EliteBook Folio 1020 First Look

I see literally dozens of new notebook computers over the course of a year. Between looking at review units and examining the new devices my coworkers choose from corporate procurement, I find that there is little variation in business class options.

HP changed my expectations when I got the chance to take an early look at the new EliteBook Folio 1020. This is by far the most drool-worthy notebook computer I've used in years.

The first thing you will notice about the EliteBook 1020 is the size. It's got a 12.5-inch display in a compact 12.2 inch wide case. The 1020 weighs a mere 2.2 pounds in the Special Edition thanks to a shell made from a combination of magnesium-lithium alloy and carbon fiber and 2.68 pounds for the standard version. For me, this is the sweet spot for notebook computers. Something light enough to barely notice in a bag in a form factor that takes up little space. It's impossible not to draw comparisons to the MacBook Air, but the specs on the unit I tested put the EliteBook 1020 in a class of its own.

Below you can see the size of the EliteBook Folio 1020 relative to the EliteBook 1040.

EliteBook 1020 on top of an EliteBook 1040

You can see a summary of my thoughts about the EliteBook 1020 in the following video or read on for more details.

Typically small form factors result in a trade off in features I consider important. The EliteBook 1020 doesn't skimp anywhere. In the configuration I tested, the touch-enabled screen has an amazing 2560x1440 resolution. Nobody else has a notebook computer with a screen that comes close. Some configurations of the EliteBook 1020 offer a 1920x1080 screen, but I couldn't imagine not choosing the higher resolution.

Hard drives are SSD in all versions, with options for 128GB, 180GB, and 256GB. I used think I couldn't survive with a drive that small, but after spending a year with a 256GB Surface Pro 2, it's actually the perfect size, particularly when paired with a large SD card in the micro SD slot included on the EliteBook 1020.

This is the first laptop I've used with a Broadwell processor - my test unit has the Core M-5Y51, which is the latest mobile Core i5. It performs nicely and brings the power consumption advantages of a 14nm chip. The Core M also makes it possible for the EliteBook 1020 to be fanless.

EliteBook Folio 1020

Keyboard and Trackpad

I type thousands of words every single day. This makes keyboard performance a factor I consider more than the average user. The keyboard on the EliteBook 1020 is the best notebook keyboard I've ever used. I'm hopeful that what HP is calling the new HP Premium Keyboard trickles down into other parts of their notebook lineup over time. It's a game changer.

The trackpad is also best in class. It's the first trackpad that works the way I expect. Most Windows notebooks require me to relearn how to use a trackpad each time I try a new device, this one was intuitive.

Battery Life of the EliteBook 1020

HP is promising up to 9 hours of battery life for the version of the EliteBook Folio 1020 with the 1920x1080 display. The higher resolution option and other configuration factors like touch screen and processor speed, along with the apps you use will play into how long the battery lasts in your own usage.

Conclusion

In the video I said I only had one complaint about the EliteBook 1020. I actually have two complaints, but they are both fairly minor. The one I mention in the video is the number of USB ports. I'd love to see at least four USB ports on every device I travel with. My second complaint is around memory - all versions of the EliteBook 1020 come with 8GB of RAM. As someone who edits video on the go, I'd always love to have more RAM, so an upgrade to 16GB would have been nice.

All in this is the best notebook computer I've seen for my usage needs. It meets all the requirements I look for in a new notebook. The case is under 13 inches and the unit weighs less than three pounds. The screen resolution is better than 1920x1080. The hard drive is solid state. There's an SD card slot. The screen is touch enabled. The keyboard is designed for people like me who type.

In a business context, I'd say this is the notebook computer that should be on every manager and executive wishlist for the coming upgrade cycle. As someone who uses a notebook for business, creative projects and travel, I'm going to be first in line to get an EliteBook 1020 when they become available starting in February 2015.

You can find out more on the EliteBook 1020 on HP.com.