HP ElitePad 900 review: This tablet is all business
HP's smartly designed, solidly built, Atom-based Windows 8 tablet makes a solid case for mobile fleets
With the ElitePad 900, HP is making a better case than I expected for the business-grade, Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet. Using roughly the same form factor as the HP Envy X2 (sans the keyboard dock), the ElitePad has been designed from the inside out to be a business-fleet tool. Some of the design choices HP made to accomplish this are obvious. Others you'll only encounter if you're an IT manager, but these are even more striking.
First, the skinny on the tablet itself: The 10.1-inch, 1,200-by-800 display sports a 16:10 aspect ratio, which puts it close to the dimensions of a printed page. Business-class users will appreciate this for the sake of representing legal-sized documents accurately when the screen is in portrait mode. The low-wattage Atom processor means long battery life, for which HP claims 10 hours. I got seven and a half hours in my Netflix rundown test.
[ Check out these other Windows 8 tablet reviews on InfoWorld: HP Envy X2 " Dell Latitude 10 " Acer Iconia W700 " Dell XPS 12 | Stay ahead of advances in mobile technology with InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]
The accessories are where the ElitePad gets most interesting. No two businesses work alike, so HP came up with the concept of a series of interchangeable outer shells for the ElitePad, each designed for a different use case. Called Smart Jackets, the shells are designed to add everything from peripherals to system protection to extra battery life. I was able to look at prototypes of two of these add-ons. One was a $79 expansion jacket that adds a second battery ($99), and the other a productivity jacket (price TBD) that adds a keyboard and a slew of ports.
The ElitePad snaps into one of the jackets in much the same way you'd install a phone into an OtterBox, and the jacket appends only a marginal amount of weight to the already light, 1.38-pound unit. The productivity jacket is the closest thing available right now to turn the ElitePad into a full-blown notebook. Typing on the productivity jacket's keyboard is a little rubbery, but acceptable for short stretches. HP ought to offer a jacket akin to the keyboard dock for the Envy X2.
For those who would consider using the ElitePad as a desktop substitute, a desktop dock ($119) adds four USB ports, plus audio, full-sized HDMI and VGA, and Ethernet connectors. An included dongle adds USB connectivity directly, and an optional dongle brings HDMI and VGA connections. Mobile broadband options are also available. In fact, the SIM card slot is user-accessible, so you can even bring your own broadband if you have it. That said, HP has a number of broadband sales packages, among them two years of free 4G mobile broadband courtesy of T-Mobile.
HP wants the ElitePad used in enterprises, and one sign of how serious the company is about this is the way it plans to handle maintenance and repair for the units. Rather than force ElitePads to be sent back to a service center for repair, HP plans to sell a special disassembly dock that allows ElitePads to be opened and serviced directly by in-house IT. A 10-station charging dock is also available, for both corporate and educational applications.
The HP ElitePad 900 is a well-built Windows 8 tablet backed by an ecosystem of accessories tailored for business use. Its potential as a point-of-sale or field service device is obvious, though getting a full day's work may require a battery jacket. For general business users, the ElitePad's possibilities as a laptop or desktop replacement are hindered by the underpowered Atom processor.
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