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Hands on with the HP ElitePad 900

It's no secret that the tablet is (finally) starting to become an accepted form factor in the SMB and enterprise world. To that end, HP is bucking the "bring your own device" trend by introducing the HP ElitePad 900, which runs the full Windows 8 instead of Android, Windows RT, or iOS operating systems.

The HP ElitePad 900 is built around the next-generation Intel Atom platform (aka Clover Trail) and we were able to handle one in a controlled environment recently. Here are our thoughts…

The ElitePad 900 is a 10.1in tablet form factor with a 16:10 aspect (1,280 x 800) screen. The display is bright and shows off the Windows 8 user interface well. The Gorilla Glass 2 protected screen boasts responsive capacitive touch, and we were able to touch type on it. Its on-screen keyboard is as responsive as the iPad's.

Since it's a business tablet, the ElitePad 900 has quite a few accessories. The HP ElitePad Docking Station is almost a must-buy for each of your workers. Using the Docking Station, the ElitePad becomes similar to an all-in-one desktop. You can pair a wireless keyboard to the ElitePad for extended typing sessions.

HP also offers a range of "smart jacket" cases for the ElitePad to extend the tablet's capabilities. For example, the tablet itself lacks connectors such as HDMI and USB, but the Expansion Jacket gives you those options. The combo makes the ElitePad look like a tablet with a cocoon-type case on it.

HP's Productivity Jacket includes an integrated keyboard, in case you want your ElitePad to act like a laptop. The Rugged Jacket increases the ElitePad's drop survivability, and makes it more appropriate to use outdoors in the field. HP also offers a Jacket Battery to supplement the ElitePad 900's internal battery. The Jacket Battery slots in between one of the Smart Jackets and the ElitePad.

IT folks have resisted the addition of individual user's tablets to their infrastructure for two main reasons: The lack of control over the tablet's security, and incompatibilities with the enterprise's core programs. HP has addressed this by making the ElitePad 900 compatible with its Client Security suite, HP BIOS protection, and with LANDesk tools for asset management and network security. Since the ElitePad runs Windows 8, you won't have to recompile your internally developed programs for another OS, which you probably must do to support iOS, Android, or even Windows RT. Another IT plus is the fact that the ElitePad 900 is IT-serviceable, including screens, chassis, battery, memory, and storage.

The ElitePad 900 comes with 2GB of memory, a 64GB SSD for primary storage, dual band Wi-Fi, and optional capacitive pen/stylus support. It measures 178 x 261 x 9mm (WxDxH) independent of the Smart Jackets, so it’s roughly the size of an iPad, but longer. It feels comfortable in the hand, weighing under 1kg (though the weight figure hasn’t officially been confirmed yet).

It also has a built-in 8-megapixel webcam which supports 1080p recording, along with the other features we've come to expect from tablets (accelerometers, GPS, voice transcription). The device is set to be priced at £479 when it arrives in the UK in January 2013.