In the race to make the thinnest laptop on the block, manufacturers often sacrifice usability, slapping on uncomfortable keyboards, eschewing key ports or providing mediocre performance. Though it's even slimmer than the MacBook (12-inch), HP's EliteBook Folio G1 ($999 to start, $1,429 as reviewed) is a productivity powerhouse, complete with a sharp 12.5-inch screen, a sleek but durable design that survives serious drops and one of the best keyboards I've used on a laptop. With strong speakers, fanless cooling and an infrared camera for face logins, the EliteBook Folio G1 gets almost everything right, but its battery life could be better.
With its wisp-thin, matte-silver aluminum chassis, the EliteBook Folio G1 is a very attractive laptop that happens to look a lot like the 12-inch MacBook. However, a shiny silver hinge and HP logo help distinguish it from Apple's lightweight laptop. The Folio retains the same aesthetic on the inside, but with a shiny black bezel that's thin on the sides, but leaves room up top for a webcam.
At 11.5 x 8.23 x 0.47 inches, the EliteBook Folio G1 is even thinner than the MacBook, but it's also taller and wider (11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14-0.52 inches). The Dell Latitude13 7370(12 x 8.3 x 0.56 inches), the 14-inch-screened Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (13.11 x 9.02 x 0.65 inches) and the Razer Blade Stealth (12.6 x 8.1 x 0.52 inches) are also thicker.
At 2.14 pounds, HP's laptop is just a little heavier than the 2.04-pound MacBook, but much lighter than the Latitude 13, Carbon and Stealth. With a touch screen, the Folio gets 0.02 inches thicker and .22 pounds heavier.
HP built the EliteBook Folio G1 to take quite a licking. The company said its notebook survived being dropped 26 times, at different angles, from 30 inches onto a hard surface.
The Folio also passed MIL-STD 810G durability tests for dust, vibration, shocks and high altitudes. However, unlike on many other business laptops, the keyboard is not spill-resistant.
Security and Facial Login
The HP EliteBook Folio has a number of security features that will please corporate IT managers and users alike. Like the majority of business laptops, the HP's laptop comes standard with TPM encryption and, with its optional Core m7 CPU, offers Intel vPro remote management.
Unlike its competitors, the Folio has an infrared webcam that you can use with Windows 10's Hello biometric login; it even works in the dark. After setting up Hello, the camera did a great job of recognizing my face quickly and accurately, even when I was sitting in bed at night with all the lights off. However, if you wear glasses, it's important to let Hello capture your image both with and without them on.
The EliteBook Folio comes preloaded with HP Client Security, a very robust suite of tools that includes a password manager, drive encryption software and HP Spare Key, which allows you to log in even if you forget your password (and don't have Hello). You can also designate Bluetooth devices such as your phone as a token that unlocks your computer.
The Folio also has HP's Sure Start with Dynamic Protection, which guards the BIOS -- the software that allows your computer to boot in the first place -- by keeping a separate "clean" copy of it available. If a virus or hacker installs a corrupt BIOS, Sure Start immediately replaces it with the previous version.
We tested configurations of the EliteBook Folio G1 with 1080p nontouch and 4K touch displays. Both panels offered detailed images, but colors were much more vibrant on the 4K panel. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Captain America: Civil War, the orange in an explosion and the red behind the Marvel logo really popped. Even the slider bar in Windows 10's media player stood out, with an electric blue that reminded me of Tron.
On the 1920 x 1080 screen, the shades were noticeably darker and more muted. Fine details, such as the lines in Steve Rogers' forehead and the battle scars on Iron Man's mask, were prominent on both displays, though even sharper on the 3840 x 2160 panel.
According to our colorimeter, the 4K panel can reproduce an impressive 161 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is a lot more than the ultraportable category average (88 percent) and the vibrant displays on the Latitude 13 (117 percent), ThinkPad X1 Carbon (103 percent) and MacBook (107 percent). However, the EliteBook Folio's 1080p screen is a lot less colorful, reproducing only 72 percent of the gamut.
The Folio's 4K screen is also a lot brighter than its 1080p sibling, measuring 377 nits on our light meter, compared to 288 nits for the 1920 x 1080 panel. The ultraportable category average (305 nits) is much lower than the 4K panel, as are the MacBook (327), Latitude 7370 with 4K display (307) and ThinkPad X1 Carbon with 2K display (257). The Razer Blade Stealth was even brighter at 402 nits.
In real-world use, both EliteBook Folio displays were more than luminous enough for regular use, however. Colors stayed true at up to 45 degrees to the left and right, but their very glossy surfaces showed reflections at wider viewing angles.
The EliteBook Folio G1's bottom-mounted Bang & Olufsen speakers provided accurate audio that was more than loud enough to fill the first floor of my house. When I listened to hard rock songs like the Styx's "Renegade" and Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water," the music and vocals were rich, but guitars and other high pitches distorted at maximum volume.
The included Bang & Olufsen software provides an audio-enhancement mode, which was enabled by default and made the output sound hollow when I turned it off. The app also allows you to adjust the equalizer with presets for different genres of music such as rock and jazz.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Despite its thin chassis, the EliteBook Folio G1 packs in one of the most comfortable and responsive ultraportable laptop keyboards I've ever tested.
According to our measurements, the keys have only 1.05 mm of travel, which is twice as deep as the 12-inch MacBook's keys (0.5 mm) but far less than a typical laptop, which has 1.5 to 2 mm of vertical space beneath the keys. However, the keys offer such snappy feedback that I never "bottomed out," or hit the base with a lot of force. The keyboard even sounded good, providing a pleasant clack of audible feedback as I typed.
No wonder I achieved a rate of 104 words per minute with less than 1 percent error rate -- one of my best scores ever -- on the 10fastfingers.com typing test.
The keyboard comes with a backilght that was more than bright enough at both its low and high settings. However, unlike on many other business laptops, the EliteBook Folio G1's keyboard is not spill-resistant.
While many buttonless pads suffer from jumpiness, the Folio G1's 3.6 x 2.3-inch pad was as accurate as a high-res optical mouse. During my testing, I highlighted text in documents, clicked 8GB of icons and navigated around Windows 10 with great precision. Multitouch gestures such as two-finger scroll, three-finger swipe and pinch-to-zoom worked flawlessly.
Ports and Docking Options
The Folio doesn't have many ports, but it does support the latest connectivity standards and offers more options than the MacBook.
In addition to a single 3.5-mm audio jack, the laptop has two USB Type-C / Thunderbolt ports that it can use for charging, connecting to multiple monitors or transferring data at blistering USB 3.1 speeds (up to 10 Gbps). That's twice as many ports as the MacBook and enough to easily charge your laptop and connect to something else at the same time.
However, users who need to pop in a random flash drive or attach a mouse will need to get a dongle such as HP's $29 USB-C to USB 3 adapter or $49 USB-C to HDMI adapter. Dell's Latitude 7370 is a bit thicker, but makes room for a full-size USB port, micro HDMI and an SD card reader, while the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a full suite of ports.
We tested a third-party charger, the Innergie PowerGear USB-C 45, with the Folio and it worked well. HP sells the $210 Elite Thunderbolt 3 65W dock, which juices the laptop while providing four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, VGA and DisplayPort outputs.
The Folio's 720p webcam captured decent, but unimpressive, photos that are about on par with those from most other business laptops.
A picture of my face taken under our office's fluorescent lights was detailed but splotchy, with plenty of visual noise and a slight blue tint. However, as stated above, the camera did an impressive job of recognizing my face as a login, using Windows Hello.
With its Intel Core m7-6Y75 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, our review configuration of the EliteBook Folio G1 was more than powerful enough to handle everything I threw at it, from intense multitasking to serious productivity work. Even with over a dozen Chrome tabs open and a video playing in another window, the laptop showed no signs of lag as I typed a Google doc and switched between tabs.
The EliteBook Folio G1 scored a strong 6,706 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's far better than the ultraportable category average (5,034), the Core m5-6Y57 Dell Latitude 7370 (4,095) and the Core m5-powered MacBook (5,906). The Core i5-6300-powered ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6,828) and Core i7-6500U-enabled Razer Blade Stealth (6,893) did just a little better.
It took the EliteBook Folio just 4 minutes and 21 seconds to complete our spreadsheet macro test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice calc. That's about 75 percent faster than the category average (7:20) and miles ahead of the Latitude 13 7370 (6:56). However, the MacBook was over a minute quicker (3:11).
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The Folio G1's 256GB M.2 SATA SSD took a speedy 31 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed-media files. That's a rate of 162.2 MBps, slightly ahead of the category average (147.1 MBps), but well behind the MacBook (355.9 MBps) and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (419 MBps), which was configured with a blazing-fast NVMe-PCIe SSD.
With its Intel HD 515 graphics processor, the EliteBook Folio G1 is good enough for watching movies, editing photos and minor video crunching, but not for gaming or CAD work. The laptop scored a respectable mark of 65,639 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic test that measures graphics prowess. That's far ahead of the category average (46,247) and the Latitude 7370 (42,323), but slightly worse than the X1 Carbon (67,488) and Blade Stealth (67,757).
Though the EliteBook Folio G1 is light enough to take anywhere, you won't want to stray too far from an outlet, particularly if you get the version with the 4K screen. With the 1920 x 1080, nontouch display, HP's laptop lasted a decent 7 hours and 2 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That number shrank to just 4 hours and 35 minutes on the model with the 4K display.
Both times fall far short of the category average (8:05), the MacBook (9:38) and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9:06 with 1080p screen, 7:57 with 2K display). The Latitude 13 7370 was noticeably stronger, enduring for 7:53 with its 1080p panel and 6:21 with its 4K display.
HP uses a low-power Core M processor in the EliteBook Folio so that it doesn't need a fan, which would make the device larger and add some noise. Fortunately, the outside of the laptop stays cool to the touch, even without a mechanism to blow the hot air out.
After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured a cool 76 degrees; the keyboard clocked in at a chilly 79.5 degrees; and the bottom surface stayed at a modest 90 degrees Fahrenheit, well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. By contrast, the bottoms on the MacBook and Dell Latitude clocked in at 100 and 102 degrees, respectively.
Software and Warranty
HP Preloads the EliteBook Folio G1 with a couple of useful utilities and a minimal amount of bloat. HP SoftPaq Download Manager helps you get the latest drivers and software for the laptop. HP ePrint + JetAdvantage allows you to send documents to printers over the internet. HP Touchpoint Manager allows IT departments to remotely manage their PCs, provided that they've signed up for the monthly service. The most useful of the preloads, HP Client Security, provides a password manager, drive encryption and the ability to set your phone as a login token.
Like most Windows 10 laptops, the Folio also comes with Flipboard, Candy Crush Soda Saga and a link to the Photoshop Express shopping page in the Windows Store.
HP backs the EliteBook Folio G1 with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. See how HP fared in our tech-support showdown and brand ratings.
The EliteBook Folio starts at $999. For that price, you get the 1080p, nontouch display, a Core m5-6Y54 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. On HP.com, you can configure a Folio to order, choosing between Core m5 and m7 CPUs, different SSD capacities and several screen options, including 1080p nontouch, 1080p touch and 4K touch panels. You can also choose an NVMe-PCIe SSD, which should be three times faster than the regular SATA units. Unfortunately, you cannot configure it with more or less than 8GB of RAM.
Our $1,429 review configuration had a Core m7-6Y75 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Windows 10 Pro. We also tested the same configuration with a 4K display that took the price up to $1,619. If you care about battery life, you should stick with the 1080p display.
The EliteBook Folio G1 is an ideal size for productivity users on the go, providing enough room for a full-size keyboard and a screen that can show plenty of content without making you squint. With strong performance, a colorful display, a world-class typing experience, accurate face logins and a drop-friendly design, HP's laptop also ticks off most of the boxes we'd put on a checklist for making the ultimate ultrabook.
However, the EliteBook Folio G1 falls short in the very important area of battery life, making it far less portable than its size suggests. While the 1080p version of the Folio gets a serviceable 7 hours, the 4K model's stamina is so poor that it's hard to recommend. The laptop's lack of a standard USB port might also be a deal breaker for some users.
If you're looking for a superthin laptop with longer battery life, consider the MacBook or the larger, 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which also has a lot more ports. However, if you want the ultimate in superslim business productivity and can make a few compromises, the EliteBook Folio G1 is for you.