HP EliteBook Folio 1020 review: Fabulously beautiful, painfully expensive

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HP EliteBook Folio 1020 review: Fabulously beautiful, painfully expensive


The Folio 1020’s benchmark results eloquently prove the point. In our image-editing tests, which involve multiple short bursts of image processing, the HP is only 25% slower than a Core i5-powered 13in MacBook Air. It’s no slouch, in other words.

However, in tests presenting a more sustained load, such as video transcoding, the HP is 39% slower. Understandably, though, it’s the sustained, multithreaded loads that really floor the Core M hardware. Here, the low-voltage design quickly reaches the limits of its capabilities: it was a whopping 85% slower than the Core i5-powered 13in MacBook Air in the multitasking tests.

If performance is a priority, then you can spend the extra for a model with the faster Core M-5Y71 CPU, but don’t expect miracles. With a nominal clock speed that’s only 100MHz faster than the Core M-5Y51, and a Turbo Boost speed that’s only 300MHz faster, it won’t make a night-and-day difference.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 review: This 12.5in portable isn't quite as sleek as a MacBook, but it comes close

The Core M has its positive points, however. No matter how hard you push the HP, there isn’t a whisper of noise: the Folio 1020 is completely fanless. Even then, though, the HP doesn’t get particularly hot. After several hours of chewing through our brutal multitasking test, the Folio 1020 was no more than slightly warm to the touch. HP’s engineers have obviously done their homework.

Battery life is another plus point. With the screen brightness calibrated to 120cd/m², and Wi-Fi switched off, the Folio 1020’s 5,000mAh battery kept the laptop going for 6hrs 58mins. That’s more than long enough to survive a working day.


HP knows a thing or two about making a great display, and the Folio 1020 is no exception. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to image quality – I’ve seen more than my fair share of high-end monitors – and the HP’s high-DPI, 2,560 x 1,440 touchscreen is very, very good. Colours are natural and believable, and the high pixel density delivers pin-sharp text and images.

Put to the test, the HP’s display is on a par with the Apple MacBook’s Retina screen. Brightness reaches a respectable 354cd/m², contrast soars to 1,084:1, and the panel covers 93.6% of the sRGB colour gamut. Colour accuracy is on point too, with an average Delta E of 2.4 and a maximum deviation of 4.7. It’s one of the best displays I’ve seen on any business laptop.

You could save cash by dispensing with the touchscreen altogether and opting for a Full HD display instead, but would I recommend it? No. At the time of writing, the price difference is a mere £178 – for that money, I’d take the Quad HD display every time.


Little needs to be said about the Folio 1020’s keyboard: it’s superb. HP has combined a sensible, spacious layout with backlit keys that deliver a superbly responsive feel and oodles of feedback. This might not be a big laptop, but the keyboard doesn’t feel cramped in the slightest. It really is as good as it gets; and it feels noticeably better than the 13in MacBook Pro I have in front of me.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 review: The Folio's keyboard is absolutely superb

The touchpad may divide opinion. Built on Synaptics’ ForcePad technology, the Folio 1020’s glass touchpad doesn’t actually move at all when you press it. Hear that click? It’s actually coming through the HP’s speakers; if you mute the audio, the touchpad is silenced. Unlike Apple’s Force Touch system, it provides no haptic feedback whatsoever.

It takes a little getting used to, but in practice it works well, feels silky smooth and is highly responsive. If you want to click and drag an onscreen item, tap it to select, then simply maintain pressure on the pad, and drag it as normal. You can adjust the pressure required in the Synaptics control panel.

Would I rather a traditional touchpad and separate buttons, though? Perhaps. Like me, you may miss the reassuring presence of a physical click, or even the haptic sensation of one. Make sure you try before you buy.



That touchpad may end up losing the Folio 1020 some friends, but I can’t helping feeling that would be a shame: this is a fantastic all-rounder. For me, there’s not one area where it falls short: it’s light, compact and capable, and it feels built to last. It’s a business laptop that’s truly as refined and desirable as a MacBook, yet there’s no compromise on connectivity or security.

If you need more power than the capable little Core M can muster, then that’s reason enough to look elsewhere, but otherwise there’s very little reason to criticise the HP EliteBook Folio 1020. The only problem is that you may not be able to afford it. I know I can’t.

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