The HP ElitePad 900 ($799 list) is an enterprise-oriented Windows 8 slate tablet that combines the looks of a consumer-oriented tablet like the Apple iPad with enterprise friendly features that corporate users need. It’s an all-day tablet with a plethora of add-on accessories that bridge the gap between laptop and tablet, without being classified as a hybrid or convertible tablet. It’s got all day battery performance and 4G HSPA+ WWAN networking, but unless you’re a HP shop there are other slate tablet choices out there.
Design and Features
The ElitePad 900 has a premium look, with its machined aluminum unibody chassis and Gorilla Glass 2 screen. Other business-minded tablets like the Editors’ Choice Dell Latitude 10 ($749), Dell Latitude 10 Enhanced Security ($779), and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2($729) come with extra ports on the chassis, but HP decided to keep the ElitePad 900 simple, with just a power button, volume control, rotate lock button, headset jack, hidden micro SD and SIM card slots, and a single docking port. Contrast this with the Latitude 10, which includes micro-USB, full size USB 2.0, SD card slot, mini-HDMI, and a Kensington lock port to the mix. While this keeps the ElitePad 900’s design clean and clutter free, it also could hobble the user base that HP is approaching with this system: the SMB and enterprise business user. If deployed alone (more on that below), the ElitePad 900 user will have to tell a colleague to email a file to him rather than simply sharing it on a USB stick.
The ElitePad 900 measures a compact 0.36 by 10.25 by 7 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.37 pounds. This is quite portable, and thanks to its 10.1-inch screen it’s a lot easier to hold in the hand than the 11-inch tablets like the Acer Iconia W700-6465 ($999.99) and the HP Envy X2 (11-g012nr) ($849). The ElitePad 900 comes with a 16:10 aspect ratio (1,280 by 800 resolution) screen, which differs from the normal 16:9 (1,280 by 768 resolution) screen found on other slate tablets. This was done to keep parity with other 16:10 screens on older desktops, laptops and tablet PCs, but you’ll only notice if your in-house apps were formatted with 16:10 in mind.
You or your organization can purchase accessories including adapters for VGA/HDMI ($49), extra AC adapters ($49), a docking station with USB ports and HDMI ($119), and the $79 Expansion Jacket. The Expansion Jacket is pretty much a must-buy item for the ElitePad 900, as it comes with two USB 2.0 ports, a full-size SD card slot, and HDMI port. The Expansion Jacket also has a slot for an extra battery ($149), which will give you extra hours of battery life. The ElitePad 900 plus Expansion Jacket sans battery comes in at 2.09 pounds. We also previewed HP’s $199 Productvity Jacket, which is essentially a keyboard dock with two USB ports and SD, but no battery capabilities. With the Productivity Jacket, the ElitePad comes in at a still svelte 2.96 pounds. Note that the ElitePad 900 doesn’t work with digitizing styluses using Wacom technology. HP says that they will have a digitizing stylus available soon, but it wasn’t available at the time of our review.
The ElitePad 900 has an Intel Atom Z2760 processor, 2GB of memory, and a 64GB SSD, which means that it can run a full version of Windows 8 Pro instead of a more mobile-oriented OS like Android, iOS, or Windows RT. This means that the system is compatible with your business’ existing Windows 7 apps. Because of the included recovery partition and some included apps, the system has 42.1GB out of 54.1GB on its C: drive. This is a bit better than the Dell Latitude 10 (33.4GB free) or the Lenovo Tablet 2 (36.8 GB free), but is unlikely to be an issue unless you start to carry large numbers of video files around with you. Still, 42GB is a lot of space for a full install of Office with room left over for thousands of Office docs.
The ElitePad 900 includes a lot of preloaded programs and utilities like Kindle, Skype, Netflix, Evernote, Skitch, HP Pagelift (a document scanning program), and a four year subscription to Absolute Data Protect’s Find My PC. The system comes with a one year warranty. The ElitePad 900 model we reviewed has a HSPA+ 4G modem built in, which will work with T-Mobile and AT&T service in the US. HP is offering T-Mobile service plans at time of purchase. The ElitePad 900 has a NFC sensor on the back, so you can log on with a smart card or other RFID system used by your organization.
In addition to the jackets, HP has another differentiator that separates it from the pack: you can buy a multi-tablet charging module for the ElitePad 900. Essentially, this is a rolling cabinet with multiple charging docks for the tablets. This is quite useful for vertical apps like health care and educational users. In these kinds of situations, you won’t miss the USB ports on the tablet itself.
One thing you will miss is easy access to the built-in micro SD slot. The microSD reader and SIM card slot for the ElitePad 900 is hidden under a door that requires a slim pin to open. It’s like the SIM slot on a smartphone or manual eject on a DVD drive. While it makes the tablet itself sleeker, it also makes access hard than it should be, and the floppy door that pops open is just begging to be ripped off my a clumsy user. In contrast, the Lenovo Tablet 2 has easy access to micro SD and to its SIM slot, while the Dell Latitude 10 has a full SD slot and hidden SIM slot behind the removable battery. Speaking of batteries, the ElitePad 900’s 25WHr battery is sealed to the end user, but IT pros with a HP-supplied setup can replace internal components like the battery and screen in an in-house IT lab.
Like other Atom-powered slates, the ElitePad 900 can run some, but not all of our benchmark tests. At the day-to-day PCMark 7 test, the ElitePad 900 was neck and neck with the Dell Latitude 10, and both were slightly behind the Lenovo Tablet 2. All three are weak at our handbrake video encode test, thought the ElitePad 900 came in many minutes behind the others with a score of 15 minutes. The ElitePad 900 also came in last at the battery rundown test compared with its Atom-powered brethren.. While its battery rundown score of 8 hours, 23 minutes is excellent compared with Core i5 systems like the Microsoft Surface Pro (4:58), it is far shorter than the Dell Latitude 10, with its standard (9:20) or extended (19:38) battery. Essentially, the ElitePad 900 is a passable all-day slate tablet, but other competitors have better battery life.