I have recently received the HP EliteBook 1020 G1 for review here and I have been using it as my main machine for a while now. It is an impressive piece of modern engineering with a very slim profile and light weight that provides enterprise features for the knowledge worker.
The HP EliteBook 1020 G1 is built on CNC aluminium and magnesium alloy, weighing only 1.2 KGs (there's a Special Edition that is built on magnesium-lithium alloy and carbon fiber weighing even less at 1 KG). At its thickest point it is only 15.7mm and you can even joke you have be careful with paper cuts, so well machined it is at the edges.
The 12.5" display comes in two versions. The one I have here is a QHD 2560 x 1440 pixels UWVA with touch support. The lower resolution alternative is a 1920 x 1080 pixels display. Th advantage of a higher resolution display is clear when you open an Excel spreadsheet and can see rows 1 - 36 and columns A - Z in a single laptop display. Or more of your images if you do some image resizing as I frequently do when posting on Geekzone. I was also very surprised when I compared this display with my three years HP Folio 13 machine: I couldn't believe I have not noticed the edges around the fonts on my old laptop before. The higher resolution display is so crisp, it's something you have to see yourself.
You do have to get used to the higher resolution though as fonts and icons tend to look smaller on these screens. Nothing you can't fix by adjusting the scale in the display personalisation page though.
The touch screen works really well and it's sensitive enough to pick even on gestures over small areas. When the laptop is not on the stand on my desk I tend to touch the screen more and more now, even though this is not a detachable model.
In terms of features, this is a dream for IT/Infrastructure managers. Being a proper business laptop it puts a lot of emphasis on remote management and security. Things such as the fingerprint reader that is completely integrated with the HP Security Client software.
The HP Security Client software in itself would deserve its own review. You have plugins that can be installed/removed as needed and allow you to implement different security settings. For example you can use the fingerprint reader for login into Windows, login into websites, remote servers and shared folders and so on.
Another example is the module that allows you to control access to external storage such as USB storage. You can determine policies for authenticate users giving access to external devices only upon authentication and for a limited time only after this.
You can also encrypt your internal storage using the HP Security Client, although in my case I just used Windows 8.1 BitLocker, which is transparently done thanks to the built-in TPM chip.
The HP EliteBook 1020 also comes with HP SureStart, a piece of software that ensures the BIOS is not corrupted or modified by any malware/rootkit. If anything is found the software will automatically rewrite the BIOS and allow you to start the laptop in a safe way.
If you are paranoid about security as myself, then one of the steps performed when getting a new laptop is ensuring the BIOS configuration is protected with a password. HP provides HP SpareKey, a software that allows you to recover this password in case you need it by answering security questions.
An interesting addition to this laptop is the NFC reader just under the trackpad. You can use this to quickly transfer information and in my experience you can even transfer contact information from smartphones (the smartphone user can just find a contact and share it via NFC if the smartphone supports it). Using standard software I was also able to write NFC tags with URLs, phone numbers, contact information and then have these read on smartphones, or used these to start action on the laptop such as loading a website or starting a VoIP call.
The trackpad itself is a noticeable advance over previous versions. Gone is the "click" mechanism (one way of reducing the thickness of the laptop) and welcome are the gestures. It responds well to touch and it doesn't feel rough as previous models.
The unit I have here came configured with the maximum 8GB possible for this model and the Intel Core M-5Y71 1.2 GHz (max turbo frequency 2.9 GHz). At 4.5W this mobile processor offers good performance and lasting battery operation. While it performs extremely well, benchmark numbers showed the overall performance of this HP EliteBook 1020 G1 is similar to the HP Folio 13 (which runs on an Intel i5 1.6GHz). The main differences are the SSD storage technology (the HP EliteBook 1020 with a 512GB SSD outperformed the HP Folio 13 almost 200%) and the CPU (the HP Folio 13 Intel Core i5 processor was about 25% faster than the HP EliteBook 1020 Intel Core M).
The higher-end SSD models (180GB and 256GB models) come with Self Encrypting capabilities. This means the OS can pass data through to these drives and offload the encryption process to the drivers' controllers instead of doing this using its own CPU cycles.
On the topic of the battery, I had different results depending how I used the laptop. I went easily through a full charge over four hours, with high screen brightness, Bluetooth and WiFi on, and had longer than five hours with lower screen brightness and ethernet connection. As usual the amount of time you can get out of a full battery charge will depend on how you use the laptop. For me it seems to work well in terms of battery life.
Although I have the Windows 8.1 version here, the spec sheets say the HP EliteBook can be ordered with Ubuntu instead.
All my Windows machines run an AV, Microsoft EMET and in some of then I have MalwareBytes installed. What I noticed on this laptop though is that MalwareBytes had a huge negative impact during application startup. Disabling MalwareBytes real-time protection eliminated this problem.
Another thing I have noticed is that changing the default video RAM in BIOS to 512MB has a positive impact in display performance, noticeable when loading new applications full screen. I found about this when I decided to see if this HP EliteBook 1020 could be used for a bit of gaming and thought changing the default memory to a higher value would help. The answer to this question is "it depends". The Intel HD 5300 Graphics won't be able to power modern games at full resolution without some lag, but I had no problems playing some games at lower resolutions (I spent a few hours on Borderlands to make sure of this).
Again benchmarks seemed to show that the HP EliteBook 1020 with Intel HD 5300 has very similar 2D and 3D results as the HP Folio 13 HD 3000.
In terms of ports you will find out there is a good number. Or not, depending on how you use your laptop. When I am on the road I use a Bluetooth mouse (never been a big fan of trackpads, even though this one is better than anything I've experience before). This leaves two USB 3.0 ports available for use. When I have this laptop on my desk I plug a Logitech USB keyboard which itself works as a USB two-port hub, giving me an extra port to use.
You can plug external displays via HDMI (the HP EliteBook 1020 also supports WiDi and Miracast) and even though there's no ethernet port on board, the laptop comes with an adapter you can use by attaching it to the docking station port. In addition to this you have a microSD card reader - handy if you copy digital cotent (photos, music) from/to smartphones or tablets.
After initial setup I did remove the FoxIT PDF reader (I use NitroPDF instead) and the Cyberlink software - the HP EliteBook 1020 doesn't have internal optical drives so why bother having this pre-installed?
The HP SoftPaq Download manager comes pre-installed and it's a good software to maintain drivers and software packages updated.
This laptop is completely silent, as it does not have a fan. Even so it is cold or warm to touch and I haven't noticed it getting hot even when playing full scren high resolution games.
The built-in sound system supports HD audio with DTS, but it is just usable. For best results I always use a pair of good headphones anyway. The 720 HD camera is pretty good and had no problems with Skype and Lync (now Skype for Business) video and audio calls with this laptop.
HP put some good WiFi support on this laptop, with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support and 2.4GHz/5GHz bands. Most interesting is the HP Wireless Hotspot feature, that allows you to share your network connection via WiFi so other devices can access the network through your laptop's connection.
Last but not least is the MIL-STD 810G standard compliance. This means the laptop is tested for high temperature, low temperature, temperature shock, altitude, humidity, dust, drop, random vibration and shock.
The combination of all these features makes the HP EliteBook 1020 G1 a very special machine, ideal for business users or users that require some high-quality hardware.