HP Elite Folio review: Extreme mobility for a price

A super-bright screen and all-day battery life make this a laptop you can use even in broad daylight.

HP Elite Folio
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • 15+ hours of battery life
  • Bight display

Cons

  • Arm-based Snapdragon CPU still struggles with performance and compatibility
  • Shallow-travel keyboard

Bottom Line

The HP Elite Folio is lightweight and stylish with all-day battery life. Its performance still can't compete with that of modern AMD and Ryzen or Intel Core processors and software compatibility issues persist. These shortcomings may still be hard to swallow considering the Elite Folio's premium price tag.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 2,645.00 (AUD)

HP Elite Folio performance

By now, you should be familiar with the pros and cons of Arm and Snapdragon-powered laptops. The Elite Folio supports applications written for 32-bit and 64-bit Arm processors. These include the native Edge browser, the traditional Office (Microsoft 365) applications, and others. Most games are not included. Currently, the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G will emulate, or translate, 32-bit apps written for the X86 instructions set used by Intel Core and AMD Ryzen processors.

Most standalone apps, however, are written for 64-bit X86 processors, the PC standard for two decades. That means that you may be unable to use utilities, or a VPN, or some other app that you once took for granted, on the Elite Folio. Even with x64 compatibility supposedly turned on, we couldn’t complete all of our traditional benchmarks, specifically the older Cinebench test.

You can minimize the 64-bit issue by joining the Windows Insider program and selecting the most advanced Dev Channel. This is currently the only way of allowing an Arm PC to run 64-bit x86 apps, and Windows 11 comes with it. At the time of this review, Microsoft would not comment on x64 app compatibility for either Windows 10 and Windows 11. In some cases, you may be able to find a web-based service to replicate the standalone app.  

On the vast majority of “ordinary” tasks you’d perform on the Elite Folio—Office and web browsing, and streaming media—the available native Arm-powered apps work fine. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu all have Windows that run natively on Arm. The exception is Disney+, which is encoded only for 64-bit X86 processors. To play Disney+ movies on the Elite Folio, you’ll need to use your browser.

While the benchmarks below make the Elite Folio seem slow, it’s important to note that web browsing and Office feel just as snappy as they would on a more powerful X86 machine. Browser performance is governed by the CPU and system memory—of which the Elite Folio has plenty. Just be sure to download a 32-bit version of whichever browser you choose. I was able to run our typical 4K video at 60Hz without a hitch (6 frames dropped out of 10,000 is excellent), even with a second video playing on another display.

In the performance graphs below, we’ve included results from our earlier tests of the HP Elite Folio, which tested apps we could run with the native Arm version of Windows 10. After running those tests, we upgraded it to Windows 11 via the Windows Insider Dev Channel to better understand its future potential—and run a few more benchmarks. 

Microsoft continues to work on emulating x64 instructions, including in the upcoming Windows 11. Performance may improve, though the gap between the Snapdragon and X86 processors is still sizeable.

The older PCMark 8’s Creative test covers word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and light gaming, plus photo and video editing. We include it to compare with older generations of machine. Unfortunately, this first test sets the scene: The Elite Folio and its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 improve over earlier Snapdragon laptops, but not enough to compete with rival Core-based laptops or tablets.

HP Elite Folio pcmark 8 creative Mark Hachman / IDG

HP’s Elite Folio and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G processor inside of it (red bar) is moderately more powerful than its predecessor CPU in the Samsung Galaxy Book S (orange bar).

A subset of the PCMark 10 benchmark, PCMark 10 Applications, measures how well the notebook handles real-world Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the Edge browser. PCMark 10 measures how quickly apps open, as well as spreadsheet processing. Again, the HP Elite Folio and its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 processor is competent, though not competitive.

HP Elite Folio pcmark 10 apps Mark Hachman / IDG

This is a heartening number if you’re considering buying an HP Elite Folio. For day-to-day work within Office, the Folio performs decently. But Microsoft’s low-end Surface Go 2 tablet still outperforms it.

We’ve traditionally included some web apps in the mix, as they’re naturally cross-platform tasks indicative of how work is done today. Here, you can see how the Snapdragon 8cx has caught up to Intel’s Y-level mobile Core processors, which puts it in a strong midrange position.

HP Elite Folio webxprt 3Mark Hachman / IDG

WebXPRT 3 measures the performance of the processor performing web-based tasks. Many notebooks run comparably.

As we noted briefly above, updating the Elite Folio to Windows 11 presented some compatibility hiccups. We had to forgo the older Cinebench R15 CPU test for the current R20 release. Compared to Microsoft’s Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7+ tablets, plus a few others, the Elite Folio is eating dust.

cinebench r20 HP Elite Folip Mark Hachman / IDG

In CPU horsepower, Qualcomm’s processor comes up lacking.

We tested the Elite Folio using an older version of HandBrake, an open-source video transcoding tool. The results were horrendous: three hours to transcode a Hollywood movie into another format? Modern laptops based upon Intel’s Core and Ryzen processors handle this task in well under an hour. The most recent version of the app wouldn’t run on the Elite Folio.

HP Elite Folio handbrake Mark Hachman / IDG

Arm processors simply can’t keep up with their X86 counterparts in this transcoding test.

Finally, we typically look at the integrated graphics capabilities of the laptops we test. Intel’s Core (and its Xe integrated GPU) and the Radeon cores found inside the latest Ryzen mobile chips don’t need to appear here—this comparison against older laptops still shows the Snapdragon lagging well behind in 2021. UL’s 3DMark “Night Raid” test was specifically designed for cross-platform comparisons, as it runs both on Arm as well as X86 chips.

HP Elite Folio 3dmark night raid Mark Hachman / IDG

Qualcomm’s Adreno GPUs have always performed rather well in our graphics tests.

Readers who are familiar with Arm processors know that their saving grace is typically all-day battery life. Here, HP’s Elite Folio succeeds. You could build a longer-lasting laptop with a chunky battery that adds thickness and weight, but a thin 2-in-1 that lasts 15.5 hours is a notable accomplishment and a terrific selling point. 

HP Elite Folio battery life Mark Hachman / IDG

Should you buy the HP Elite Folio?

The HP Elite Folio’s remaining sticking point is its price. Say what you will about Microsoft’s Surface Pro X—it uses a slightly slower chip, and the battery life wasn’t nearly what we hoped for. But, depending upon the configuration, it costs half as much as the HP Elite Folio. Even a 14-inch laptop like the US$1,400 LG Gram is cheaper, lighter, and faster, though battery life suffers a bit. Our current champion of the thin-and-light category is the HP Spectre x360 14 1Q881AV, a US$1,200-$1,400 alternative that folds back into tablet mode for inking. 

You’ll need to think long and hard about what you’ll use the Elite Folio for. Is it the distinctive design? The weight and thinness? All-day battery life and connectivity? If the latter factors are your priority, the superb Dell Latitude 9510 offers both 4G/5G options and true 24-hour battery life for US$1,599 at press time, though it also weighs a pound more. Our current pick for the best Windows tablet, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+, may be priced extravagantly as well—about US$1,650 at press time—but it’s vastly faster than the Elite Folio. 

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