HP Elite Folio review: Exceptional battery life, innovative form factor Review

Minnie V. Muir

HP’s Elite Folio is an interesting 2-in-1 device. Clad in a faux leather case and with a novel forward-tilting screen, it runs Windows 10 Pro on Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G chipset that promises long battery life and quiet operation, but also has some app compatibility issues. 

The Elite Folio comes with a stylus for use with its 13.5-inch touch screen, and can be configured with 5G support. At £1,306.80 (inc. VAT) in the UK with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage and no 5G, it’s on the expensive side, but the premium build quality and novel form factor are big attractions. In the US, a model with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and 5G costs $1,949. 

The HP Elite Folio 2-in-1 shouts ‘plush’ and ‘novel’ from the moment it is unboxed, thanks in large part to the ‘vegan leather’ (100% Poly Vinyl) cladding top and bottom, which is a far cry from the more usual laptop chassis materials.  

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HP’s 13.5-inch easel-style Elite Folio runs Windows 10 on ARM on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G chipset. The screen pulls forward, first to just above the touchpad, then flat atop the keyboard in tablet mode.


Images: HP Inc

This tactile finish makes the Elite Folio comfortable to hold in the crook of an arm, and it’s very stable on the desk. But how well the material will stand up to daily use is a moot point. It’s quite soft, and I managed to mark it with a fingernail with little effort. Rubbing up against bits and pieces in a bag or rucksack could cause scratches or even tears, and I’d certainly want to secure the Elite Folio inside a protective sleeve. 

Open it up and there are two other things that distinguish this 2-in-1 device. One is the stylus, which is bundled and lives in a housing above the keyboard. We’ve seen this solution before from HP and it’s a far better than the magnetic side-clinging stylus that’s popular among many laptop makers (including HP itself, as most recently seen in the Spectre x360 14). It’s harder to leave the stylus behind when it’s housed on the device, and it recharges automatically, with a tiny LED to inform of its status. 

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The bundled stylus lives and charges in a housing between the screen and the keyboard. The Fn key row includes media control buttons and a Flight button that turns off wi-fi and mobile broadband (if present).


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The Elite Folio’s other standout feature is its unconventional pull-forward screen. There are three usage modes: conventional laptop; tablet with the screen flat on top of the keyboard, facing outwards; and screen-forward. 

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In screen-forward mode, the screen is angled so that it covers the keyboard, in a manner reminiscent of Acer’s ConceptD 7 Ezel. Two tiny stops are built into the wrist rest area and they, along with judiciously located magnets, prevent the screen advancing further forward. You have easy access to the touchpad and touch screen, and it’s a useful mode for watching video and working in stylus-only input mode (just remember to extract the stylus from its housing before pulling the screen forward).  

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The Elite Folio in ‘screen forward’ mode, with the keyboard obscured but the touchpad in play.


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

Getting the screen into this forward position requires a bit of manoeuvring, though. It takes both hands, and quite a firm tug on the screen to dislodge it from the magnets that hold it in laptop mode. There is a sizeable upper screen bezel and I found it best to I grab this area so as not to touch the screen itself. 

The Elite Folio is not a detachable 2-in-1, so there’s no need to put all of the components in the screen section. As a result, the screen and keyboard sections are pretty evenly matched for thickness, and the overall dimensions are relatively svelte – to the point that it seems less than its actual overall thickness of 16.1mm. The desktop footprint of 298.6mm wide by 229.6mm deep is relatively small for a 13.5-inch laptop, although the weight is a little on the high side at 1.32kg. 

If I have a usability issue, it’s with the Elite Folio in laptop mode, where the screen wobbled about when tapped at. The base remained stable and I didn’t feel that the whole thing would fall backwards, but I had to learn to be very gentle with taps and sweeps on the touch screen. 

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The Elite Folio in tablet mode, with the screen pulled fully forward, flat on top of the keyboard.


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet   

The 13.5-inch screen is a 3:2 WUXGA (1,920 x 1,280) IPS panel with a maximum brightness of 400 nits. It’s very reflective, and not always easy to view when you’re sitting by a window. In laptop mode the side bezels are reasonably narrow, as is the bottom bezel. The top bezel, which is considerably deeper, houses the 720p webcam, complete with a sliding privacy cover. 

The Elite Folio has four Bang & Olufsen-branded speakers under long grilles on either side of the keyboard, and audio quality is good. Bass tones are fairly strong, and there’s minimal distortion at high volume. Even in tablet mode, when these grilles are covered, sound quality is fine.  

The touchpad is large and very responsive, and the keyboard is well made and comfortable to use. There is a significant amount of travel and keys bounce back really well. They depress with a light ‘thunk’, making typing a relatively quiet process, and I had no problem touch-typing at my usual speed. The Fn row contains media playback controls and a Flight Mode key that turns off wi-fi — also the mobile broadband SIM, if one is fitted. 

The SIM chassis sits unobtrusively inside the stylus housing — it’s completely hidden once the sticker telling new users of its location is removed. 

My review unit ran Windows 10 Pro on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G chipset, with 8GB of RAM. It performed without issue during testing, but I was primarily working in web apps. Key advantages of this ARM-based processor are longer battery life and quiet operation, and it delivered on both, but app compatibility will be an issue for some: not all Windows apps will run, and if you’re interested in this laptop you should check the compatibility of your favourite apps before taking the plunge.   

My review unit had a 256GB SSD. There is just the one model available in the UK, and this lacks a fingerprint reader, although face login is supported. 

Wired connectivity is limited to just two USB-C ports, one of which will be in use when the laptop is being charged, and a 3.5mm headset jack. Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) handle wireless communication, with mobile broadband (4G LTE or 5G) available as purchase-time options. 

Battery life was extremely impressive. Set up in standard laptop mode, I worked for three hours under my usual regime of web apps, streaming music and web browsing, during which time the 46Wh battery fell from 100% to 80%, suggesting battery life of around 15 hours. 

HP claims that fast charging will deliver 90% of a full charge in 90 minutes. On one occasion I started charging the battery at 33% and it got to 50% after 15 minutes, 67% after 30 minutes and 84% after 45 minutes. 

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Image: HP Inc.

Conclusions

HP’s Elite Folio is a quirky 2-in-1 with considerable appeal, headed up by its superb battery life. The vegan-leather folio-style cladding might prove a little fragile on your travels, but a protective sleeve should fix that. 

Windows on ARM might be a problem for some potential buyers, however, due app compatibility issues. Do check this out thoroughly if you are enticed by this premium 2-in-1, and also bear in mind that adding mobile broadband will bump up the outlay. 

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