HP Folio 9470m Video Review
HP Folio 9470m SPECIFICATION & review:
Full connectivity, almost 8 hours of battery runtime, perfect input feedback and a noble aluminum-magnesium chassis. A challenge for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the gathered premium ultrabooks?
For the original German review, see here.
What the compact car is to the car industry, the 14-inch class is to the mobile computer. For Lenovo the T-series devices were the ultimate business tools in this form factor (T430, T430s, T430u). The form factor seems so lucrative that Lenovo created a luxury version next to the work-horses with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
The immediate competitors are the Lenovo ThinkPad T430s, the T430u, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the Dell Latitude E6430s. These are high-priced 14-inch business devices with many ports, the claim to be a fully adequate work tool and excellent build quality. From the premium notebookswe also consider the Samsung Series 9 900X3C, the Apple MacBook Pro 13, the Dell XPS 13 (Late 2012)and the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A. These 13.3-inch devices have fewer ports but are the benchmark when it comes to high build quality. A certain show-off factor plays a role with the latter.
After the HP ultrabook Folio 9470m was presented months ago, it took a long time before the device was available in online shops. Windows 8 was not the problem because Windows 7 Professional is still preinstalled. A Windows 8 recovery disk comes with the device. The wait has paid off. What comes out of the simple box is, with 1640 grams, just average weight and with a measured height of 23 millimeters(with feet), not as thin as ultrabooks can be (usually 15 – 20 mm). Well-equipped thin business devices like the non ultrabook Dell Latitude E6430s (2080 g) are only rarely lighter. The X1 Carbon (1347 g) makes an exception, the ThinkPad T430u (1900 g) or the ThinkPad T430s (1790 g) are almost as heavy as conventional 14-inch devices. Only the noble 13.3-inch devices UX31A or XPS 13 (1400 g) are thinner and lighter, which comes with the form factor.
One thing is certain: HP has transferred the materials, the quality requirements and the stability of the grown up EliteBook siblings into the thin format, the concessions are acceptable. Because of that the weight is slightly higher compared to consumer ultrabooks. The base unit is not completely torsion-free as with an aluminum unibody. By grasping the right and left sides with both hands the base can be limitedly twisted. Nevertheless the chassis reaches a very good stability level when measured against the excellent maintenance capabilities.
The bottom consists of three panels. The first one is for the removal of the battery and can be detached after pressing a slider. The other two covers can be detached after loosening a few screws. HP took great care with their anchoring. The rubberized magnesium material (grip) on the bottom snaps into stable hooks. The mechanics are very simple at the same time and even careless users will have a hard time to break anything (e.g. break off the hooks).
Whether it is the keyboard, touchpad, palm rest or bottom cover, nothing is denting. The hinges (full metal but not massive) keep the lid very firm and allow opening to exactly 140 degrees. In the process the lid slides a bit underneath the bottom cover, but does not get too close to the ground.
The lid is not as torsion resistant as we are used to from the beefy EliteBooks. The aluminum surfaces can be dented; the construction can be bent limitedly at the corners. The inside of the lid has a circumferential rubber lip that lays flush with the base unit. That way the lid can be closed with some force. The Folio has no latches, a characteristic of the EliteBooks.
A small edge at the top of the lid helps so that the opening does not get too fiddly. Noticeable with the Folio 9470m is its almost complete slight rubber coating. This soft-touch surface enables a good grip and prevents fingerprints. The side areas are not rubberized. All in all, the manufacturer offers a sturdy and high-quality 14-inch device that will survive rough business life even without a protective cover.
The ultrabook has no optical drive and that improves the stability and port selection. HP still equips its 12-inch devices (EliteBook 2570p) with an optical drive, which leads to a considerably more bulky case. The 9740m lacks HDMI but comes with a business oriented DisplayPort. Older monitors and projectors can be connected via VGA. This is anything but granted with ultrabooks. The immediate business competition is most suited to stand up to the comparison: Lenovo ThinkPad T430s (only VGA, docking port, Thunderbolt), ThinkPad T430u (Mini-DisplayPort, HDMI), ThinkPad X1 Carbon (only Mini-DisplayPort), Dell Latitude E6430s (HDMI, VGA, eSATA, docking port, ExpressCard34), Latitude 6430u (VGA, HDMI).
The situation is completely different with consumer ultrabooks where the waiver is made into a virtue: Samsung Series 9 900X3C and 900X4C (Micro HDMI, Mini VGA), Apple MacBook Pro 13 (FireWire 800, Thunderbolt), Dell XPS 13 (Late 2012) (Mini-DisplayPort), Fujitsu LifeBook U772 (HDMI), Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (Micro-HDMI, Mini-VGA). Perception: even with business notebooks the good old docking port becomes rare, only the Latitude E6430s and the T430s have one.
Speaking of docking: the Ultra-Slim docking station is compatible with the Folio EliteBook and only with the Folio. Unlike the non ultrabooks (docking port at the bottom) the docking connector is on the right side. The docking station is available for 175 Euros (~$235) and multiplies the ports. However it brings no new types of ports.
The most expensive version of the Folio 9740m is equipped with an HSDPA modem. Our unit is only prepared with antennas and a SIM card slot. The extra charge for the 3G version is low at 50 Euros (~$67). Considering the high price of the device we would have expected the modem as a standard feature. But that is not the end: Bluetooth 3.0, Draft-N WLAN and Gigabit-Ethernet are obviously mandatory. The high quality Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 manages very good coverage: the transmission rate with a 3 meter distance is excellent (5 bars), upstairs (10 m, 5 bars) and outside the house still good (15 m, 3 bars) to sufficient (40 m, 1 bar). The transmitting power of the router (Fritz!Box 7270) is reduced to 50%.
A SmartCard reader can be used for the authenticated login. The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) enables the unique identification of the subnotebook in networks (also internet worldwide, for example the data encryption), the equipped Intel vPro-CPU allows remote maintenance. The security center consists of the protecting tools Administrator Console and Security Manager. Very detailed settings can be made with encryption, authentication or privacy.
Maintenance and Administration
Like with all EliteBooks the BIOS provides extremely extensive configuration options for single devices and the security features. For instance, the “Fan always on when AC” can be comfortably deactivated with mouse control. The extent of hardware manipulation (e.g. deactivation of Turbo Boost) is just not possible with consumer ultrabooks.
The standard warranty period is just 12 months. That seems poor for this price range. However, the concept of optional care packs for business customers is the reason for that. Depending on the needs and requirements to the reliability up to 5 years on-site service can be chosen for the highest available protection.
HP equips the 14-inch device with detached keys that rest in a 2 millimeter depression. In this way the keys and the surrounding end at the same height. The base of the keyboard is firm with the consequence of a strong and rigid stroke. The typing on this keyboard is not noiseless; there is a muffled clicking of medium sound intensity. The keys have no convex curvature and are completely flat as a result.
The large layout uses the space of the 14-inch chassis and integrates the Page up/down keys on the right outside. The left and right arrow keys have normal size with the up and down keys cut in half. This seems to be a convenient arrangement of the arrow keys. The enter key is a bit narrow, the Shift and Ctrl key in contrast have normal dimensions for notebooks.
Travel and pressure point are both equally distinct and give a good feedback during writing. However, the keys cannot reach the travel of a desktop keyboard. The keyboard has a three stage illumination that can also be turned off (Fn key). That way the brightness can be adjusted very accurately to one’s needs.
The Dual-Pointing concept consists of a touchpad and a pointing stick. This is mandatory for the business class of HP, Lenovo and Dell. From a technical standpoint we have four devices that can be adjusted separately, coordinated and deactivated (keys at the top, keys at the bottom, pointer and pad). That sounds complicated but it is very convenient. Users who do not like the pointer can just deactivate it. Same with the touchpad. This can even be rapidly deactivated with a double click to the sensor in the upper left corner (indicator-LED).
The LuxPad V1.3 by Synaptics supports multi-touch gestures like scrolling, zooming or wiping to browse. Classical one finger scrollbars can still be configured. The pad has a smooth surface that differentiates from the blunt work environment. The sharp-edged indentation and the large keys make sure you cannot miss it even in darkness. We like the very large travel and the mobility of all four mouse buttons. Thanks to the clear pressure point and the muffled, quiet stroke we get a pleasant feedback.
The competitors usually do not perform much worse with their input devices, but also not much better. We see differences especially with the pointers, the click pad mode and the convex curvature of the keys: Lenovo ThinkPad T430s (pointer, convex), ThinkPad T430u (pointer, convex, click pad), ThinkPad X1 Carbon (pointer, convex, click pad), Dell Latitude E6430s (pointer, convex), Latitude 6430u (pointer, convex). There are no pointers with consumer ultrabooks and the click pad has a distribution rate of 100%. Convex keys are rare, for example with the Dell XPS 13 (Late 2012).
The 14-inch HD screen of the EliteBook Folio has a resolution of 1366×768 pixels (16:9). This low resolution, for which HP does not offer an alternative, can be a serious drawback if large Excel files, website back ends or software with fixed dimensions (data capturing, storage, ERP tools, SAP, MS Dynamics…) collide with the limited height. The result is annoying scrolling up and down. 1600×900 pixels (T430s, X1 Carbon, Samsung 900X3C, 900X4B) would be a good compromise, Full HD (UX31A) might be ideal for some users, but not for all. The latter is not available with the immediate business competition.
What you can get is an anti-glare display panel. The Dell XPS 13 and the Apple MacBook Pro 13 are the exception with glare panels. The anti-glare avoids reflections but the contrast is low with 282:1. Despite the X1 Carbonall of the listed 14-inch professional devices suffer from a very low contrast. That results in pale colors and occasional weak contours. The often cheaper consumer devices partly offer significantly better panels (UX31A, Samsung 900X3C, 900X4B: IPS or PLS).
Distribution of brightness
Maximum: 217 cd/m² Average: 200.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Center on Battery: 168 cd/m²
Contrast: 282:1 (Black: 0.77 cd/m²)
Professional picture editors will already be disappointed with the HD panel but the sRGB color spectrum is far off and means the end to any ambitions. This does not necessarily apply to every device, as can be seen in picture three, which shows the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (HD+) in comparison with the Folio 9470m.
The three pictures at the bottom show the color analysis with the i1 Pro 2 photo spectrometer and CalMAN 5 software. We measured a noticeable weakness with the grayscale presentation in the manufacturer’s default color profile. Especially medium shades of gray show a DeltaE (2000) of over 15 (average 16.35). After the calibration the DeltaE is reduced to 5.78 (average, see picture 4). Noticeable: with 8817 K the white point is clearly shifted in the blue area (too cool, better: IPS panel Asus UX31A 5500K). The calibrationpushes back the blue cast (colors are getting visibly warmer) and sets the white point to 7427 K.
The brightness of the 14-inch screen with an average of 200 cd/m² is on the same level as its immediate competitors T430u and E6430s. The models T430s (251/280) and X1 Carbon (288/311) offer a better luminance, especially with battery use. Here, the screen only glows with 168 cd/m² (measure point: center). That is enough for carrying around in the office or on a plane. Under sunlight the situation changes. A perfect outdoor device should reach values between 250 and 300 cd/m². Unfortunately there is no way to override this forced setting. There is no ambient light sensor.
The low brightness has tradition at HP: the EliteBook 2170p (11.6-inch, 2012) glows with 160 cd/m², the 2560p (12.5-inch, 2011) was not better with 150 cd/m² (plugged in & battery). The 2570p (2012) continues the unfortunate tradition with 165 cd/m². The consequence for everyday use is illustrated on the following pictures: even on a cloudy day the brightness is not sufficient for a comfortable working experience on the desktop. Views from the side result in darkness.
Regarding the viewing angles the Folio 9470m with its TN panel is as bad as the 11.6-inch screen of the 2170p. Both have the same narrow vertical and horizontal viewing angles like most of the competitors. Horizontally it still looks good until ghost images start to show up at 45 degrees. Up to 65 degrees the visibility of pictures and graphics is still quite okay.
Almost all competitors of the business class are identically bad in this section. The exception is the X1 Carbon with an upper quality TN panel. It allows better horizontal and vertical viewing angles in the review. The viewing angle stability of IPS (UX31A) or PLS displays (Samsung Series 9 900X3C and 900X4C) cannot be reached by any of the compared devices. An IPS option would be the older and not listed ThinkPad X230 (very bright, 12.5-inch). It is still available for sale.
The Intel Core i5-3427U (1.80 GHz) complements the often used i5-3317U (1.7 GHz, turbo up to 2.6 GHz) with higher clocks. Both are Low-Voltage processors (17 watts TPD) for subnotebooks. With turbo boost the 3427U can raise its clock up to 2.8 GHz (single thread if cooling is sufficient). The CPU including the HD Graphics 4000 (single channel) is complemented with 4 GB memory. In case you wish to upgrade you can easily add a second 4 or 8 GB module (16 GB possible). That would also accelerate the GPU thanks to the dual channel mode (more information in the Graphics section)
A 180 GB SSD works as mass storage in the 9470m (Intel SSD 520 Series SSDSC2BW180A3L, 2.5-inch SATA). This is the highest available expansion by the manufacturer (US: 256 GB). There is an empty mSATA port that can be used for storage expansion. In the BIOS this port can be activated or deactivated so we assume its functionality. The “cheaper” 9470m version (around 1370 Euros, ~$1844) only has a 500 GB hard drive.