HP ElitePad 900 G1 tablet
This is a Windows 8 tablet for business users that's thin and light, and designed to be flexible via optional dongles and Jackets
- Thin and light
- Feels good to hold
- Heaps of options
- Lacks built-in USB and video out
- Low screen resolution
- Optional extras can add significantly to the overall cost
If you require a Windows tablet that's thin and light, then the ElitePad 900 is for you. It runs an Intel Atom CPU, so it's not quick, but it can run for many hours on end and it won't get warm. It doesn't have much built in (not even USB), but there are plenty of options available that allow you to add ports, battery life, a keyboard and even ruggedness to this unit.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
HP's ElitePad 900 is a Windows 8-based tablet that's aimed primarily at business customers. It's a small device that's very light and easy to handle, and if looks count, then it's quite stylish, too. But it lacks built-in ports, and its Intel Atom CPU could leave you wishing for more processing power, depending on the tasks you need to perform.
What is it?
On its own, the ElitePad 900 (we tested the D4T11AW model) is a thin, 10.1in slab that weighs a mere 620g. The edges are tapered and the slight curve makes the tablet comfortable to hold. The tablet is sealed, meaning the battery can't be removed, and its aluminium back makes the unit feel very solid overall. The screen is magnetically held in place according to HP, and there was some slight creaking on the right side of our test unit when we pressed down on it, but it we didn't worry about it. It comes fitted with a relatively low resolution screen, an Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of internal solid state storage. A microSD slot is present so that more storage can be added, too.
As a tablet for simple tasks, it's great. You can browse basic Web pages easily, and if you get the dock for it and attach some input devices (via USB or Bluetooth), then you can easily use it for word processing and other non-taxing office tasks. HP offers a dock that is heavy, allowing you to lift the tablet off it with one hand as its sits flat on a desk, and the dock adds USB, networking and video output ports.
Accessories are key
There aren't any ports built in to the ElitePad 900, except for the docking connector at the bottom. In addition to the previously-mentioned dock itself, this docking connector can be used to attach external dongles, including one for USB 2.0, which shipped with our test unit, and there are others that can be purchased separately, which supply video output (HDMI and VGA), and Ethernet. Plugging in a dongle just to get a USB port is inconvenient, not just because you have to physically make the attachment (especially if all you want to do is plug in a USB stick), but also because the port then dangles down below the unit and makes it uncomfortable to use.
However, HP has also made available Smart Jackets for the ElitePad 900, which can be attached to the tablet to add more features. This is one of the key selling points of the ElitePad 900, the fact that it can be tailored to a customer's needs. The Productivity Smart Jacket, for instance, adds a wired keyboard to the tablet, so that it can be used as a laptop, as well as ports and an SD card reader, and a slot to house an optional digitiser pen. (This Jacket wasn't listed on HP's Web site at the time of writing).
There is also an Expansion Jacket ($169 on its own at the time of writing, or bundled with the D7X62PA tablet for $1249) that adds two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, an SD card slot and a second battery with a 21 Watt-hour rating, which allows the tablet to practically run all day without requiring a power outlet. Furthermore, a Rugged Jacket ($79 at the time of writing) is available for customers who need some extra protection if the tablet is to be used out in the field or on-the-go. It adds 600g to the overall weight.
The Jackets themselves are fitted around the tablet and they add a little bit of size and weight. The Jackets are an interesting innovation, but they can make a purchasing decision confusing. It can take a while to sift through all the options on HP's Web site and we wish HP would make the information a little easier to find. The main thing is that the Jackets add a lot of flexibility to this unit as far as how it can be used, but with an added cost.
Performance and battery life
As for the tablet's performance, its Intel Atom Z2760 CPU isn't fast and it's only useful for running basic tasks. In our Blender 3D rendering test, it recorded a time of 4min 51sec, while in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, it recorded 5min 41sec. This performance is approximately equivalent to the fastest netbooks from a few years ago and it means that the tablet will struggle with heavy workloads.
Even Web sites with Flash elements can make the unit chug along annoyingly, and when it comes to streaming video, it isn't always great. Video streaming services such as NBA.TV played with lots of dropped frames, and not all YouTube clips played smoothly either. We gave up on streaming many HD videos from Vimeo. When the CPU has to work hard to process Web pages, the whole unit can become unresponsive unless you close the app.
On the bright side, for reading documents, browsing simple Web pages, watching local standard-definition videos, and for working with Windows 8 apps, this tablet is fine. It will even run many games downloaded from the Windows Store.
It's battery life is quite good considering how slender and light the tablet is -- it has a 2-cell, 25 Watt-hour battery installed. The Atom CPU is efficient and it allowed the ElitePad 900 to last for 5hr 37min in our rundown test, in which we enable Wi-Fi, use maximum screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video file. With a lower brightness, you'll get a little more than that, too, and the extra battery in the Expansion Jacket should come close to doubling that time, although we weren't able to test this theory.
We're not fans of the screen though. It has a low resolution of 1280x800, which isn't as wide as we'd like, and it makes the Windows Desktop and many Web pages look a little cramped. It also means that images don't look quite as clear as they should. One advantage of the lower pixel density is that it makes icons and menu items appear bigger than usual, and this makes it easy to poke around the Windows Desktop with your finger. We rarely had problems hitting window control buttons, or even the small icons in the Notification area — the targets were large compared to what we're used to seeing on other tablets such as the Dell Latitude 10, for example.
Because the screen is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, it does tend to reflect a lot of light. This can be annoying in an office environment or when the tablet is used outdoors, even when the brightness is at its highest level. It's a screen with wide viewing angles though, and you can use it upside-down or sideways without losing much contrast. The accelerometer also worked well during our tests; it wasn't overly sensitive and it detected the orientation of the tablet accurately. There is a physical lock on the tablet if you want to disable this sensor.
Wireless features built in to the ElitePad 900 include dual-band, 802.11n Wi-Fi (Atheros AR6004), Bluetooth, and NFC. NFC can be quite useful as a way to share links or photos, for example, between other devices that feature NFC (we used a Samsung Galaxy Note II in our tests). Our model (D4T11AW) also had a micro-SIM slot, but it wasn't enabled so we weren't able to test it. HP informed us that on mobile broadband-enabled models (D4T12AW and D7X62PA), it's an unlocked slot so you can use the carrier of your choice.
There are two cameras on the tablet, a Full HD front-facing camera, and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that's also supported by a flash.
Because it's a tablet that's aimed at business users, the ElitePad 900 ships with Windows 8 Pro. It also comes with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0), BIOS and pre-boot security, and it features HP's Client Security suite. This suite is accessible from the Windows Start screen and it allows you to set up drive encryption and alternate login credentials should you ever forget your Windows password. It also features Absolute Data Protect from Computrace, which can be used to delete data remotely or find your tablet in case it's ever misplaced or stolen. It comes with a one-year, on-site warranty.
The slim and light nature of the ElitePad 900 makes it a comfortable mobile device to use for long periods of time and we think it's a great device to choose if these are your main criteria. Furthermore, because it's an Atom-based unit, it doesn't get warm, nor does it require a cooling fan (it has no moving parts).
However, it has a few drawbacks: the thin edges prohibit a USB port from being built in, the Atom processor sometimes make the unit feel too sluggish, and the screen has a relatively low 1280x800 resolution. HP has addressed the lack of ports by offering adapters and Smart Jackets, and we like the fact that the unit is a flexible solution because of this.
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