HP Elite Folio First Impressions: HP returns to Windows on ARM

HP Elite Folio First Impressions: HP returns to Windows on ARM

It’s been a while since HP released a Windows on ARM PC. It was one of the first companies to do so with the Envy x2, but it wasn’t on board with the next two generations. Now HP is back with the Elite Folio; yes, this time it’s a business PC. In fact, the HP Elite Folio is a premium business PC, meaning that it’s aiming to be one of HP’s best laptops. And now, our review unit has arrived.

The fact that it runs Windows on ARM isn’t all that’s interesting about the HP Elite Folio. It’s also made out of leather. Well, vegan leather. You might recall HP’s Spectre Folio from a few years ago, the company’s first attempt at a leather laptop.

Brown Spectre Folio and black Elite Folio

Note that Spectre is a consumer brand and Elite is a business brand. That’s probably why HP went with the more subtle black than the brown that it uses on the Spectre Folio. That’s not the only design change that was made on the HP Elite Folio though.

Elite Folio and Spectre Folio in laptop mode next to each other

As you can see, quite a bit is different. While the Spectre Folio was entirely leather-clad, the inside of the Elite Folio is metal. You can also see that the Elite Folio has a bigger screen. Indeed, it’s moved from 16:9 to 3:2, the same aspect ratio as a Microsoft Surface.

The taller screen, which fits into a similarly sized chassis, is better when you might be using the device in tablet mode. It doesn’t look as stretched out if you use it in portrait orientation.

Close-up of HP Elite Folio pen garage

There’s also a brand-new method of pen storage. The pen sits in a garage that’s built into the keyboard. It has three pins, so it’s just charged all the time.

Also hidden on the right side of the pen garage is a nano-SIM slot. HP sent me the 4G model of the Elite Folio, although it comes in a 5G variant with a Snapdragon X55 modem as well. Strangely, there’s also a Wi-Fi-only variant, a rarity for Windows 10 on ARM.

Side view of Elite Folio showing USB port and headphone jack

While it’s cool that it’s made of leather and I’m excited to test out the new Snapdragon 8cx chipset, the form factor is a key part of the HP Elite Folio. As you can see from the image above, you can easily prop up the display. This could make it good for watching movies or just drawing with the screen at an angle.

Angled view of the Elite Folio in tablet mode with pen on top

That display can be folded all the way down so it can be used as a tablet. It’s a bit thicker than the Spectre Folio was at 0.63 inches instead of 0.6, but it’s lighter at 2.92 pounds instead of 3.24.

Side view of Elite Folio showing USB port

One other thing I want to note about the design is that HP put USB Type-C ports on both sides. This is a rarity in Windows 10 laptops, but I’m hoping it becomes more common. It just makes life a bit easier if you can charge from either side. If not, cables are bound to get in the way and it becomes a pain point. Having charging ports on both sides of the product is actually standard on Chromebooks, though.

Both of the HP Elite Folio’s USB ports are USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, which means that they get 5Gbps data transfer speeds. I wasn’t expecting Thunderbolt as we had in the Spectre Folio. After all, Thunderbolt is usually reserved for Intel-powered PCs. Still, the 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 would have been nice.

Close-up of the leather back on the Elite Folio

As mentioned above, the HP Elite Folio has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 under the hood. Sadly, the Gen 2 part of the name isn’t what it seems. It’s really little more than a regular old Snapdragon 8cx that’s been tweaked a bit. If you’re expecting an Apple M1 competitor from Qualcomm, you’ll have to wait for that.

Geekbench is one of the few benchmarking solutions that runs natively on Windows on ARM. Below, you can see scores from this product, as well as from previous ARM-powered PCs.

HP Elite Folio
Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2
Microsoft Surface Pro X
SQ2
Microsoft Surface Pro X
SQ1
Samsung Galaxy Book S
Snapdragon 8cx
Huawei MateBook E
Snapdragon 850
Lenovo Miix 630
Snapdragon 835
Single-core801794766726494378
Multi-core3,1503,0362,9462,9092,0451,553

I’m actually a bit surprised to see that the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 beat out the Microsoft SQ2. Microsoft’s ARM chips that go in the Surface Pro X, one of our favorite 4G LTE laptops, are also tweaked versions of the Snapdragon 8cx. The CPU and GPU are overclocked a bit just like in the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2.

HP Elite Folio with adjusted display

Naturally, app compatibility is going to be an issue. I went to install my Adobe CC apps on this and could only install Photoshop and Lightroom. The choice of native Creative Cloud apps on Windows on ARM is sad when compared to what’s available for Apple Silicon products.

Currently, Windows on ARM only supports native 32- and 64-bit ARM apps, as well as emulated x86 apps. x64 app support is coming soon, but it’s still in preview, so I won’t be testing it as part of this review.

Top-down view of the HP Elite Folio keyboard

The HP Elite Folio so far feels like an all-around great PC. It has the stellar keyboard that I’ve fallen in love with throughout my usage of various EliteBooks. And as you can see, HP is continuing its partnership with Bang & Olufsen for the audio.

However, it doesn’t have a lot of the features that HP’s EliteBooks are known for, such as Sure Click. The Elite Folio does have Sure View, HP’s privacy display, although it’s not on the model that the company sent me. Sure View prevents people from seeing your screen if they look over your shoulder. It does have HP QuickDrop, which lets you send files between your phone and your PC.

The HP Elite Folio starts at $1,786.88 from HP.com.

    HP Elite Folio
    The HP Elite Folio has a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, a 13.5-inch 3:2 screen, and a vegan leather build

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.