HP's EliteBook Folio G1 is the most portable business-class laptop — period. The system is just about as sleek and portable as Apple's superslim 12-inch MacBook, but offers superior security, a more durable design, more ports and a much, much comfier keyboard. If it lasted a bit longer on a charge, this laptop would be the frequent traveler's dream machine. Even still, it's an absolutely excellent option for on-the-go workers.
The EliteBook Folio G1 isn't quite as portable as the MacBook, but it's close. At 2.14 lbs. and 11.5 x 8.23 x 0.47 inches, the system is slightly heavier, wider and taller than Apple's machine (2.04 lbs., 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14-0.52 inches), though the Apple system has a smaller, 12-inch display compared to 12.5 inches for the EliteBook Folio. HP's business laptop is also noticeably smaller than Dell's XPS 13 (2.7 lbs., 12 x 7.9 x 0.33-0.6 inches), though the Dell's 13.3-inch display is almost an inch larger than the HP's.
The EliteBook Folio G1 feels a lot tougher than you'd expect from a laptop this thin and light. The system sports a rigid aluminum chassis, which reveals no hint of flex in the lid or keyboard deck. It comes with Mil-STD 810G durability credentials, which means it can stand up to dings, vibrations, shocks, dust and more. It certainly feels very sturdy and solidly built.
The notebook's svelte profile doesn't leave much room for ports. In fact, the EliteBook Folio G1 offers just two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, one of which doubles as a charging port. That leaves just one extra port for plugging in such accessories as a mouse, external hard drive or second monitor. Plugging in a standard USB flash drive requires a dongle, which you can pick up during checkout at HP.com for $29 extra.
Still, it's not a bad setup when you consider that the 12-inch MacBook offers just one USB-C port, and that's it. Other superportable laptops fare only a little better here. Dell's XPS 13 offers one USB Type-C port, one USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot for expanding the laptop's internal memory.
Workers who want to use the EliteBook Folio G1 at their desks can pick up HP's $210 Thunderbolt 3 dock, which adds a ton of extra ports, including four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, VGA and DisplayPort connections. The lack of an HDMI port seems like a glaring omission, though.
Our team checked out two versions of the EliteBook Folio G1. The pricier model comes equipped with a pixel-dense 4K display, which produces crisp text and extremely vivid colors, according to our sister site LaptopMag. But the real perk of 4K is that the display provides a lot more digital real estate to work on, even though it has the same 12.5-inch dimensions.
For this review, I personally went hands on with the 1080p model.. Split-screen multitasking can feel a little cramped on the lower-res display, since at 12.5 inches it's a bit smaller than your average 13-inch ultraportable laptop. It still looks crisp, but when I watched the HD trailer for Passengers, the reds and oranges of explosions in several action scenes could have been more vibrant.
Overall, most workers will be better off with the 1080p model, which offers much longer battery life than the 4K version.
Considering the EliteBook's slim profile, I expected a shallow, uncomfortable typing experience. Not so. In fact, the keyboard is a highlight, offering 1.05 millimeters of key travel, twice as much vertical key travel as on the 12-inch MacBook. That's a bit under the 1.5 mm we consider the standard for work laptops, but these keys feel so snappy and responsive, with plenty of tactile feedback on each stroke, that it doesn't matter. The EliteBook Folio G1 provides a really comfortable typing experience that's on par with the XPS 13's performance and light-years ahead of what the MacBook offers.
The EliteBook Folio offers the standard lineup of business-class security features such as TPM-enabled hardware encryption, as well as Intel VPro technology that enables corporate IT departments to remotely manage the system. On top of that, the notebook has facial recognition via a special 3D camera, so you can log on just by looking at the machine.
Facial recognition proved pretty responsive during my testing period, whisking me to the desktop in just a few seconds each time I tried the feature. Since the camera uses infrared signals to identify users, it also worked reliably in low light.
The EliteBook's biggest pain point is its relatively short battery life. When outfitted with a 1080p display, the system ran for 7 hours and 2 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's by no means terrible, but it is an hour short of the 8-hour laptop category average, and 2.5 hours short of the MacBook's mark of 9:38. The XPS 13 ran for an epic 12 hours on the same battery test.
When outfitted with a supersharp 4K display, the EliteBook died much more quickly. The high-res display is a joy to work on, but that model lasts a pitiable 4 hours and 35 minutes on the same battery test. That alone should be a deal breaker for most mobile workers.
Equipped with a Core m7-6Y75 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, the EliteBook Folio G1 is more than speedy enough to handle everyday work tasks, including heavy multitasking. The system zipped along as I researched and typed this review, and I didn't notice any lag while juggling a dozen tabs in my Chrome web browser and editing a larger spreadsheet in Excel.
This laptop racked up a very solid score of 6,706 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That score blows past the ultraportable laptop category average of 5,034, also beating the Core i5-powered XPS 13 (6,391.)
The EliteBook Folio also fared really well on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in 4 minutes and 21 seconds. That wallops the category average of 7 minutes and 20 seconds, and it just edges out the XPS 13's time of 4 minutes and 34 seconds.
HP sells the EliteBook Folio G1 in a handful of hardware configurations. The low-end model, a good pick for small business users, comes equipped with a Core m5-6Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for $999.
The $1,429 configuration, meanwhile, comes equipped with a Core m7-6Y75 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p display. And the $1,619 model has a supersharp 4k display, but is otherwise identical.
HP's EliteBook Folio G1 is an engineering marvel, proving that superportable laptops don't have to sacrifice the elements that make them great work machines. It packs plenty of power, a sharp display, an excellent keyboard and strong security options into a system that's more portable than any other business-class laptop, bar none.
But you don't get a laptop this thin without making some sacrifices. The system's 7.5 hours of battery life isn't bad, but that showing is a bit below average. Dell's XPS 13 is a similar system with a larger display and nearly 12 hours of battery life, making it a strong alterative. But neither the EliteBook Folio G1 nor the XPS 13 has a strong selection of ports, so workers seeking better connectivity options should check out Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
At the end of the day, though, nothing can quite match the EliteBook Folio G1's combination of portability and business-friendly features. Workers who want the slimmest laptop around, and who don't mind making a few concessions, should give this machine a serious look.