HP ElitePad 900 review

Pros

  • Enterprise ready accessories
  • Simple design
  • Full size HDMI on Expansion Jacket

Cons

  • No ports on tablet chassis itself
  • MicroSD and SIM slot access is fiddly
  • Limited multimedia capabilities

The HP ElitePad 900 is an enterprise-oriented Windows 8 tablet that combines the looks of a consumer tablet like the Apple iPad with enterprise friendly features that corporate users need. It's a slate 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 HSPA+ (via an integrated modem in the higher-end model we reviewed), but unless you're an HP shop there are other slate choices out there.

Design and features

The ElitePad 900 has a premium look, with its machined aluminium unibody chassis and Gorilla Glass 2 screen. Other business-minded tablets such as the Dell Latitude 10, Dell Latitude 10 Enhanced Security, and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 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 microSD and SIM card slots, and a single docking port.

Contrast this with the Latitude 10, which brings a micro-USB port, 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 could also 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 (or her) rather than simply sharing it on a USB stick.

The ElitePad 900 measures a compact 177 x 260 x 9.2mm (WxDxH), and weighs 620 grams. This is quite portable, and thanks to its 10.1in screen it's a lot easier to hold in the hand than the 11in tablets like the Acer Iconia W700 and the HP Envy X2. The ElitePad 900 comes with a 16:10 aspect ratio (1,280 x 800 resolution) screen, which differs from the normal 16:9 (1,280 x 768 resolution) displays 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 organisation can purchase accessories for the ElitePad including adapters for VGA/HDMI, extra AC adapters, a £94 docking station with USB ports and HDMI, and the £78 Expansion Jacket. The Expansion Jacket (pictured above) 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 (£78), which will give you extra hours of battery life. The ElitePad 900 plus Expansion Jacket sans battery weighs 950 grams.

We also previewed HP's Productivity Jacket (see the above image), which is essentially a keyboard dock with two USB ports and an SD card slot, but no battery capabilities. With the Productivity Jacket, the ElitePad comes in at a still svelte 1.35kg. Note that the ElitePad 900 doesn't work with digitising styluses using Wacom technology. HP says that they will have a digitising 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 recovery partition and some included apps, the system has 42.1GB free 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 (36.8GB 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, and HP Pagelift (a document scanning program). The system comes with a one year warranty. The ElitePad 900 64GB model we reviewed had an HSPA+ modem built in, and was priced at £688. Without the modem, it’s £638 incidentally (and with a 32GB SSD and no modem, the device is at its cheapest price point: £605).

The ElitePad also has an NFC sensor on the back, so you can log on with a smart card or other RFID system used by your organisation.

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 kind of situations, you won't miss the USB ports on the tablet itself.

One thing that you will miss, though, is easy access to the built-in microSD slot. The microSD reader and SIM card slot for the ElitePad 900 are hidden under a door that requires a slim pin to open (see above). 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 harder than it should be, and the floppy door that pops open is just begging to be ripped off by a clumsy user.

In contrast, the Lenovo Tablet 2 has easy access to microSD 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 battery is sealed to the end user, but IT pros with an HP-supplied setup can replace internal components like the battery and screen in an in-house IT lab.

Performance

Like other Atom-powered slates, the ElitePad 900 can run some, but not all of our benchmark tests. On 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 encoding test, though the ElitePad 900 came in many minutes behind the others with a poor time of 15 minutes.

When compared with its Atom-powered brethren in terms of battery life, the ElitePad 900 also came in stone last. While its battery rundown score of 8 hours and 23 minutes is excellent compared with Core i5 systems like the Microsoft Surface Pro (which hit 4 hours and 58 minutes), it isn’t as impressive as the Dell Latitude 10, with its standard (9 hours and 20 minutes) or extended (19 hours and 38 minutes) battery. Essentially, the ElitePad 900 is a passable all-day tablet, but other competitors have better battery life.

Verdict

And that last point pretty much sums things up here. If your business is committed to HP services and products through contracts, then the HP ElitePad 900 is a very good Windows 8 tablet for the SMB though enterprise organisation.

However, if you're with another system builder or are starting from scratch, then we’d look at the Dell Latitude 10 and Dell Latitude 10 Enhanced Security tablets, which are simply better and more flexible choices all-round.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

HP ElitePad 900

Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility

802.11a/b/g/n

Screen Resolution

1280 x 800 pixels

Operating System

Microsoft Windows 8 Professional

Dimensions

177 x 260 x 9.2mm (WxDxH)

Battery Size

25 mAh

Screen Type

Widescreen

Graphics Card

Intel GMA HD

RAM

2GB

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

64GB (42GB free)

Cellular Technology

HSPA+

Weight

620 grams

Battery Life

8 hours 23 minutes

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Storage Type

SSD

Processor Speed

1.8GHz

Screen Size

10.1in

CPU

Intel Atom Z2760

GPS

Yes

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