At first glance, the EliteBook Folio G1 looks like a dream ultraportable. With its smooth aluminium chassis, soft curved edges and beautiful 4K display, it’s arguably the most luxurious Windows 10 device we’ve ever seen, leaving the Dell XPS 13, Huawei Matebook and even the Lenovo Yoga 900 looking positively antiquated by comparison.
You’ll pay a pretty price for it, of course, but when the 4K touchscreen model weighs just 1.07kg and the Full HD version tips the scales at just 970g, it doesn’t take long to realise that this is the 12in Macbook replacement you’ve waiting for.
HP’s build quality is absolutely stunning. Having been subjected to numerous military-grade endurance tests, the Elitebook Folio G1 is very much built to last, and it looks and feels more than capable of withstanding the elements.
HP continues to impress when you open the lid, too, as its 12.5in, 3,840×2,160 touchscreen is a real beauty, producing wonderfully rich and vivid colours at a brilliant peak brightness of 462cd/m2. It’s a first class display, and its high 98% sRGB colour gamut coverage and excellent contrast ratio of 1,341:1 only reinforces that fact.
It’s easily one of the better, if not the best, display I’ve seen on a Windows ultraportable, and it even surpasses the panel used on the XPS 13, which has the added benefit of Dell’s gorgeous InfinityEdge display bezels. Indeed, when you compare it to the display on the Macbook, the Elitebook Folio G1 storms ahead, as the screen used by Apple only covers a rather pitiful 70.2% of the sRGB colour gamut and has a contrast ratio of 683:1.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard is another highlight and is a real joy to use. HP has yet again produced one of the most tactile and responsive keyboards I’ve ever seen, with each of the slim keys providing buckets of travel – perhaps even more than what you’d expect from a Macbook. It’s a brilliant tool for handling lengthy typing sessions, and I didn’t have any qualms about the touchpad, either. Windows gestures worked brilliantly, and the option to disable the touchpad completely by double-tapping the top left corner is a very handy extra.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though, as I did notice that thermal cooling was a bit of an issue here. When charging the battery, for instance, the right side of the keyboard become noticeably warm. It was never uncomfortable, but that’s the price you pay for such a slim design.
Ports and connections
Another downside of its svelte dimensions is its lack of ports. At least it does one better than the Macbook and Huawei Matebook, though, as it comes with two Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB3.1 Type-C ports instead of just one. This means you have to keep it running on the mains while it’s connected to other devices, although you’ll obviously need to buy a USB-C dock if you want to connect it to older, legacy devices.
Sadly, you’ll probably be spending most of your time tethered to the wall with the Elitebook Folio G1, as its battery life is deal-breakingly bad. The 4K touchscreen seems to be a real hindrance here, as it managed just 4 hours and 41 minutes in our video rundown test with the screen brightness set to our usual measurement of 170cd/m2.
This a real shame, as it severely limits its ability to be used continuously on the move. Compare that to theMacbook’s battery life of over 16 hours – and even the XPS 13’s 11 and a half hour battery life – and the Elitebook Folio G1 becomes even more of a disappointment.
Benchmarks and performance
Combine that with some rather lacklustre performance and the dream of the perfect Windows 10 laptop quickly shatters, as the G1 only comes equipped with a dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core m7-6Y75 processor. There’s also a cheaper, 1.1GHz Core m5-6Y54 model available with a Full HD display for £1,139, but when you can get an XPS 13 for the same amount of money with a proper Core i7 inside it, the G1 is decidedly underpowered for its price.
It showed in our 4K multimedia benchmarks as well, as it only managed an overall score of 26. The XPS 13, on the other hand, finished twenty points higher, making it a much more flexible machine for more intensive processing tasks. Of course, the Folio G1 still feels immensely quick when carrying out basic tasks, but I’d expect more for a device that costs upwards of £1,300.
You can still do some very light gaming on the Folio, as its Intel HD Graphics 515 chip managed a just-about-playable 29.3fps in Dirt Showdown on Low at 1,280×720. Still, when even Minecraft proved fairly taxing on the lowest render distance, jumping between 30fps at best and 10fps at its worst, it’s fair to say the G1 Folio simply isn’t cut out for basic 3D gaming. If that bothers you, then you can achieve more with an XPS 13.
This is such a shame, as the HP Elitebook Folio G1 looks every bit like the ultimate Windows 10 ultraportable. It’s desirable and its premium, lightweight looks should make it the most sought after device HP’s ever made.
Sadly, it’s all undermined by its terrible battery life and underwhelming performance, which at this kind of price just isn’t acceptable. The XPS 13 might not be quite as slender, but when it’s both faster and longer-lasting, and has an equally gorgeous display and top class build quality, the G1 just can’t compete.