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Close, But Not the Dream Ultrabook
on June 28, 2012
Once in a blue moon I come across a laptop that fascinates me. The HP Folio 13-2000 is surely one of the more impressive models available on the market. HP has packaged powerful components into a very elegant yet sophisticated system.
At the time of this writing, Intel had recently announced that they would be beginning their "Ultrabook" laptop initiative to place systems on the market that would compete with Apple's thinner Macbook Air series. As a disclaimer, my years of experience with computer systems have been spent in a Windows environment, so this review will focus strictly on the HP Folio rather act as a side-by-side comparison with Apple's Macbook Air products.
In the original box and packaging, the Folio is held in place by two pieces of foam on each side, with space between the Folio and the cardboard box, which I suppose is a good thing in the event it were to come into contact with some blunt force. Aside from the Folio itself, a power adapter and packet of papers are included in the box.
Upon physical inspection, the Folio is very solid to the touch. Unlike my previous Asus netbook, the laptop casing is not flimsy at all and very resistant to bending. As shown on the Specifications page for the Folio on HP's website, the Ultrabook measures 8.67 inches in width, 12.54 inches in length, and 0.7 inches in depth. Needless to say, the Folio is extremely thin. On top of that, its weight at 3.3 pounds is noteworthy. The left side has the RJ-45 (Ethernet), HDMI, USB 3.0, and SD memory card ports; while the right has a USB 2.0 port and headphone jack. Interestingly the Folio lacks a Kensington Security Slot; whatever the reason for its absence, I will assume that owners of this superb computer system will rarely leave it out of sight for any period from would-be thieves.
The top of the Folio has a very nice metallic silver finish with the HP logo embedded in the center, and the bottom contains the usual assortment of exhaust ports and stickers.
Starting up the Folio for the first time would be when things got very interesting. The startup process itself, from BIOS to the Windows loading screen, was very fast, which should not be too big of a surprise since HP as put a Samsung SSD inside. Even though I managed to finish the Windows setup without any issues, the HP registration program that followed was a complete disaster. As I tried to enter my information into the contact information fields in the registration program, the HP program suddenly froze, leaving me no choice but to abort it and register the traditional method (via HP website). Compared to my past experiences with HP computers, there is significantly less bloatware and other programs installed, but they still remain nonetheless. Certain things about HP's software was particularly annoying, notably HP including an entire program solely dedicated to opening PDF files (e.g. User manual) was totally unnecessary. For an Ultrabook that's supposedly designed for powering through the "workday," the extra software can really drag you down.
On another note, Windows 7 Professional is absolutely necessary for those needing to join Domains in business environments. With a 64-bit operating system installed, the Folio has 4GB of DDR3 SRAM; HP states on the website for the Folio that the RAM has been downgraded from 1600 MHz to 1333 MHz. The 13.3-inch LED display is marvelous to look at, without any significant strain on my eyes; changing the display settings will be necessary, as is necessary for any new computer out of its box. I was initially skeptical about purchasing this particular model due to its 128 GB SSD, but with all of the latest updates and drivers installed, there is still a significant amount of space remaining - approximately 100 GB. Returning to my point about HP's disappointing software, the Folio is configured at factory automatically for a recovery partition that is used by HP Recovery Manager. I should also point out that Recovery Manager is essentially useless for most users who have at least some experience with both Windows 7 and setting up backups. For inexperienced users, I would recommend leaving Recovery Manager installed in the event that you might need to return the system to its original factory configuration. I personally recommend installing CCleaner by Piriform after the initial setup of the computer so unnecessary files are removed automatically.
Regarding performance of the Folio, I would not recommend purchasing this system if you plan on doing any serious gaming on it. Again, I want to emphasize that this is a more business-oriented computer system, rather than one that targets mainstream consumers. While this particular Ultrabook only uses the quad-core 2nd generation Intel Corei5 processor, there will be more than enough power to get through whatever you need to in a day at the office. Unless you are running the system with display brightness set to maximum and CPU usage at 100% across the board, the Folio will fetch you several hours on battery power alone. HP estimates approximately 9 hours, but I have yet to test this out.
I will designate this last segment to what I think is the most interesting piece of hardware HP included in this ultrabook. For those who are somewhat familiar with computer security, a TPM 1.2 security chip is pre-installed on the motherboard at the factory. To minimize technical jargon and complexity, the TPM chip essentially a security chip that prevents tampering with the computer system. Its true potential is unlocked when it is paired with Windows BitLocker (available only in Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise). With BitLocker enabled, the TPM chip ensures that no hardware settings were altered between the last shutdown and next powerup. Note that BitLocker supports full-disk encryption, for those who need it.
While this is undoubtedly a superb system, a four-star rating is warranted since the shoddy HP software simply will not warrant a five-star review. However, for would-be buyers, HP's failure in producing functional software should not overshadow the many other great features offered by this ultrabook.