Gadling Gear Review: HP EliteBook Folio 9470m Laptop

HP EliteBook Folio 9470mOver the past few years our expectations of what our laptops are capable of have changed dramatically. Not all that long ago we were content with simply having a reasonably fast portable computer that could help us get our work done and stay in contact with friends, family and coworkers while on the road. But now, that same laptop needs to be a mobile workstation with full multimedia capabilities, fast wireless Internet and a bright, clear, high-resolution screen. It should also come in a lightweight, thin – yet durable – package that looks good too. That seems to be the exact blueprint that HP used when designing the new EliteBook Folio 9470m, an ultrabook that meets all of those requirements while delivering a few nice surprises of its own.

The Folio 9470m is the kind of laptop that starts making an impression before you ever turn it on. Its casing is made out of a durable and lightweight, yet very attractive, magnesium alloy that conveys a sense of quality that isn’t always found in a notebook of this size. The laptop has been built to military grade specifications, which means it is capable of surviving all manner of abuse. HP tells me that in order to gain military spec certification the EliteBook had to go through a battery of tests, including surviving drops from a variety of heights, being able to withstand a wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions and withstanding vibrations, changes in atmospheric pressure and so on. The Folio 9470m passed every one of those tests with flying colors, which means it should be able to shrug off the typical wear and tear associated with day-to-day use both at home and on the road.

HP builds this notebook in a variety of configurations, offering something for just about every budget. The model I tested came with 4GB of RAM, a 2 GHz Intel i5 processor and a 14-inch backlit LED screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Each of those components can be upgraded further if you need higher performance, but I found that this standard config provides enough power for the average user. A higher quality screen capable of a resolution of 1600 x 900 is a tempting upgrade though.Putting this laptop through its paces I was continually impressed by the overall excellent performances. For standard, day-to-day tasks such as email, browsing the web and listening to music, the EliteBook won’t even break a sweat. More demanding tasks such as photo editing, video conferencing and watching streaming movies went off without a hitch as well. Those processor intensive activities were more likely to activate the laptop’s internal fan however, which was a bit jarring at times, especially considering how quiet this machine is most of the time.

I was impressed with how much I liked both the keyboard and touchpad that HP uses on the Folio 9470m. Both are very responsive and have a high quality feel to them. The keyboard is very easy to adapt to and I liked the “clicky” nature of its movement. The backlit keys, with two levels of lighting, are a very nice touch too. The fact that it is also spill resistant will be much appreciated by anyone who has ever managed to knock over their morning coffee as well.

HP EliteBook Folio 9470mSimilarly, the touchpad is highly sensitive and easy to use and while it’s not quite on par with the brilliant trackpad on Apple’s MacBook line, it’s about as close as I’ve found on a Windows notebook. It seemed to have some issues recognizing Windows 8 gestures however, which was a bit confounding considering how well it performed otherwise. For those who aren’t fans of the touchpad, HP has also included a pointing stick as an alternate method of interacting with the EliteBook. I’ve never been a big fan of that type of input device, but this one was accurate and easy to use.

HP has wisely gives users the opportunity to purchase the Folio 9470m with either Windows 7 or 8 installed. Many have resisted upgrading to Microsoft’s newer operating system and I’m sure this laptop delivers an excellent Win 7 experience should you choose to go that route. My test model came with Win 8 and unlike many other peope, I have actually enjoyed Microsoft’s new OS for the most part. As I’ve said in the past however, the Windows 8 interface is best used in a touch environment and since this laptop doesn’t use a touch screen, it can feel a bit clunky at times. The excellent touchpad helps to alleviate this to a degree, but there was more than one occasion when I found myself tapping on an unresponsive screen, before I reminded myself that this laptop didn’t feature that technology. If Windows 8 is truly the future of the operating system, the ultrabook reference design should mandate touch screens in my opinion.

The EliteBook Folio 9470m was designed with the business traveler in mind and as a result it has some nice touches that aren’t always found on other ultra-thin laptops. For instance, it has a built-in VGA port as well as a Displayport which provides a great deal of flexibility when connecting to external monitors, television sets or LCD projectors. The laptop also features an Ethernet port, two very fast USB 3.0 ports and an SD/MMC card reader. Finally, it also has a docking port that allows it to quickly and easily connect to HP’s new universal docking station which works across the entire EliteBook line. That comes in very handy for quickly and easily connecting to external monitors, keyboards and networks when at a desk.

One of the key elements to how useful any laptop is to a traveler is how well its battery performs. The Folio 9470m doesn’t disappoint in this area either as its standard 52w battery is good for a solid 6+ hours of performance. For $200, road warriors can add a slice battery that adds a little bulk to the notebook but provides an additional 10 hours of battery life. Imagine being able to cross the Pacific using your computer for the entire flight. That’s the kind of performance we’re talking about here and I’m not sure how you could possibly ask for anything more.

This notebook isn’t without a few quibbles however. For instance, the built-in webcam doesn’t perform all that well in low light conditions and as mentioned the trackpad wasn’t as accurate as I would like when using Windows 8 gestures. The standard display is a bit on the lackluster side as well, particularly for a laptop in the EliteBook’s price range. But those minor issues aside, it’s hard not to like everything that this notebook brings to the table.

If you’re a business traveler who needs a lightweight and rugged laptop that can handle your entire workload while on the road, it’s tough to beat the Elitebook Folio 9470m. It weighs in at just 3.6 pounds and is just .75 inches thick. Despite those svelte figure however, it packs quite a bit of power under the hood. Base configurations start at $1049 and go up from there depending on added features. That puts it at the top end of the ultrabook line, but considering the performance and military grade durability displayed by this laptop, I think it is an excellent choice for the on-the-go business traveler.

[Photo Credit: HP]

Gadling Gear Review: Lenovo Twist Windows 8 Laptop

Lenovo Thinkpad TwistThe advances in touch screen technology over the past few years have had an undeniable impact on how we interact with our gadgets. Touch screens have made our smartphones more responsive and have allowed tablets to become a part of our daily lives. It seems only natural that they would also be integrated into laptops and desktops, something that has become more viable thanks to the release of Windows 8 last fall. One of the first laptops to use a touchscreen in conjunction with Microsoft’s new operating system is the Lenovo Twist, a product that does an excellent job demonstrating just how this technology can change the way interact with our computers.

At its core, the Twist is an Ultrabook class laptop, tipping the scales at 3.5 pounds and just .8 inches thick. Those measurement make the Twist very portable and will likely make it a hit with travelers who want to shed some weight when hitting the road. The Twist features a 12.1″ screen driven by a competent graphics chipset that is more geared for business applications rather than 3D games. It is available with your choice of three Intel processors, up to 8GB of RAM and standard hard drives of either 320GB or 500GB. The laptop also includes a 128GB SSD drive option, which is much faster and more reliable than a traditional mechanical drive. Two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and a 4-in-1 card reader slot round out the list of helpful features.

My test model was powered by an Intel i5 processor running at 2.6GHz and 4GB of RAM. This was more than enough horsepower to smoothly run Windows 8 and for accomplishing most day-to-day tasks. Checking email, surfing the web, writing blog posts and watching videos all went off without a hitch with the Twist barely missing a beat. Editing photos worked well too, although larger images put enough of a strain on the laptop to kick in the system fans, which is a bit jarring considering how quiet the Twist is most of the time. I wouldn’t recommend editing video on the Twist, however, as that isn’t a particular strong point for Ultrabooks in general.Those tech specs alone don’t distinguish the Twist, however, as they are pretty standard amongst thin and light Windows notebooks these days. What does separate Lenovo’s laptop from the crowd, however, is the unique touch screen display and its ability to pivot (Or twist! Get it?) on an axis point connected to the main body just above the keyboard. This gives the computer the unique ability of transforming into four different modes: Laptop, Stand, Tent and Tablet. Laptop mode functions in the traditional nature of all notebooks while Stand mode flips the screen around and away from the keyboard, allowing access to just the display itself. Tent mode rotates the contents of the display so that the Twist can stand-up on its edges, while Tablet mode folds the screen over the keyboard, making it into a large tablet. Personally, I found myself mostly using just the laptop and tablet modes, although the others will find their niche needs I’m sure.

Lenovo Thinkpad Twist in Tent ModeThe Twist’s touch screen is bright, clear and responsive, which is just what you would expect in any notebook from Lenovo. But more than that, the screen is simply fun to use, particularly in Window 8’s new interface which integrates apps with a traditional desktop interface. Anyone who has used an iOS or Android device will feel right at home here, tapping, sliding and pinching their way through any manner of apps from Angry Birds to Netflix to Skype. While the Windows 8 app store isn’t nearly as full as those two other operating systems, it still has nearly everything you could ask for and then some. Win 8’s live tiles also makes it easy to organize those apps as needed and automatically give you all kinds of information, such as Facebook status updates, news headlines and stock reports, at a glance.

When using the Twist in the traditional Windows desktop mode, the touch screen is still active and allows you to tap to open documents, launch applications and so on. But since the desktop was never designed for touch, I found it easier to revert to using the laptop’s built-in touchpad, which was functional although not as responsive as I would have liked. Lenovo has also included a touch stick integrated into the keyboard, but I’ve personally never been a fan of the nub as a way to move the cursor. If that is your favorite way to interact with a laptop, however, you’re likely to find this one to be responsive and easy to use.

Lenovo has built the Twist to be durable enough to take with us on our travels, adding in some nice features to help keep it safe. For instance, the laptop includes an active protection system that will automatically park the hard drive heads if the laptop should fall or be jostled violently. This helps prevent accidental damage to the drive, keeping our data safe and sound. Beyond that, the case is molded out of a tough magnesium alloy, which is very resistant to wear and the screen is shielded by Gorilla Glass, which does an excellent job of resisting scratches and breaking.

Battery life seems to be a bit of an Achilles heel for the Twist. Lenovo says it is capable of running for up to six hours between charges, which is about average for an Ultrabook of this type. But while testing my Twist I found that I was getting an average of just a shade over 4 hours of run-time on standard settings. Reducing the brightness of the screen and turning off Wi-Fi helped of course, but those are compromises that are tough to make. If you’re on a cross-country flight, it can help to extend your ability to use the computer, but you’ll still be looking for an outlet as soon as you land.

As with all touch screen devices, the Twist’s display can also quickly become filled with fingerprints, which is not something we’re traditionally use to from our laptops. You’ll probably want to carry a soft cleaning cloth in your laptop bag at all times to help wipe it clean. These are fairly common for smartphones and tablets these days, but you’ll find yourself needing one for this, or any other, touch screen notebook too.

If you’re in the market for a new laptop and you’re looking to harness the full potential of Windows 8, the Lenovo Twist is a fantastic choice. I found that once I started using a touch screen notebook it was incredibly difficult to go back to a standard model. Touch just seems like a natural way to interact with our devices now and anything less seems archaic in comparison. Aside from sub-par battery life, I found the Twist to be a great laptop for the average traveler’s needs, providing the ability to communicate with friends and family, while staying productive on the road. It’s lightweight and thin body make it highly portable and the touch screen simply makes it fun to use. When was the last time you could say that about your laptop?

The Twist also happens to be very competitively priced. It starts out at just $765, which is very affordable for a laptop with so many features built in.

Gadling Travelers On Their Favorite Gear

Brookstone Neck PillowGadling contributors are, by occupation, a well traveled lot and they’re hard on their kit. They want stuff that works – stuff that lasts, stuff that’s genuinely useful, stuff they’re never sorry they packed. While you’re hunting little extras to gift your favorite traveler, consider this list of favorites from some of the most traveled people on the Internet.

McLean Robbins: As a traveler who can’t manage to ever get comfortable on an airplane or with hotel pillows, I can’t leave home without this Brookstone accessory. I purchased it on a whim before a long-haul European flight where I thought I’d be stuck in a middle coach seat, and have used it on even short domestic flights ever since. The pillow is great in its U-shaped form, but I place it under those flimsy hotel pillows for extra support too. Best of all? It compacts nicely into my carry-on bag as well.

Jessica Marati
: Melatonin. This natural sleep aid is the best way to get rest on redeye flights and combat jet lag. I don’t travel without it.

Chris Owen: I usually pack specifically for each trip but one thing that always makes it is my bag full of cords, plugs, power converters and backup battery power. It’s called a Flex Pack and made by Victorinox.

Dave Seminara: I travel with a Princeton Tec headlamp so I can read in hotel rooms (or tents) after my sons go to bed! [Note: There’s always a headlamp in my pack too. And if you get one that’s got a red light mode, you can dig around in your bag or find your way to your bunk in the hostel without waking and/or blinding your roomies.Kyle Ellison: The two things I never travel without are duct tape and nylon cord, both available at your local hardware store. With the tape you can fix a rip in your backpack, seal a cut on your foot, create a waterproof barrier on anything, make labels, bookmarks, a lid for your food … anything really. With the cord you can make a clothesline, tie a tent down, fix a backpack, make a tourniquet, a belt, shoelaces … again, it’s a life saver.

Mix these in with a Leatherman multi-tool (opening cans, getting out splinters, cutting your tape and cord, opening wine bottles, sawing through wood, unscrewing air ducts in hotels, which are vibrating, fixing your glasses, hammering in tent stakes, etc.) Unfortunately, your multi-tool can only travel with you via land travel or checked baggage.

Laurel Miller: This small, rip-stop compact folding duffel bag. It has zippered side pockets so you can stuff it into itself, and it compacts to the size of a sandwich. I keep it in the bottom of my backpack and use it to bring home the inevitable souvenirs or press materials that accumulate on my travels. It also makes a great overnight bag, especially if I’m on a big trip that has some side trips where I can leave my backpack behind.

Meg Nesterov: I love the TotSeat portable high chair. It fits in a purse/bag, weighs almost nothing, and is handy anytime I want to put my baby in a regular chair and have her stay there. It is way superior to the other “travel” high chairs that are as big as phone books (if that reference even makes sense anymore), though it is essentially like tying your child to a chair!

Alex Robertson Textor: It’s super un-techy but I don’t like to travel without my Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook. Notes feel more substantial in a paper notebook.

What do you want to add to your travel kit this year? What are you giving your favorite traveler?

[Images courtesy of Brookstone and Leatherman]

RAD AND HUNGRY supplies lo-fi office goodies from around the world

rad and hungry


When travel meets design meets a geeky-cool love for office supplies, you get RAD AND HUNGRY, a Seattle-based start-up that curates limited-edition collections of pencils, notebooks, and other goodies sourced from travels around the globe. I’ve never gotten quite as excited about a gum eraser as I did when recently browsing their collections.

The concept for RAD AND HUNGRY was born from founder Hen Chung’s love for travel and office supplies, as well as her appreciation for everyday design.

“The common thread was design, but unrefined design – ‘local’ in the sense that it’s so basic and part of the everyday landscape that people in that country find it unremarkable,” she says. “The kitschy outdated postcard, the shoes people wear when cleaning house, the cheapest brew, the #2 pencil. We’re taken by the concept that simple, daily items are given new meaning through travel. It transforms the mundane into something inspired.”

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RAD AND HUNGRY’s first product line is The Something Mighty Collection, which has been released in monthly limited-edition installments since December 2010. Each collection is available on the RAH website for $16 until it sells out and generally includes a writing instrument, a notebook, and a country-specific mystery item. You can also get the “Low Down” on each collection, a travel blog-esque account of each sourcing trip in Chung’s refreshingly spunky voice. Take, for instance, this blurb from STMT x Spain:

I shuffled through the entire rainbow display of goods but nothing grabbed me. Turned around and then I saw them. Ballpoint pens with so many beautiful details I couldn’t stop jumping! Tested all four colors and couldn’t believe how smooth they wrote. And love, love the rubber body. Turns out the very Italian-sounding company, Milan, is a Spanish company known for their rubber erasers. The curved clip, the raised pinstriping on the back end of the tube, the grooved front tip… a lo-fi ballpoint pen totally tricked out and pimpin’. What’s not to love??

At the moment, only the Spain, Turkey, and Canada collections are in stock, but fans need not fret. Chung has plenty of new projects on the pipeline for 2012, including Rad Bags, blind grab bags filled with leftover stock, and Pencil Pouches, locally-made pencil cases to accompany their existing collections. That, and many more sourcing trips, of course.

[ images via RAD AND HUNGRY ]

Moleskine notebooks introduces new bags, reading, and writing accessories

Moleskine notebooks new collection

Few products (analog, at least) get travelers, writers, and artists as excited as Moleskine. The classic black Moleskine notebooks have been used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, as well as many a journaler and design-lover. A new collection unveiled this week at Milan’s Salon del Mobile is the stuff of many travelers’ dreams. The Reading, Writing, and Traveling series from Italian designer Giulio Iacchetti includes bags and computer cases, pencils and pens, reading glasses, a rechargeable reading light and an e-reader stand. Each piece is designed for maximum mobility, and to complement each other as well as the original notebook, complete with the signature black elastic band.


The new collection is on view in Milan now and at the ICFF design show in New York in mid-May. See more photos and details on the Moleskine Facebook page and on the design blog core77, along with an interview with the designer.

We can’t wait to get our hands on a Moleskine laptop bag, though we can’t help hoping they branch out to luggage as well. What Moleskine products would you like to see?

Photo courtesy of Moleskine on Flickr.