HP Elite Folio Review: Style for content

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HP has presented what I can best describe Surface Pro X with Specter Folio form factor. Elite Folio is a lightweight, leather-covered, removable Windows laptop with a Snapdragon processor and Arm architecture. It’s a neat-looking, futuristic system designed to be used on the go and not for intensive tasks.

I often see such products as an ideal secondary device – something to bring to a conference or use Netflix at night. But a starting price $ 1629.73, The Elite Folio is priced as the primary work driver.

Arm for Windows has certainly improved since we first checked Surface Pro X in 2019. Application compatibility is no longer a complete disaster. However, purchasing this device may degrade performance and may reduce software options depending on the applications you use. Some people will certainly fit in well with Elite Folio, but if you think you belong to this group, make sure you know what you’re up to.

The primary reason Elite Folio can dictate that the premium price tag is its design. The entire body is wrapped in leather (vegan leather, towards HP, so technically polyurethane), which makes you look like a sophisticated laptop with you. It weighs 2.9 pounds, but it feels lighter than me, maybe because the leather upholstery makes it so comfortable to carry. The keyboard cover is a dark onyx color (equivalent to a leather cover) with a comfortable, smooth texture; it’s not the fingerprint magnet that black computers (even at this price) often have. The included pen resides in a silo under the chin, which charges when not in use.

But the most unique feature is the design factor. Folio is a replaceable laptop, but you have more than the usual tent, tablet, and clam options. You can also drag the monitor onto the keyboard and rest it in the center of the cover (either above or below the touch pad) to create a sturdy stand for taking notes or drawing. (Eventually, I used this configuration a lot when writing or drawing with a pen because the Foil hinge isn’t very sturdy and has noticeable wobble when you touch the screen in clamshell mode.) Laptops with this shape, especially outside of creativity. The last one I checked was Acerin concept Ezel, a heavy 5.6kg case with a graphics processor. Of course, HP has used design before, thanks to its 2019 Specter Folio, that the Elite Folio will succeed, but HP will no longer sell it.

The folio screen moves smoothly and I was never worried about it slipping. Dragging it over the keyboard takes a firm drag, and it’s a little hard to do without touching the screen in the process and possibly shuffling my tabs. I think this is the first laptop I’ve ever checked and I would like to have slightly larger frames.

The HP Elite Folio opens to an outdoor table with a railing and a river in the background.  The screen shows a purple, black and white background.

Here it is in shell view mode.

The HP Elite Folio pen and top bezel are at an angle to the left when viewed from above.

The needle pops in and out easily.

Top view of the HP Elite Folio keyboard.

The keyboard has a 1.3mm keystroke and it snaps quite a bit.

HP Elite Folio in tablet mode leaning against a railing and a river in the background on a wooden table.  The screen displays a Lock screen with a twilight city along the river.

Here it is in tablet mode.

In addition to the form, Folio’s voice makes it a decent video conferencing machine. The four-speaker system, including upward-facing grilles on either side of the keyboard, produces clear, excellent sound and strong vocals, and even audible bass rarity on laptops of this size. One catch is that there were some audible distortions around some of the high treble tones (like when Olivia Rodrigo sings the words “deja vu” at the beginning of “Deja Vu”) that I couldn’t completely eliminate without bumping into the volume significantly. I asked HP about this problem.

An HD camera, on the other hand, is a standard mediocre laptop price that produces a grainy and slightly dark image even in a bright office environment. However, it checks for a variety of useful boxes: it supports Windows Hello (which didn’t cause me any problems) and has physical privacy protection that’s pretty easy to click back and forth.

Inside, Elite Folio uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, Arm chip, which is common in lightweight Windows convertible bonds (including some Samsung Galaxy Book S). It supports 5G and 4G LTE (one of the main advantages of the Arm machine) with the X55 modem. Wi-Fi 6 is also included.

I remember trying the first Surface Pro X in 2019, when Windows on Arm was painfully slow. (It’s not a comparison of apples and apples, as Surface Pro uses Microsoft’s custom Qualcomm chips, but there aren’t too many Arm-based Windows devices in this price range for comparison.)

Elite Folio’s performance is night and day. (And it uses Windows 10 Pro, not Windows 10 Home.) The device turns on as soon as you open it, and Windows Hello Face Detection logs in in less than ten seconds. And while all sorts of apps were either unavailable or unusable on the first Surface Pro X, most of what I needed worked fine here. (The keyword is the most – more of it per second.) For those unfamiliar, Windows applications built into x86 (the architecture used by Intel) must run through the emulation layer in order to be used on Arm devices. Folio can currently run 32-bit applications (although mileage may vary), but 64-bit emulation is currently only available through Windows Insider Beta.

Spotify, who has been slow in Arm before, had no problems here. It worked even smoother than I’ve seen it on some recent Windows laptops. I had no problem downloading and using various web conferencing apps like Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams. Some apps were available but not the best experience. Lightroom and Photoshop, for example, could be downloaded, but they were staggering as I browsed through the various functions. It would have been a pain if I used these apps on a daily basis. The software we normally use to calibrate screens can also be downloaded, but it never recognized my colorimeter when I got it.

And some programs are not available at all. Dropbox fails — you have to settle for the S-Mode version in the Windows Store, with bare guess that doesn’t allow files to be saved directly to Dropbox. You can download Steam, but a number of games aren’t there. I got CS: GO but did not receive Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2or Horizon Zero Dawn. The biggest disappointment for me, though, was the thin Adobe offering. I only got access to Photoshop, Lightroom, and Acrobat DC from the Creative Cloud desktop app; no Premiere Pro, no trial software, no InDesign, no Illustrator, etc. Of course, many people don’t need these apps, but it’s still a shame because Folio’s form factor can make it an attractive device to customize on the go.

There is no way I can test all possible applications on this device, so the takeaway is this: do your research and make sure the programs you are using are available. Call companies if necessary. I really hate that someone spends $ 1,700 on this product just to find out that the app they need doesn’t work with it.

HP Elite Folio in painting mode as seen from the left side of a wooden table.  In the background is a railing, a river and a cityscape on the other side of the river.

The Elite Folio doesn’t bend backwards like a traditional convertible, but you can still turn the screen around.

When it comes to general office use (mostly in Chrome, in my case), the Folio was functional, but certainly a step down from the best Intel and AMD laptops at the same price. I used it to jump between a dozen Chrome tabs and a few apps, and the delay was just a little more than I used to. The text took a while to get typed in Google Docs, Slack took a while to update and upload new conversations. They weren’t the end of the world, but because I used Folia as my primary driver all day, they added up. My experience editing a large batch of an image in Windows Photos was annoyingly slow – the program really crashed at some point, which I never saw Photos do.

What are the benefits of the Arm chip if not the nifty performance? They allow for a slimmer case and are easy to integrate into LTE – but the primary benefit is battery life. We have seen this inside Arm-based Chromebookswho have delivered more than 10 hours in our testing and in Apple M1-powered MacBooks, which have the best battery life of any MacBook with the latest memory. So I toured Folio with high expectations.

Unfortunately, the battery life of this device is good, but not amazing. Using it as the primary driver when the screen is medium bright, averaging eight hours and 15 minutes. For the sake of clarity, it is not a bad result at all. But there are all kinds of Intel convertibles that work better, last longer, and are cheaper. I easily get 10 hours with the same amount of work HP Specter x360 14and nearly nine Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. Folio is also a case where different workloads can produce very different results because emulated applications are likely to consume more power.

The HP Elite Folio was closed on a wooden deck when viewed from above.

It’s a neat notebook.

I’ve been looking for a portable, durable secondary device that I could use to do work or watch a movie on weekend trips. I hope Elite Folio would be half the price, because then it would be perfect for that use case, and I would take it away.

But I’m a pretty traditional business user, and Elite Folo still doesn’t have enough processing power to be the primary driver. And I use too many apps like Premiere Pro, Dropbox, and several games that I should give up (at least for now). It’s too much of a sacrifice to make, even for a beautiful and unique platform.

This is not to say that Elite Folio is a bad laptop. It could be a great choice for people who have light daily tasks and who mostly work on a few tabs at a time, or who draw and take notes on the go and use easels. People who appreciate style and presentation over other features should also give it an appearance. It is a great product to hold in your hand and play with. If I could get it for free, I would take it everywhere I went.

But if you’re considering buying Folio, try the device for yourself if you can, or (and I know I’m biased here) read a bunch of reviews before you do. Just make sure that slower performance doesn’t bother you and that all the apps you use work the way you need to. Otherwise, you’re looking at a lot of wasted money.

Photographer Monica Chin / The Verge

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