We have a ton of change going on in the laptop market right now. New technology from Apple, AMD, Qualcomm, Intel are creating new opportunities for design creativity, and each of the vendors are putting their spin on the result.
For many of us coming out of the pandemic, we are working very differently as well. Some of us may return to the office fully, some part-time, and a whole lot of us aren’t ever planning to go back into the office. For most of us, these changes mean what we used before the pandemic may not at all meet our needs now or in the future.
My current favorite laptop is the new HP Elite Folio, which seems to fit my mobile needs perfectly. Let me walk you through why I think this is the best laptop for how I work and suggest a process to find the best laptop for you.
How I Work
When I’m at home, I work on desktop computers that provide me with the performance and ease of use combinations that fit how I work. If I’m going to game, I find a desktop to be far more game-friendly than a laptop (I don’t travel to game events), and most of the stuff I do that requires a lot of performance I do in my office at home.
These preferences mean I don’t need a lot of performance on the road. But I do need long battery life, I don’t like carrying a backpack. I like to watch movies I’ve downloaded on a plane, and I watch streaming movies in my hotel room (but often using an Amazon Fire TV stick I plug into the TV). So portability is more important on the road than a big screen. I use a laptop when I want to sit outside and enjoy the weather, but I sit in the shade, so I don’t get sunburned, so I need enough brightness to work outside in the shade. Yet I don’t need massive amounts of brightness to overcome direct sunlight.
When traveling, Wi-Fi can be really iffy both in terms of bandwidth and security as there are many rogue access points out there. So I either tether my laptop to my phone or use a portable LTE access point to connect, but ideally, the laptop would have an LTE or 5G connection so I can power on and work.
I like to read, but most 2-in-1s are not comfortable as readers because the keyboard ends up on the bottom.
Finally, if I’m watching something, I’m using headphones or earbuds, I don’t use the laptop’s speakers very much. I use video conferencing but rarely on the road, often preferring my cell phone for convenience over the laptop. So I do use the laptop camera just rarely.
What This Mean On Configuration
These preferences mean I want something light and portable that will fit on a coach tray so I can watch my downloaded movies, that has at least 10 hours of battery life (for international trips), fits nicely on a tray table for movies (and some work), and that I feel secure carrying without a backpack to meetings.
A privacy screen is nice but not a must-have, given I rarely work on confidential information while traveling, and a WAN connection has become handy enough that I prefer it.
So this means given I’m chasing battery life, not performance. I’m looking at ARM, not X86 (but I have X86 in my home desktop system), a screen in the 13” size class, which makes the device small but not too small, Wan, and a laptop finish that makes it comfortable to carry without a backpack. This last is what defines my choice because there are several good ARM-based laptops on the market.
The HP Elite Folio
What makes this product stand out is that it is covered in Black Vegan Leather. While this sounds like Vinyl, it does feel like leather, and it is one of the easiest to carry laptops I’ve ever owned.
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Fold is close and a bit more comfortable to carry, but it comes apart (the keyboard separates), and I tend to drop or lose attachments. However, if I carried a bag (like a purse), it might be better because it shrinks down to purse size. Still, the X1 Fold, if the HP Elite Folio didn’t exist, would have been my choice because the screen makes for a great media streaming monitor.
The HP Elite Folio has a cantilevered screen which makes it better than most products for watching movies on a plane, comes with 4G LTE (5G is optional), and it has an optional security screen. This laptop uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and graphics solution with all of the related benefits. Battery life is well above 10 hours (20 estimated), solving my power problem. It has one of the best keyboards HP has ever made, and it has a pen garage which is a ton better than most other laptops (I lose a lot of pens) and the pen will charge in the garage.
Now given I have carried a Fire Tablet for reading, I’d given up on using a 2-in-1 for a reader. Still, the keyboard drops under the display in tablet mode with the cantilevered screen, which means you are touching the vegan leather, not the keyboard, when using this as a reader. This tablet mode addressed a problem I didn’t think a laptop could address.
It looks like a professional folio when carried, and it comes in black, meaning it looks good as an accessory, and when closed people thinking it is a folio, so are less likely to steal it. Now, if I gamed while traveling like I used to, or if I needed to do video or photo editing on the road, this wouldn’t be the ideal choice for me but, since I don’t, this is (for now) my perfect laptop.
Wrapping Up: Picking Your Perfect Laptop
The HP Elite Folio may be my perfect laptop, but it may not be yours unless your needs mirror mine. Think through how and where you use a laptop, whether you have a desktop machine to fall back on when you need performance, and how important is battery life.
If you feel you need to carry a backpack anyway and mostly use a laptop as a laptop, a standard laptop design may be better. If you push performance, then discrete graphics and X86 make sense, and many laptops in that performance class can go six or more hours without charging (but be aware, the chargers tend to be pretty big and annoying to carry in a pocket).
If you tend to carry a large purse, you may find the Lenovo Fold to be a better choice. But start with what you do with the laptop, then prioritize capabilities like how compact the device is, how big the screen, how much battery life you need, what level of performance you use, and how you plan to carry and secure the device. Finally, think through your connectivity options, whether you need a proper outdoor viewable screen, whether you need a privacy screen as well.
Do this before you start looking, so you don’t lock in on a laptop before you know which capabilities you prefer. If you do this right, you may find, like I did, that the right laptop can help you look good, be more productive, and allow you to better enjoy what you carry.