In and Around the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m

If you've kept up with my reviews of HP's EliteBook line you're not going to find any surprises here with the Folio 9470m. The current styling has been working out fairly well for HP and still feels like it stands head and shoulders above what Dell is doing with their notebooks. Outside of the XPS line I feel like Dell's aesthetics on virtually all of their lines, consumer and enterprise alike, have gone almost completely off the rails. The current generation Inspirons look like Speak-and-Spells, while Precision notebooks look like cheap knock-offs of ThinkPads from ten years ago. Placed in that company, the EliteBook line looks positively futuristic.

With all that said, though, the current design motif of HP's EliteBooks is beginning to wear out its welcome. The machined aluminum lid and body is coupled with black plastic on the keyboard and display bezel. The bottom of the body is comprised of what feels like black carbon fiber, though it could just as well be well-treated plastic. Either way, the machine as a whole feels very sturdy, but I do feel like it's time to move on.

I continue to be pleased with how HP has been handling the backlit keyboard and especially the smooth glass surface of the touchpad; HP's keyboard layout is traditional, comfortable, and easy to use. Key depth is good, flex is minimal. There's a trackpoint in the center of the keyboard, traditional for enterprise notebooks, and the touchpad is large and roomy. Ironically, the recessed touchpad was more desirable in the Windows 7 era; with Windows 8, edge gestures are harder to perform. Truthfully, though, I'm kind of done with chiclet keyboards. They work fine for the most part, but I'd like to see at least enterprise systems go back to traditional keyboards.

HP really takes care of the enterprise customer with the 9470m, though, and they do that in four ways: continuing to employ SmartCard readers, offering a side-mounting docking bay (the notebook is too thin to use the bottom-mounting ones, so HP is transitioning to these), offering a bottom-mounting slice battery, and making the ultrabook totally user serviceable (complete with replaceable battery).

Opening up the 9470m is a bit of a chore as you have to unscrew and remove the panels in a specific order, but you can see that overall it's a pretty smart and efficient layout. Everything you'd be able to replace in a traditional notebook, short of the CPU, can be replaced in the 9470m without too much hassle. Honestly this is one of those things I wish I'd see a little more frequently in consumer notebooks; only enthusiast-class units are really this user friendly anymore.

I also had a chance to try out the slice battery and dock. The dock feels just a touch loose, but it only blocks the VGA and ethernet ports on the notebook (which it replaces), and in exchange brings a tremendous amount of flexibility, including four USB 3.0 ports and an additional DisplayPort. I also like how the bottom of the dock allows you to mount it to the wall if you're so inclined.

The slice battery, on the other hand, can be a lot more fiddly. Once it's locked in, it's locked in, but getting the notches to line up and securely tilt in was abnormally frustrating. I was able to, and I suspect with practice it wouldn't be an issue, but the difficulty is nonetheless worth mentioning. The 60Wh slice battery does add at least a pound of heft to the 9470m; this was already a pretty light notebook so that's not a huge deal, but it's very noticeable.

Introducing the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m System Performance
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  • danbi - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    Do you suggest that those who work for "enterprises" should suffer from low screen resolution? So that they cannot see more on the screen and be more productive? Only "toys" should have quality screens?

    HP used to have better displays. My 8 years old 15" HP laptop has 1920x1200 display. Why this crap now? Why an "elite" business laptop has to have such mediocre display?
    Reply
  • SteveLord - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    It could be $500 and people would still whine about the resolution. It happens everytime for every laptop or tablet. I have 20 of these issued and they have been a huge hit. Now I agree that except for the Dreamcolor series, HP screens could be better. And I agree these should be priced lower. But your average corporate/enterprise user won't notice or care about anything beyond the size of the screen itself and how heavy or light the laptop is. Reply
  • meacupla - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    for $500? 1366x768 is fine, as long as the viewing angles and colours are acceptable. This is the case with Asus X202E. X202E uses a semi decent TN panel, unlike this $1300 garbage from HP. Reply
  • Tams80 - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - link

    I wish you could get 1920x1200 on ANY laptop now. As far as I know there aren't any newish ones with that resolution. =( The last were a 17" HP Elitebook with Dreamcolour display and the 17" MBP if I recall correctly. Reply
  • Grennum - Monday, April 1, 2013 - link

    Lets take a piece of serious business software like MS Dynamics AX. I watch people all day fighting with low res screens constantly scrolling around instead of being productive. Then they see me using my high res screen(on a engineering laptop) and are amazed that I don't have to do that.

    Just because people have never known any different doesn't mean it's unimportant. It is the result of companies like HP pushing required IT features (like smart card readers) and low cost at the expense of productivity and the IT departments not caring. It is not the users, it is the IT department who should be pushing back on this.

    The average user doesn't know or need to know the resolution spec, but they should know that the person who did spec the machine cared, which I find is often not the case.
    Reply
  • hrrmph - Sunday, March 31, 2013 - link

    The reviewer nailed it on this one.

    HP got credit where credit was due (SSD, USB 3.0, etc.). But, he rightly scorched them on the display and keyboard.

    We shouldn't have to turn in our classics for equipment that is inferior, even if it is thinner.

    -
    Reply
  • blazeoptimus - Saturday, April 6, 2013 - link

    I was very disappointed in this article. It's obvious Dustin is reviewing this device from a consumer oriented device perspective. All of the objections mentioned are valid more for a laptop you'd find in best buy, the one your considering your corporation. Take for example the screen. I'm not a fan of the 1366x768 res, and I'd opt for a 1600x900 screen for myself if it were available. That being said, the primary reason you'd choose this laptop over a standard ultrabook would be its docking station (something only briefly touched on in the article). If your using a docking station, then your most likely using external monitors. Users will opt for larger, easier to read monitors, if available/practical. This means that the built in monitor really will only see light use, since users will use there docked displays most of the time. If you also include the fact that its not uncommon for corporate apps to be built to run in 1024x768, it becomes apparent that a 1366x768 screen is adequate for those few times a 'mobile' user will be away from his desk, but still need his laptop. The second point I take contention at is the 4 gig of ram. Again, it's fairly common for a corporate app to still be 32bit. Some major apps will still not run on 64bit windows. Even with the ones that are, it's very rare for an office worker or exec to need more than 4 gig to run there corporate apps. In these cases, the 4 gig is a waste. Also, by going with one chip, it's very easy to bump it to 8 if the need arises. As to the price, its competitive with other business class ultra books. Service and build quality are usually better on business class items, so there not priced in the same category.

    In short, again, your applying the rules we'd use when buying a personal laptop to a laptop that was never intended for that market. You should be looking at it from the perspective of laptop that could easily see deployments in the thousands for an organization. In this context your points of 'rage' hold less validity.

    I'm a network admin and I use a 9470m as my primary machine.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, April 7, 2013 - link

    Being thin (as in Ultrabook-thin) does almost nothing for an "Enterprise". However, being expensive, having a screen unsuitable for real work and only a 17 W CPU do hurt. Looks like a really unbalanced product. Reply
  • sperho - Thursday, May 2, 2013 - link

    I'm an enterprise user and I couldn't disagree more. I travel. A lot. I love the thinness and this alternative hit the spot. The screen is useable for mobile computing and when I'm in my office, I have two 22+" monitors that fit the bill. This computer is a mobile *option* within our company. More desk-bound employees do not and are not recommended to choose it; we have other options for those folks. Reply
  • Wolfehosue - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    The HD+ screen is released. This is the hold back for this form. The device is as thin as it can be while including VGA so if they drop that it can go thinner. Still limited with RJ45 but could be thinner than a Mac Air. Reply

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