is your only option for built-in navigation, as the EliteBook lacks the pointing stick commonly found on business notebooks.
Click to EnlargeThe Folio 1040 G1 sports a vivid 1920 x 1080-pixel display, which is on a par with the Dell 7440 and Acer P645 but not quite as sharp as the Lenovo X1's 2560 x 1440p screen. App icons looked bright and colorful on the Folio's display, and text on Laptopmag.com was crisp and easy to read.
The HD trailer for "Guardians of the Galaxy" was brimming with detail on the Folio, from the small, cryptic markings in a dark cave scene to the brown strands of facial hair protruding from Star Lord's chin. The visually rich video held up well when watching at roughly 80 degrees from the left and right sides.
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With an average brightness of 264 lux, the Folio beats the thin-and-light-laptop category average (249 lux), as well as the Lenovo X1 (268 lux), the Acer P645 (235 lux) and the Dell 7440 (238 lux).
Music coming from the EliteBook Folio's speakers was mediocre. The higher tones and brass in Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" were a bit muddled, and at its max volume, we heard a bit of rattling from the speakers.
Rather than Beats Audio, which is found in most of its consumer-targeted laptops, the Folio's audio control panel has DTS Studio Sound branding. Ironically, it looks identical to that of the Beats Audio control panel.
The EliteBook Folio registered 79 decibels on the Laptop Mag Audio Test (sound output as measured from 23 inches), falling a bit short of the Dell 7440 (82 dB), Lenovo X1 (82 dB), Acer P645 (83 dB) and thin-and-light-laptop average of 84 dB.
Owing to its thin profile, the EliteBook runs a little warm. After streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the underside hit 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That's about 6 degrees warmer than our comfort threshold. Fortunately, the G and H keys (90.5 degrees) and the touchpad (85 degrees) were much cooler.
Click to EnlargeOn the right side of the EliteBook 1040 is a USB 3.0 port, a full-size DisplayPort, a headphone/mic jack, a miniSIM card slot and HP's proprietary docking connector. The left side has a microSD card slot, a Smart Card reader and a second USB 3.0 port. In order to achieve the G1's ultraslim design, HP removed the Ethernet jack and VGA port found on the previous generation. You'll need to spring for an adapter to get a wired Internet connection or connect to older projectors.
The EliteBook Folio's 720p webcam is complemented by the CyberLink YouCam app for snapping photos and videos. The software allows you to mark up your images with a few digital paintbrush strokes, and you can shoot video at anywhere from 640 x 480p to 1280 x 720p.
The notebook's webcam produced decent results when we took a few snapshots. Our skin tone and patterned green shirt were bright and vivid, but smaller details (such as facial stubble) looked blurry.
The 1.7-GHz Intel Core i7-4650U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD in the Folio 1040 turned in some very strong numbers. The Ultrabook's score of 4,802 in PCMark 7 topped the thin-and-light category average of 3,668. The HP also beat out -- or matched -- its rivals, all of which had SSDs and at least 4GB of RAM. The Lenovo X1 Carbon (1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U) scored 4,734, the Acer P645 (Intel Core i7-4500U) notched 4,886 and the Dell 7440 (1.9-GHz Intel Core i5-4300U ) scored 4,544.
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Thanks to its SSD, the Folio 1040 booted Windows 7 Professional in just 15 seconds, and duplicated 5GB of multimedia files in 37 seconds. That's a rate of 137.5 MBps, well above the 75 MBps average and higher than the ThinkPad Carbon X1 (88 MBps) and Dell 7440 (130 MBps), but below the Acer P645 (176 MBps).
On our Spreadsheet test, where we task a notebook with pairing 20,000 names and addresses in OpenOffice, the EliteBook Folio finished the task in a blazing 4 minutes and 14 seconds. That's two and a half minutes faster than the average, and more than a minute faster than the Lenovo X1 (5:26). The Acer P645 (4:42) and the Dell 7440 (4:46) were both about half a minute slower than HP's system.
Powered by Intel HD Graphics 5000, the Folio turned in respectable numbers for an integrated GPU. Its score of 4,528 on 3DMark Cloud Gate fell below the average of 5,062, but was better than the Lenovo X1 Carbon (4,207) and the Dell Latitude 7440 (3,979). The Acer TravelMate P645, which has an AMD Radeon HD 8750M GPU, scored a higher 5,602.
On "World of Warcraft," the HP eked out 28 frames per second at its native resolution of 1080p with the graphics set to autodetect. That's below our playability threshold of 30 fps, as well as the category average (35 fps), the Lenovo X1 (32 fps at 1080p) and the Acer (47 fps at 1080p). The Dell 7440 fared worse, at just 23 fps at 1080p. However, the Folio 1040 G1 produced a much smoother 58 fps at 1366 x 768p.
Software and Warranty
The EliteBook Folio runs Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, with very little bloatware to distract from the notebook's robust security offerings.
Aside from stock Microsoft software like Windows Media Center and Internet Explorer, you'll find HP Documentation for digital user guides and HP Support Assistant for updating your PC and finding technical support.
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The laptop comes preloaded with CyberLink YouCam and PowerDVD for taking photos and managing your media, respectively.
The EliteBook ships with a limited three-year warranty, with one-year and 90-day options available at purchase.
On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi on 40 percent brightness), the EliteBook Folio lasted 7 hours and 41 minutes. That's nearly an hour longer than the thin-and-light notebook average (6:44), and better than the Lenovo X1 (7:15) and Dell 7440 (5:52). However, the Acer TravelMate P645 turned in an epic runtime of 9:46.
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Click to EnlargeOur configuration of the EliteBook Folio costs a pretty $1,979. For that, you get a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i7-4650U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000.
The notebook starts at a more reasonable $1,299, and comes with a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 4400. The midtier $1,729 model packs a 1.9-GHz Intel Core i5-4300U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 4400.
Click to EnlargePacking big power in a stunning and sturdy design, the HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 (starting at $1,299; $1,979 as reviewed) is one of the most impressive business Ultrabooks we've tested. The notebook's military-tested shell and vast security software suite will help you keep your investment -- and your data -- safe, and the G1's long battery life will keep it running during a cross-country flight.
But we don't love everything about the Folio 1040 G1. The bottom can get toasty, and the audio doesn't wow. Plus, you can get an Acer TravelMate P645 with similar specs for $1,299, though it doesn't provide the same level of durability and security. The Acer also has a shorter warranty (one year versus three years for the HP). If you can live without a touchpad that clicks, the Folio 1040 G1 rises above most business Ultrabooks with its very attractive design and top-notch security tools.