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Grow Your Business Technology

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 Review: Is It Good for Business?

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 Review: Is It Good for Business?
The EliteBook 1040 G2 is the lightest 14-inch business-class notebook around. / Credit: Jeremy Lips

Looking for the thinnest and lightest 14-inch business notebook on the market? HP's EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 is it, offering enterprise-grade security and durability in a superlight frame. But know that you'll have to make a few compromises to get a machine this portable. 

So can this laptop's thin-and-light frame and good looks make up for an odd, clickless touchpad, relatively shallow keyboard and modest selection of ports?

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]

With a design that's more like a MacBook Air than a ThinkPad, the EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 proves that business notebooks don't have to look boring. The silver aluminum alloy lid is gorgeous, and adds a lot of premium appeal to the 1040 G2. Meanwhile, the machine's tapered profile gives it a streamlined look.

Measuring 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.67 inches, the 1040 G2 is noticeably thinner than the competition's. Dell's Latitude E7450 is 0.8 inches thick, and Lenovo's ThinkPad T450s is 0.83 inches thick.

Weighing 3.33 lbs., HP's notebook is also lighter than the Latitude E7450 (3.6 lbs.) and ThinkPad T450s (3.8 lbs.). That's a big perk for business users who need a machine that's relatively easy to tote between home and the office, without settling for a smaller display. 

Instead of feeling flimsy like some other lightweight systems, the 1040 G2 feels extremely solid and well built. It also meets a variety of MIL-SPEC 810G durability standards, meaning it was designed to withstand short drops, dings, dust, humidity and extreme temperatures. That's good news if you need a work machine that can withstand a bit of abuse when you're on the road.

I was a bit disappointed to find that the keys on the EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 offer just about 1.44 mm of travel, which is actually shallower than the 1.65 mm of travel on the smaller, 12.5-inch EliteBook Folio 1020 model. That makes typing slightly less comfortable, since deeper keys offer a more desktoplike typing experience. 

Fortunately, snappy key action helps make up for the keyboard's lack of depth; each key offers a satisfying level of feedback when pressed. But while it's not a bad keyboard overall, it pales in comparison to what you get on thicker, 14-inch systems like the ThinkPad T450s, which offers a whopping 1.9 mm of travel and even snappier keys.

The most polarizing aspect of the 1040 G2 is undoubtedly its clickless touchpad, dubbed the ForcePad. Instead of letting you physically click down, the pressure-sensitive pad registers a click when you press down a bit harder. The notebook actually emits a low, "click" noise to help you know when the click has been registered, which is nice, but I couldn't find a way to enable the click noise when I had the system volume turned all the way down. 

The ForcePad definitely takes some getting used to, but with a bit of practice, I found it to be pretty intuitive. Basic mouse functions like clicking and dragging, or highlighting text, are performed the same way as on any other laptop — except that pressure sensitivity stands in for physical buttons. If you want, you can tweak the amount of pressure that is necessary to register a click, but I thought the default settings were fine.

The Force Touch touchpad on Apple's 12-inch MacBook is similar to HP's ForcePad, but it's better overall because it uses subtle vibrations to give you the sense that you're physically pressing the pad.

You don't have to use the pressure-sensitive feature for regular clicks if you don't want to, though. Tapping lightly still works fine for left clicks, while a two-finger tap registers as a right click. Since this is my preferred way to use a laptop touchpad, I didn't have many issues getting used to the ForcePad. 

Regardless, I think it could be a deal breaker for some users who prefer a more traditional touchpad.

The 1040 G2's 14-inch display is roomy and easy on the eyes. Like most business-class notebooks, it comes with a matte finish that helps block annoying glare from overhead office lights. While matte screens tend to look a bit dull compared with their glossy counterparts, the 1040 G2 still managed to produce rich, vibrant colors.

Viewing angles were very good, and the display is also brighter than the competition's, topping out at 264 nits of brightness. That beats the Latitude E7450 (256 nits) and the ThinkPad T450s (236 nits). Bright screens are nice because they're easier to use outdoors or in direct sunlight.

You'll sacrifice several key ports by opting for the slim 1040 G2 over thicker systems. Its selection includes two USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, a microSD card slot and a Kensington lock slot.

That's a decent assortment, but both the ThinkPad T450s and Latitude E7450 offer all that, plus a VGA-out port for linking with older monitors and projectors, as well as an Ethernet jack for connecting to wired Internet and private office networks. Each of those notebooks also includes a third USB 3.0 port, and the E7450 has an HDMI-out port. But remember – both are thicker and heavier than the 1040 G2.

Here's something you won't find on MacBook Air: The EliteBook Folio 1040 G2 comes with a fingerprint scanner embedded on the deck, just below the keyboard. That's a really nice perk for business users, since it lets you keep your work machine locked down without having to fuss with a password screen every time you turn it on. You can also register your prints for quick website logins. 

The 1040 G2's fingerprint software can register up to 50 individual prints (all 10 fingers for up to five different users). It proved reliable during my testing period, letting me unlock the notebook with one swipe. I also set it up to log into my Web mail account with a swipe, and it worked like a charm.

Other security highlights include the presence of a smart-card reader on the edge machine and hardware-enabled encryption to keep your keys, passwords and other sensitive information private.

With your choice of a fifth-generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, the 1040 G2 offers more than enough power for daily work tasks.

Our review unit came with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-5600U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB solid-state drive (SSD). The machine never showed a hint of slowdown, even when I tried to tax it by editing a large spreadsheet while streaming two HD videos from YouTube, with more than a dozen tabs open in my Firefox Web browser.

HP sells the1040 G2 in a variety of hardware configurations. The entry-level model costs $1,299 with a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i5-5200U processor with 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an HD+ (1,600 x 900) display.

Our review unit was the midtier model, which goes for $1,745 and offers a faster 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-5600U processor with 8GB of RAM and a full-HD (1,920 x 900) display.

The priciest model is nearly identical to that unit, but comes with a touch-screen display for $1,999.

The 1040 G2 offers decent battery life, but it doesn't last as long as some competing systems. It ran for 7 hours and 11 minutes on our battery life test, which is exactly average among the thin-and-light systems we've tested. That's not terrible, but it is on the low end for systems in the 1040 G2's price range. The Latitude E7450 ran for an impressive 8 hours and 36 minutes, while the ThinkPad T450s ran for 7 hours and 31 minutes.

Regardless, the 1040 G2 should offer enough juice to last through the end of the workday, but not much more than that.

Even with its unusual touchpad and sparse selection of ports, it's hard to deny the appeal of the 1040 G2's slim design. It really is the MacBook Air of the business world, and beats that machine with a more durable design, larger display and better security features.

The 1040 G2 might be your best option if you need a business notebook that won't weigh you down on your daily commute. In addition to a thin-and-light design, it also gives you plenty of power and solid battery life.

If you don't plan to lug your work notebook around too often, though, the ThinkPad T450s is superior in most ways. It offers a much better keyboard and trackpad, more ports and even longer battery life.

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]

Brett Nuckles
Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.