As we prepared for this trip it was apparent that my existing laptop, a sturdy three year old workhorse, was going to be too large and too bulky for this trip. Having a laptop is absolutely essential for us as I have to work part of the time while we are traveling and we need the ability to store and upload pictures and videos and to write our blog posts. The laptop is going to be heavily used on this trip, as it always is when we travel.
So at the last minute we made the decision to get a new laptop, one of the “ultrabooks” – that family of very small but fully functional laptops that are beginning to become popular. We own a few netbooks but they are too small and lack too much functionality for how we need to be able to work. So the more expensive ultrabook option is the best one for us.
I have been looking at the HP Folio 13, widely regarded as one of the best small laptops on the market today, for a few months but knew that if I was going to get one that it would have to be just before we leave on our trip. And at the last minute, it worked out.
We are both really excited. The old laptop was much larger and a little heavier than this laptop and fitting it into the luggage was going to be hard. We have no space to spare and every ounce matters. This laptop is more rigid too so it will stand up to the travels better.
There are several factors, other than the materials and form factor, that lead me to the HP Folio 13. It is a full power Intel i5 dual core processor for desktop-like performance. It has 4GB of ram so that I can easily run all of my applications without any problems. The screen is 13.3″ which is way smaller than I would like but when you want a 13″ ultrabook there is no way to get a screen bigger than that in there. The screen is sharp and brilliant, though, so very easy to use even though it is small.
There are two really stand out features for the. First there is the 128GB solid state hard drive which means longer battery life, less heat and faster performance along with far better protection from getting knocked around during our travels. Solid state drives can take a lot of physical abuse without losing data. Nothing like a traditional hard drive. Second the keyboard is backlit. That seems trivial but when traveling with kids and needing to be able to work from a dark hotel room or a dark train or even on the plane without turning on extra lights, the backlit keyboard will be a life saver.
The battery life on the Folio 13 is excellent too. I have not had time to run it through its paces to really test it heavily but I am seeing battery life in the four to six hour range already. The led lighting on the screen and keyboard help to keep the heat and power down.
The entire bottom of the Folio 13 is a sleek rubber which is nice to hold and easy to keep on your lap or other surface. Perfect for traveling. If we need the laptop has USB, Ethernet and HDMI connectors. Very flexible. It is unlikely that we will need to use those but we are prepared just in case. When traveling it is good to have some sort of support for Ethernet because, while rare, some hotels offer Ethernet only and not WiFi. That is a major problem for iPad users.
The laptop also has an SD card reader which is critical since one of its primary purposes will be to upload our pictures and videos “as they happen” while we are in Europe.
Now that I have been using the laptop for several days one unforeseen advantage of it has come to light. The boot up time is seconds. From power on to usable is maybe as little as five seconds. I’ve never had a computer able to do that since the days of the Commodore 64! That means less battery wasted on reboots and more time able to be spent on the vacation rather than on waiting for the laptop to turn on and turn off. My old laptop easily takes a minute or two and my desktop even more.
So far we feel that the Folio 13 was an excellent traveler’s choice. We will be field testing it, to be sure, but already we are very much relieved that we have a rock solid and very portable computing choice for our travels.