Business laptops are usually big, boring machines designed to get the job done with little style. But HP is using its latest EliteBook, called the Folio 1040, to introduce an entirely new input method that's designed to replace the well-known clickpad.
It's known as a ForcePad, and while it looks just like a clickpad, there's a big difference: there's no click. When you go to click something on the screen, you're supposed to exert the same amount of force that you would on a clickpad — even though there's no give. It feels like pushing against the palmrest of a laptop, and it's definitely odd at first. The software pumps out a (thankfully optional) fake "click" sound to try and make it less strange, but it doesn't help. We first saw the technology (which comes from Synaptics) over a year ago, and this is the first machine to use it.
The idea is that you can do new gestures with the TouchPad. For instance, you can scroll down a page without moving your finger simply by applying pressure up or down, but it doesn't seem much better than flicking with your fingers. The real benefit is size: removing the hinge makes the whole assembly about half as thick as a traditional clickpad, which means HP could slim down the EliteBook a bit more. We're not sure that the tradeoff is worth it, but perhaps we just need more software that takes advantage of the controls offered by the ForcePad.
"We were ultra aggressive on weight and thinness"
HP says that engineers were "ultra aggressive on weight and thinness" when designing the EliteBook Folio 1040, and ultimately they were able to make the 14-inch ultrabook about 16 percent thinner and 7 percent lighter than the EliteBook Folio 9470m that it replaces. At 3.3 pounds and 0.63 inches thick, it's a bit thicker and heavier than some of our favorite ultrabooks like the Acer Aspire S7, but at least there's a good reason for it: HP says the machine meets ruggedization standards (MIL-STD 810G), so it should be able to hold up to the rigors of a business lifestyle.
For the past couple of years, HP's tried to make its EliteBook line a bit more exciting by blurring the line between it and the company's consumer ultrabooks. The ultrabook tapers nicely and is made of aluminum (save for a soft-touch bottom made of magnesium alloy), and it has a blacklit keyboard. Features like a matte display, a TPM security chip, a Smart Card reader, and a docking port reveal its business intentions, but gone are the Ethernet plug and legacy VGA connector found on its predecessor.
HP calls the EliteBook Folio 1040 its top-of-the-line business ultrabook, and it's appropriately specced out. The company's offering dual-core Haswell processors (in both Core i5 and i7 varieties), and it comes with a 120GB SSD and up to 8GB of RAM. Depending on which processor you opt for you'll either get Intel's HD 4600 or HD 5000 integrated graphics, both of which should be plenty sufficient for business tasks. Thankfully, it also comes with the option of a 1920 x 1080 display (with or without touch) in addition to its standard 1600 x 900 screen. It's not a particularly high-quality unit — there's no IPS here — but the added resolution is much appreciated.
Ultimately, the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 looks like it could be a good option — if you're willing to give the click-less ForcePad a try. It's available now for $1,299.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the laptop's bottom panel was made of plastic. It is not; it is a magnesium alloy panel covered with a black soft-touch finish.