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HP Elite Folio vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

HP was one of the first companies to implement the pull-forward convertible 2-in-1 laptop design, first with the HP Spectre Folio and then with the more business-oriented Windows on ARM-based 13.5-inch HP Elite Folio. The design splits the rear of the display down the middle, allowing it to pull forward into a media mode and then further into a tablet. Other manufacturers followed suit, including Microsoft with the 14.4-inch Surface Laptop Studio that made it to our best 2-in-1s list.

HP’s version of the format is aimed at productivity and efficiency, while Microsoft put some higher-end components in its version. Which is the right machine for you?

Specs

  Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio HP Elite Folio
Dimensions 12.72 inches by 8.98 inches by 0.746 inches 11.75 inches by 9.03 inches by 0.63 inches
Weight 4.0 pounds 2.92 pounds
Processor Intel Core i5-11300H
Intel Core i7-11370H
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2
Graphics Intel Iris Xe
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
Adreno 690 Graphics
RAM 16GB
32GB
8GB
16GB
Display 14.4-inch 3:2 IPS 2,400 x 1,600 13.5-inch 3:2 WUXGA+ (1,920 x 1,280) Brightview
13.5-inch 3:2 WUXGA+ (1,920 x 1,280) SureView Reflect
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
2TB PCIe SSD
128GB PCIe SSD
256GB PCIe SSD
512GB PCIe SSD
Touch Yes Yes
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x Surface Connect
3.5mm audio jack
2 x USB-C 3.1
3.5mm audio jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1
LTE 4 WWAN (optional)
5G WWAN (optional)
Webcam 720p 720p
Operating system Windows 11 Windows on Arm 10
Battery 58 watt-hour 46 watt-hour
Price $1,599+ $1,965+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Design

The HP Elite Folio sits on a  desk in folded orientation.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The HP Elite Folio is a standout laptop thanks to its “vegan leather” (polyurethane) covering, which gives the chassis a warm and inviting feel. It’s not quite as lovely as the genuine leather on the Spectre Folio, but it’s still an amazingly comfortable 2-in-1 to carry around. The internal frame is constructed of magnesium, giving the Elite Folio a feeling of durability. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is a study in opposites, built entirely of magnesium and aluminum, thus presenting a much colder but equally durable feel. Both laptops are incredibly well constructed and represent two of the best builds on laptops today.

They both function almost identically. As outlined in the introduction, the back of the displays both split down the middle and thus allow the screen to pull forward to cover the keyboard. Both stop just above the touchpad, letting you access that and the touch display when operating the 2-in-1s in media mode (called “stage mode” by Microsoft). Pull the display out further, and they both lay flat in a sort of tablet mode that great for handwriting and sketching. It’s a different design from other 2-in-1s, but it works well if you’re OK with just the three modes. I’ll also note that both work well as clamshell laptops.

Aesthetically, the Elite Folio is a more elegant design thanks to the vegan leather, with a look that’s mimicked only by the Spectre Folio. The Elite Folio looks more like a leather-bound notebook than a laptop, with an all-black color scheme that complements the covering. The Surface Laptop Studio is again a very different design, in the usual Surface “Platinum” silver color scheme and with mostly simple lines making for a minimalist appearance. Only the row of vents along the bottom of the chassis set it apart, giving off a very modern vibe. Both are attractive laptops, and it all comes down to whether you want warm and elegant or cold and contemporary.

Both 2-in-1s enjoy excellent keyboards. Thanks to its smaller chassis, the Elite Folio’s is a little shallower and has smaller keycaps and less key spacing. The switches are light and provide a comfortable, precise bottoming action. The Surface Laptop Studio keyboard is deeper and benefits from its larger keycaps and greater key spacing for a more comfortable typing experience. Its switches are snappy and precise as well, making both 2-in-1s great for touch typists.

The touchpads couldn’t be more different, however. The Elite Folio has a standard mechanical touchpad that’s much smaller than the Surface Laptop Studio’s. And Microsoft implemented a haptic touchpad in its 2-in-1 that works remarkably well. You can tune its click to feel precisely as strong as you like, and it’s more precise. This is a real area of strength for the Surface Laptop Studio.

Both displays are touch-enabled, and they both support pens for inking. The Elite Folio’s is a rather pedestrian version compared to the Surface Laptop Studio, which uses Microsoft’s Surface Slim 2 Pen that has built-in haptics that work with the display to provide a more realistic pencil-on-paper feel. This, too, is a Microsoft strength.

The Elite Folio has two USB-C 3.1 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s it, making its connectivity quite limited. The Surface Laptop Studio has two USB-C 3.2 ports with Thunderbolt 4, a Surface Connect port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The availability of Thunderbolt 4 is huge here, letting Microsoft’s 2-in-1 connect to extravagant devices like external GPU enclosures. Both 2-in-1s enjoy Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity, but the Elite Studio also offers LTE 4 or 5G WWAN support, thanks to its Qualcomm ARM processor.

Performance

The ports of the Surface Laptop Studio.

Microsoft built the Surface Laptop Studio around Intel 11th-gen 35-watt H-series CPUs, either the Core i5-11300H or the Core i7-11370H. It offers the option of Nvidia’s RTX 3050 Ti GPU, making it the most powerful Surface laptop ever, with some entry-level gaming ability. It’s a strong performer for both demanding productivity users and creative types. The Elite Folio moves in the opposite direction, using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 ARM processor aimed at efficiency and always-connected internet. It’s best for productivity users, and it won’t keep up with highly demanding tasks in the same way.

We couldn’t run most of our benchmarks on the Elite Folio because of Windows on ARM, so we can’t give many direct comparisons. We could only run Geekbench 5, where the Elite Folio scored 770 in the single-core test and 3,028 in the multi-core test compared to the Surface Laptop Studio’s 1,321 and 5,131. But it’s not at all necessary to show off benchmarks here. The Surface Laptop Studio is by far the faster machine, and there’s really no comparison.

Display

The Surface Laptop Studio in Stage Mode on a white desk.

The Elite Folio is built around a 13.5-inch Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,280) in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio. Again, because of the ARM CPU, we couldn’t use our colorimeter to test the display. Still, it was bright enough to use in most indoor conditions, colors were dynamic and seemed natural and not oversaturated, and the contrast seemed to be quite good. The Surface Laptop Studio 14.4-inch IPS display is also a 3:2 panel, but it’s higher resolution at 2,400 x 1,600. According to our colorimeter, the display offered exceptional brightness at 443 nits (HP advertises 400 nits for the Elite Folio) and above-average color width and accuracy. The contrast was also high for an IPS display.

Overall, the Surface Studio Laptop’s display is superior to the Elite Folio’s in terms of the usual metrics. Toss in its 120Hz refresh rate and support for the Surface Slim 2 Pen’s haptic feedback, and you have a winner.

Portability

A side view of the HP Elite Folio sitting on a desk.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Thanks to its smaller display, the Elite Folio is a smaller laptop. It’s 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.92 pounds, compared to the Surface Laptop Studio at 0.75 inches thick and 4.0 pounds. However, both laptops are relatively thin and light and easy to carry around.

In terms of battery life, our benchmark results were a bit surprising. The Elite Folio has a 46 watt-hour battery compared to the Surface Laptop Studio’s 58 watt-hour version. Given the Qualcomm chipset in HP’s 2-in-1, we would have expected significantly longer battery life out of it across the board. However, the Elite Folio lasted just 21 minutes longer than the Surface Studio Laptop at just under 11 hours in our web-browsing test. Our video looping test was a bit more lopsided, with the Elite Folio lasting for 19.5 hours compared to the Surface Laptop Studio’s 14 hours.

Overall, while the Elite Folio wins this round, it’s closer than we might have expected. Both laptops can last for a full day as long as the workload isn’t too demanding.

The Elite Folio is elegant, but the Surface Laptop Studio’s power wins out

The HP Elite Folio starts at $1,965 for the version with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 13.5-inch WUXA+ touch display. It maxes out at $2,605 with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a SureView privacy screen, and 5G WWAN. It’s an expensive laptop.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio can be had for as little as $1,400 for a Core i5, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. You can spend as much as $3,100 for a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. It’s an even more expensive laptop at the high end.

Both pull-forward 2-in-1s have their advantages. The Elite Folio is an elegant laptop for someone who likes style and comfort and doesn’t need a fast machine. The Surface Laptop Studio, though, has a better display and is much more powerful, giving it a far wider range of potential uses. It wins this shootout handily.

Editors' Recommendations