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HP’s first ultrabook: The Folio 13

Slightly heavier than you'd expect, HP's Folio is still an attractive business ultraportable

Since 2012 got underway it’s been hard to escape the hype around ultrabooks, the term for a new class of thin and light notebook coined by Intel Corp. in hopes of bringing some sexiness back to a commoditized personal computer market. I recently got to spend some hands-on time with Hewlett-Packard Co.‘s (NYSE: HPQ) first entry in the category, the Folio 13.

Unlike some of the other first to market ultrabooks, the Folio 13 is aimed first at business users, defaulting to the professional edition of Windows 7 and offering IT friendly features such as a Trusted Protection Module. You can upgrade to Windows Home Premium though for an additional cost, and the Folio is suitable for both home and work use: a must in a bring your own device world.

My review unit came with the latest Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. I have no complaints at all with the performance — I did everything from watching movies and surfing the web to editing video with ease, and Windows boots very quickly — and the responsiveness of the hard drive was nice.

I do wish it was bigger, though. While 128GB sounds big enough, with the recovery partition, Windows and a few programs I added, such as Adobe Premiere (okay, and Plants vs. Zombies) I’m left with only 78GB to play with. Once I starting cutting high resolution video, I very quickly ran out of storage capacity. You’d be advised to keep an external drive handy for your media.

I like the look and feel of the Folio 13, but there are a few exceptions. The 13-in. screen with 1366 x 768 resolution really holds the smudges, and my first thought when I opened it up was that it was heavier than I’d been expecting, at 3.3 lbs. Still, all glossy displays smudge these days, and the weight was never an issue for be, and as it means more battery life, I’m cool with it.

The burnished aluminum finish gives the Folio 13 a sleek , professional and solid look and feel. I had no problems adjusting to the chiclet keyboard, and once I figured-out how to activate it (F5) the backlit keyboard was fantastic for darkened conference halls. I wasn’t as pleased with the trackpad, which has a smooth texture and no tactile differentiation between the pad and the mouse keys.

The Folio 13 does well when it comes to ports. Having an ethernet port, which isn’t common on ultrabooks, is a plus. You’ve also got a full-sized HDMI port, as well as USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and a combination microphone/headphone jack.

The best thing to like about the Folio 13 is the battery life. It features a six-cell battery and I never saw a low battery warning. HP boasts up to nine hours is possible; I’d guess closer to six would be more realistic but certainly it will get you through (most) of the day, as long as you take your scheduled lunch break.

With pricing starting at $949, and moving up depending on the configuration, there are cheaper laptops on the market but they’re also just that: cheaper laptops. For a sleek, solid and lightweight laptop with a solid state drive and a Core i5 processor, it’s a good price makes the Folio 13 a good choice for the modern mobile BYOD worker.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.