HP Improves Laptop Coolness Quotient in EliteBook Folio 1040

PRODUCT REVIEW: Overall, this is a legitimate, and less-expensive, alternative for those needing a high-performing business laptop.

Apple has cornered the market on laptop magic for a long time with its MacBook and MacBook Air, leaving Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Dell and many other manufacturers to watch that elusive coolness factor pass them by for one reason or another.

HP, however, improved its image this week with the HP Pro x2 612 two-in-one laptop that comes apart to serve as a tablet if necessary. Apple has nothing like that in its arsenal. eWEEK's Michelle Maisto wrote about the two-in-ones earlier this week.

While Apple still rules the laptop world, HP is starting to make up some market-share ground with those two-in-ones and its new EliteBooks. In this article, we're looking in particular at the EliteBook Folio 1040—a second-generation Folio for small and midsize businesses with a 14-inch screen, a weight of about 3 pounds and a sleek-looking exterior.

Overall, it is a legitimate—and less-expensive—alternative for those on the lookout for a high-performing business laptop with a trusted, major-league logo on the cover.

Comes With Touch-Screen Option

The slim enterprise-ready EliteBook comes loaded with Windows 7 or 8 on a fast, solid-state power plant, is thin—0.63 inches—as well as responsive and easy to take on trips. Built of magnesium and ABS plastic, it's got a coolness quotient of its own.

One of my favorite features is its instant-on boot-up—three seconds, consistently. Few things are more frustrating than having to wait minutes to start up any connected device.

The pressure-sensitive touch-pad that HP calls ForcePad is also a real plus. The full-size keyboard features white LED backlighting with three brightness levels—and you can turn off the backlighting if desired. You can adjust the finger-pressure on the keyboard to the way you type; if you're a light and fast typist, you can change the pressure setting so the keys respond best to your style. Change it as needed if you're a hard hunt-and-peck typist. If you have an accident, it's good to know that the 1040's keyboard is spill-resistant and lets liquids drain out through a hole in the bottom of the chassis.

The standard HD+ (1,600 by 900 pixels) display screen is a standard non-touch panel, and there is an upgrade FHD panel (1,920 by 1080) also available. An FHD touch-screen option is now available for Windows 8.1. The touch-screen is sold separately or as an alternate feature, and keep in mind that it does increase the weight to 3.72 lbs.

Folio 1040 buyers have a choice between two displays: the standard HD+ (1,600 by 900 pixels) panel like our review unit or the upgraded FHD panel (1,920 by 1080). HP says it will be offering a touch-enabled FHD display in the near future as a third option. Personally, I'd like to see the display be able to shine a bit brighter than it does.

The Folio 1040 has two stereo speakers located below the display, and they provide sharp sound.

Battery Life Could Be Better

Battery life isn't optimal. Over the course of a few months of use, we got to know the laptop well. The 1040 averaged 4:15 hours of operation without a power charge-up; others in the same price range have been documented to get 30 to 40 percent more time. But you can still get half a day's work done without having to get gas, and that's a reasonable time window for most business people.

It's fitted with a 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM and a 1,28GB mSATA SSD. Storage also is not optimal, but with more and more files being kept in the public cloud (Google Drive, iCloud, i365, SkyDrive, etc.), and in private enterprise clouds, 128GB is okay. Users probably won't be saving a lot of music and personal videos on this unit; it's not optimal for those use cases.

The 1040 is outfitted with a combination 802.11a/b/g/n (2x2) WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, so the connectivity is up-to-date.

The Folio 1040's skinny frame dictates a limited port selection; there are two USB 3.0 ports (one on each side), a SmartCard slot, a full-size DisplayPort and base docking-station connector. A dongle is included to add VGA and Ethernet connectivity; it plugs into the optional docking station.

The EliteBook 1040 Folio retails for $1,299. Go here to see more details and HP's specs.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...