HP Elitebook Folio 9470 Business Ultrabook Review (Part 2)

3/29/2013 11:20:18 AM

In this way or that way, there seems to be no excuse for a bad keyboard on a computer aimed for business users – actually, there is no excuse for anything that makes it more difficult for you to complete your work. Fortunately, the Folio offers a comfortable keyboard – probably it is more comfortable than you would expect provided that this is a thin computer. While many Ultrabooks have flat and lifeless keys, the Folio provides incredible elasticity, so you can type fast and do not have to worry whether your keystrokes can be realized or not.

The trackpad is as good as the keyboard.

The trackpad is as good as the keyboard.

The buttons also have good space between each other, and it seems HP does not need to shrink any important keys such as Enter or Backspace. The compromise seems to focus mainly on the arrow keys: while the left and right arrow keys have quite a lot of space, the small up and down are stacked on top of each other, making it easy to hit the wrong key. It will not be a problem for some people, but if you're like us, having the tendency to highlight text using the keyboard, you will need to keep track of where to put your fingers down. As you expected on a high-end system, the Folio has a backlit keyboard, which can be turned on and off by using the F11 key.

Fortunately, the trackpad is as good as the keyboard – something we wish we could say about every laptop we've tested. As it happens, it is a touchpad with good old-fashioned left and right buttons, as opposed to the new touchpad where the entire surface is a giant and clickable button. Somehow, we did not see this as a coincidence: the traditional touch buttons may seem outdated, but when we see them, they almost always seem to work perfectly. Or, at least working more smoothly than the clickpads, which have a nasty habit of mistaking left clicks for right clicks. Here, the finish feels as smooth as glass, and it provides good response to several multi-gestures, not to mention single-finger navigation. At the same time the buttons are also easy to press.

The trackpad is as good as the keyboard.

The trackpad is as good as the keyboard.

However, in case the touchpad does not work for you, there is also a pointing stick inserted between the G and H keys, along with two extra touch buttons located just below the space bar. Compared to the version on new ThinkPad devices, this is taller and slightly shallower (again, Lenovo sets pretty high standards). However, the spoon shape and bumpy texture make it less possible for your fingers to slip out. The tracking also feels accurate, which is obviously a plus.

Screen and sound

The Folio has a bright anti-glare screen, which will satisfy most business users, though it also serves as a reminder that the anti-glare surface is not necessarily meant providing a good viewing angle. If you put the laptop in your lap and push its screen forward, you will immediately notice the diluted color. However, viewing the screen from a side is a little easier, and if it is not convenient when you stay at home watching movies in your free time, at least it can make the presentation easier.

If you put the laptop in your lap and push its screen forward, you will immediately notice the diluted color

If you put the laptop in your lap and push its screen forward, you will immediately notice the diluted color

In addition to the viewing angle, the biggest disadvantage here is the screen resolution. We admit that 1,366x768 will be good enough for many consumers, especially when the price is low. But in this case, we are looking at an expensive computer, and also it is not ordinary users, but actually savvy users who prefer the 1,600x900 resolution, if not 1080p. Fortunately, a 1,600x900 option is coming to U.S. and European consumers, but it will not be available until early March.

As you would expect, sound quality is not the strength of business computers. Sound is low, as the case on many laptops, but we also found that the sound never got very loud, even when the volume was set to the maximum.

Performance and battery life

Our $1,349 specification has the Intel Core i5 processor-3237U, 4GB of RAM, and a 180GB SSD, also manufactured by Intel. If these raw data are any indication, it is just as fast as, if not faster than, most Windows 8 systems we have tested. It’s PCMark 7 score of 4762 was slightly higher than what we have seen from other computers, while solid-state drives is among the fastest (despite Acer Aspire S7’s RAID 0 setting). In particular, it achieved the highest read speed of 553MB/s and the write speed of up to 519MB/s, according to ATTO test. We have seen a few other Windows 8 systems with the same read speeds (like Dell XPS 12, Toshiba Satellite U925t and Acer Iconia W700, for example), but most of them cannot compete when it comes to write performance.

Performance and battery life

Speaking in more practical aspects, the computer boots up in 11 seconds, only a bit faster than what we saw in systems with the same configuration. (Note: we're talking about 11 seconds versus 12 seconds, so the difference is really negligible in practice). Overall, the machine was able to catch up when we jumped from one application to another, and it was also faster when we launched new programs.

As for graphics performance, the Folio seems to be just average: its scores are somehow similar to other Ultrabooks using Intel’s HD 4000 integrated graphics solution. That is, you can play old games that do not require heavy graphics as long as you do not set it at the maximum settings. However, you will need good luck to achieve 30fps.

As soon as we were beginning to wonder whether all Windows 8 PCs were cursed by short battery life, we began to examine some winners. The first was the Acer Iconia W700, a tablet / laptop hybrid that lasts more than 7 hours. Now we have the EliteBook Folio, which reached 6 hours 18 minutes in battery tests (video looping, Wi-Fi on, brightness fixed at 65 percent). If you look at the above table, you will see that it is the best result we've ever seen from an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook of any size.

We must admit we expected the Folio would do better than a touchscreen computer, as touchscreens are well-known for consuming battery very fast. However, it is significantly better than other non-touch Ultrabooks, including the Asus Zenbook Prime UX51vz and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.


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