HP Elite Folio First Impressions

Posted on May 5, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 44 Comments

Announced at CES 2021, the HP Elite Folio is a spiritual successor to the HP Spectre Folio that I reviewed in late 2018, but running Windows 10 on ARM.

If you go back and look at my write-up of that earlier offering, you’ll see that the Spectre Folio featured a hybrid leather and metal body, a versatile and unique “pull-forward” form factor, and, perhaps most controversially, a Y-series Intel Core processor that, frankly, was quite adequate for typical productivity work.

So what’s changed this time around?

Well, aside from the new product family—the Elite family of products is aimed at business users, where Spectre is for prosumers—there are several substantive changes.

First, the Elite Folio is now powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G compute platform instead of an Intel chipset, and thus runs Windows 10 on ARM (WOA). If you’ve been following the WOA saga, you know that Qualcomm released the 8cx Gen 2 in September 2020 as a very minor upgrade to the first-generation 8cx and that doesn’t really advance the state of the art from a performance perspective. And that the firm didn’t announce the expected major new chipset in December 2020 as has usually been the case with previous generations.

Microsoft is working to add Intel x64 emulation to WOA, but that work isn’t ready yet, and so it puts potential Elite Folio buyers in somewhat of a compatibility bind from a timing perspective. But that update is at least coming, and those who wish to take advantage of it now can, of course, do so via the Windows Insider Program.

The Elite Folio also features a new faux “vegan” leather exterior material, which is smoother than its predecessor, and perhaps more responsible and sustainable. It’s still quite attractive, and I like the black color, the accent stitching, and the feel.

HP has also made one of my most requested changes from the Spectre Folio, which featured a pedestrian 16:9 display. This time around, we get a nice 13.5-inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio, optional HP Sure View Reflect privacy, and somewhat smaller bezels. (As I wrote in 2018, “but seriously, HP. 3:2. It would be a particularly good match for this PC.”) Very nice.

And where the Spectre Folio had a more traditional smartpen, which connected to the PC via a leather loop, the Elite Folio has an always-ready HP Elite Slim Active Pen with an integrated charging and storage cradle right at the top of the keyboard. (This is similar to how the Surface Pro X Type Cover works.)

There are other changes, of course, including more modern Wi-Fi 6 and optional 5G connectivity. But HP has kept the basic form factor from the Spectre Folio, which I really like. In fact, I almost prefer it to other convertible form factors, though the way the bottom of the display detaches so you can move it forward is awkward at first. You get used to it.

We have lost a little bit in the move away from Intel: Where the Spectre Folio had three USB-C ports, two of which had Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, the Elite Folio has just two and neither offers Thunderbolt 3 (or 4). At least HP was kind enough to put one on each side (as opposed to both on one side).

But there are also advantages to the move to WOA: Killer battery life—a claimed 24.5 hours in video playback— a silent, fanless design, and a complete lack of crapware because, let’s face it, no one is writing ARM native or universal apps anyway. But whatever. A clean Start menu is a clean Start menu.

I haven’t been briefed yet on this machine, but that will happen by the end of the week. More soon.

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Comments (44)

44 responses to “HP Elite Folio First Impressions”

  1. jaredthegeek

    Microsoft and Qualcomm need to get real serious about WOA real fast. Apple is eating their lunch at an embarrassing rate. I know there is a distinct advantage when you control the hardware and software but MS has been at this for nearly a decade and has been an abject failure. Emulation on the M1 is amazing and its able to emulate WOA better than WOA runs on Qualcomm. Even Wine works now with a high number of programs.

    • djross95

      Amen to that! My dream laptop is Windows 10X running on an ARM processor with the ability to run "full Windows" in a VM or from the cloud as needed (I'm retired and could probably survive on a Chromebook, but Google lol). One can always dream!

      • hrlngrv

        Serious question: being retired, what use would you still have for Office for which Office web apps were insufficient? Or full Visual Studio? Beyond that, there isn't much software which doesn't come in a macOS version, and from what I've heard/read, the macOS versions of Adobe software are at least equal to if not superior to the Windows versions. What umpteen year old Win32 software are you still using?

        In my own case (not yet retired), outside work, I participate in Excel user-to-user support forums, so I like to have the latest Office version as well as Office 2000 to work out some things. I don't use any Adobe software (I prefer Foxit Reader and Okular for reading PDFs and filling out PDF forms) or MSFT development tools. Everything else I use runs acceptably under wine under Linux, so perhaps also under wine under macOS.

        • djross95

          Oh, I don't NEED the latest greatest full versions of Office, and your points about Macs are totally true. To be honest, the new M1 Mac is probably the best "retirement laptop" for most people unless you're heavily invested in Windows or gaming (which many people are, I realize). I just don't like Apple the company very much, despite working for them in their stores for a couple of years, lol. I'll probably get over that at some point! :-)

    • drwindows

      Is Apple doing a much better job on ARM then Microsoft and his Partners do? Of course, yes.

      Is this a real problem for Windows? No.

      Apple decided to go all in on ARM so they have to deliver the best imaginable performance - which they clearly do.

      For Windows, ARM is just an option. It no doubt has to get better, the decision for or against a Windows on ARM device should not be a question of compatibility. But they don't have to race Apple as long as there are other CPUs for Windows machines who are powerful enough.

      • matsan

        the corollary is that developers once again have a platform from Microsoft they will ignore and leave it withering away.

        • hrlngrv


          There's lots of ongoing development of Windows-only desktop software these days? There's a lot of active development in hundreds of FOSS projects, nearly all of which run under Windows, macOS and Linux. How much desktop software these days is written for Windows exclusively, possibly excepting vertical market software which would sell in no more than tens of thousands of licenses for high US$ 4-figures to 5-figures?

          It's an interesting question why MSFT can't get WOA working with 64-bit Win32 software while Apple seems to have far fewer problems getting macOS software built for Intel processors working on M1 Macs via emulation. What does Apple seem to know about emulators which MSFT's developer are apparently too thick to match?

          • Paul Thurrott

            To be fair, Microsoft has figured out x64 emulation. It's just not ready for the public yet, but anyone can get it via the Insider Program. And Apple's approach is different, it's using translation, not emulation. As important, Apple is moving to ARM across the board, so the amount of resources it puts into this will dwarf what's happening with WOA, which is just a side-project and yet another version of Windows.
            • matsan

              And I guess if Microsoft would have started cleaning up their API and framework mess a decade ago, the task would have been much simpler.

            • hrlngrv

              OK, emulation vs translation.

              Has Apple had more years (or should that be developer-years) working on translation than MSFT has had working on emulation?

              To the extent Apple appears way ahead of MSFT on ARM/M1, if MSFT's apparent lag is due to providing support for OLD software, then MSFT deserves some credit for coddling Windows users who want to keep running various bits of abandonware. If it were possible to build 32-bit and 64-bit Win32 analogs to DOSBox, that may be the better way to handle backwards compatibility.

              • Paul Thurrott

                There's no way to know. Different companies, different ways to solve the same problem. One way seems to be working very well, the other way is OK.
          • matsan

            Apple did the 68k -> PowerPC -> Intel -> M1 journey and must have gained so much experience from that. They have also proactively deprecated and removed old APIs (Macintosh Toolbox -> Carbon -> Cocoa or QuickTime -> AVFoundation etc). They don't have the heavy backpack of old stuff that Microsoft has. I guess that's something they now can enjoy when transitioning to Apple Silicon.

            • davehelps

              Plus, when you have a userbase who will accept that being left-handed is a user issue, not a design flaw, telling them their 20 year-old software is no longer compatible is a doddle ?

            • hrlngrv

              MSFT maintained NT4 for DEC Alpha and MIPS RISC a few decades ago. Are any of the Alpha or MIPS Windows developers still at MSFT? OTOH, these were in parallel with NT4 for Intel processors, so maybe no experience transitioning from one architecture to another.

              Whatever, I just can muster any deep concern for MSFT is Windows winds up by 2030 in the same place it is today: main OS only for Intel/AMD-based desktop and laptop PCs, an also-ran on ARM desktop and laptop PCs, and at most a curiosity on other types of computing devices. I figure MSFT believed that if Windows ceased running most Win32 abandonware, all they'd do is prod a substantial number of users to try running that abandonware under wine under Linux along with a modern native Linux browser.

  2. darkgrayknight

    So what is with HP's website saying you can have Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Home on the Elite Folio? Is Windows on ARM available in Pro or Home versions?

  3. darlingtonpear

    MJF would like this laptop.

    Has anyone made a website/catalogue of all native windows ARM apps?

    • paradyne

      Office 365, Teams, Edge (so that's 95% of many people's work day)

      Photoshop, Lightroom (95% of YouTube reviewers idea of what devices are exclusively used for)

      A full list would be handy.

      • hrlngrv

        I figure the issue is the hundred(s of) million(s of) PC users who still want to use that one abandonware program they've been using for years or decades which they're not willing to give up. That software will never be rebuilt for ARM, so lingers around as an important drag on WOA.

  4. chrisltd

    While compatibility is still an open question, I wish Qualcomm would discount their chips so these laptops could cost less than their Intel and AMD counterparts. As it stands, unless I absolutely need 5G or multiday battery life, which I don't, I'm not opting for a WOA device.

  5. thejoefin

    The app lack on ARM Windows is a problem, but part of the solution might be great ARM PCs like this one. I can say as an indie Windows developer that trying to write apps which compete against 40 years of legacy Windows applications is difficult.

    When people get a new Windows device and begin looking for software there is such a wide range of free options outside the Microsoft Store that paying for an app in the store is not compelling.

    I know this is the same argument used for Windows RT and the Surface RT, but I think the difference is that device was not a "Great ARM PC" instead it was an albatross. As Paul has said many times there is a race between Intel PCs getting thin and light and ARM PCs getting powerful. It will be interesting to read how this device holds up to daily use.

  6. 02nz

    "This time around, we get a nice 13.5-inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio ..." You might want to review your fractions ... :-)

    • hrlngrv


      3 / 2 = 1.5

      1920 / 1280 = 1.5

      Someone does indeed need to review their fractions.

  7. spiderman2

    "no one is writing ARM native or universal apps anyway"

    That's totally not true, your personal war against uwp is getting ridiculous

    • Paul Thurrott


      I'm just stating a fact here. It's not "literally" true. But it is true.

      • bluvg

        Even Microsoft isn't really writing them. ?

        • hrlngrv

          Would you expect any more effort at software for ARM than UWP software from MSFT?

          MSFT knows an unremunerative dead-end when it sees one. It just hopes independent developers have less of a clue.

          • bluvg

            In general, Microsoft has had a rather tepid offering for UWP/Store apps of their own since the launch of the Store. (And then they blame the Store as the problem.)

            • hrlngrv

              Almost seems like even MSFT understands PC users simply aren't going to use UWP apps.

              In my own case, I tried to use the Store version of VLC, but I ditched it in favor of the traditionally installed Windows version. I still have the Netflix Store app, but it offers me nothing the web site in a browser doesn't. The only Store apps I use with any frequency are the Weather app's live tile and Okular, which is my primary document viewer on Linux, and the only Windows version is in the Store.

              From my perspective, I don't understand why MSFT doesn't put as much FOSS into the Store as possible. To some extent that'd screw 3rd party developers, but they should be used to such treatment from MSFT by now (they can comfort themselves that MSFT treats hardware OEMs far worse).

              • bluvg

                If they had invested in it heavily with their own software, it may have turned out differently. Not to compare everything to Apple, but when they make a decision like that, the whole company follows, and their devs likewise. Microsoft seems to just throw stuff at the wall, then waits themselves to see if anything gets traction before they invest any of their own efforts in it. Who would bother if they themselves won't back it? What happened to eating your own dogfood?

                • hrlngrv

                  That's likely to be the true spawn of Windows 8: no 3rd party developer will go down any development path MSFT recommends until MSFT itself makes a substantial foray down that path. OTOH, the Longhorn fiasco seems to have embedded a certain non-Gatesian timidity into MSFT's corporate culture: make NO big commitments.

                  I figure nothing hollered as loudly about the limitations of UWP as MSFT rewriting . . . Calculator . . . as a UWP app and nothing else. OK, the unused/unusable Paint 3D was also UWP, but could multiple simultaneous instances run as the traditional Paint could? Nope. Was there ever a UWP Notepad, which should have been the simplest thing to convert to UWP? UWP Charmap? UWP versions of any of the accessibility applets? Nope, nope, nope.

                  MSFT saw no urgency whatsoever to use UWP for anything even tangential. Sadly for MSFT, 3rd party developers turned out to be less stupid and/or gullible than MSFT may have hoped, and they saw MSFT shunning UWP, and they followed suit.

                  There were UWP Office mobile apps. I tried out the UWP Excel mobile app, but it was weaker than the Excel web app. Thus, why bother?

      • IanYates82

        Paul's right. The "apps" written for Windows are within the Enterprise for the most part these days. There aren't too many things coming from public-facing companies that don't funnel you through a web page or a mobile app.

        And the Enterprise development... It's not in UWP for the vast majority of enterprises. The deployment story isn't as straightforward and has shifted over time. It's web-based apps, which hopefully don't rely on specific browsers as much anymore, or it's desktop apps written in .NET using WinForms or WPF. Sad but true - and they *work* and there are devs with years of experience using them to do "forms over data" with a few bells & whistles.

        I'm an ISV and write software for private hospitals in Australia. We had a desktop app (Dephi v7!) and have almost completely replaced it over the past few years with a web-based app instead. Same database backend, same server (for now), but users much prefer the web app and our deployment headaches (we had MSI-based deployment, through group-policy if the IT team were capable) have mostly gone, especially now that we can pretty much rely on a modern browser being available. And we get ipad/android tablet support with some design attention but otherwise zero effort.

        I looked at Windows store development when Windows 8 was released. That platform got zero traction for us, so it was a non-starter. And then by the time maybe Microsoft could've made the Windows 10 UWP model work for us, we'd already moved to using a web app, and I wouldn't look back unfortunately.

        • spiderman2

          Oh enjoy high resources usage for a web app, I prefer to use a UWP with same features as much as possible, for example postman uses 500mb of ram, nighintgale 50mb

          • Paul Thurrott

            High resources? What a weird concern. My computer has 16 GB of RAM. Let's use it all.
            • spiderman2

              Let's make an example with lower amount of ram, for the sake of simplicity and because not everyone has 16 gb of ram, let's say you have 4gb of ram:

              • windows 1gb
              • postman 500mb
              • slack/teams 500mb
              • 2 more web apps 1gb

              you have only 1gb to run something that require more resources, or with more resources runs better/faster, eg: visual studio, photoshop, adobe premier... enjoy!

              meanwhile these apps on my PC can easily use 2gb of Ram

              • Paul Thurrott

                I mean, let's say you have 1 GB of RAM! But you don't. So let's not worry about that.
                • spiderman2

                  and than it's for people like you that doesn't care, will have small apps on PC that will use more and more RAM ... we'll end up with Slack using 5gb of RAM, oh wait that already happens

                • spiderman2

                  Its' like to say my new car consume 1litre of gasoline every 10km, my previous car consumed 1litre of gasoline every 20km, but I don't care because my new care has a tank 2 times bigger than previous car :D

            • bluvg

              Ugh. I'd agree for something like a SQL server, but it's not great when you have single, simple program that seem to hold this philosophy and gobble RAM like it's limitless and the only program you'll ever run. It should be proportionate to the performance benefit of the additional RAM use for the particular program.

            • timewash902

              Listen to that salt

  8. solomonrex

    Can we get an update on the ARM x64 compatibility? Another mini-review perhaps?