Hands on: HP ElitePad 900 tablet
2 July 2013 | 0
The HP ElitePad 900 is one of the best accessorised Windows 8 tablets on the market, and that’s saying something. The breadth of tablet options and variations on the market in the Windows 8 ecosystem is now truly inspiring. In fact, one of the major criticisms of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet was the lack of official accessories, such as a docking station.
The Elitpad 900 (EP900) enjoys not just a dedicated docking station that boasts, USB, Ethernet, VGA, HDMI and audio out, but also some clever cases that extend its capabilities, such as the Productivity case that has an additional battery and also an array of connectivity options, including a card reader.
With such an array of accessories designed clearly to make the ElitePad 900 a genuine business productivity tool, the specifications of the actual machine are a bit of a let-down.
With the dual core Atom Z2760 processor, the ElitePad 900 is roughly comparable to the Surface RT, also having in common 2GB of RAM and a 256mm (10") screen. However, the EP900 runs full Windows 8, not the RT version for ARM based processors. This is a critical point, as it means that while the base specs put it in the Windows RT category, the fact that it runs full Windows 8 means there is an expectation that it will be a full productivity tool, not just a companion device. Added to this is an unquestionably excellent array of accessories and one is left feeling as if someone has put the wrong device in the box.
In appearance, the device is quite sleek, and nicely finished, with just a headphone jack and a docking connector. At 630g, it is light enough to be used in full tablet mode without straining wrists. There are options for 32 and 64GB versions, with the latter the model that tested.
The expansion jacket is an interesting idea and provides an array of ports and connectivity, as mentioned. What is even cleverer is the optional extra battery that the jacket can accommodate, extending the life of the machine. The docking station too allows the machine to charge while docked, and holds it at a reasonable angle, ensuring that the onboard speakers are not obscured.
But once cannot help feeling that despite the fact that the Z2760 Atom processor features in several other such machines from the likes of Lenovo, Samsung and Acer, the EP900 will struggle when pressed into service as a laptop or desktop replacement. For example, the Windows 8 Experience Index score is just 3.3. Now that is a score based on the following parameters, the lowest of which is taken as the overall: Processor: 3.3, RAM: 4.7, Graphics: 3.7, Gaming graphics: 3.3 and HDD: 5.6.
In comparison, a rather long in the tooth laptop which has been a test mule for Windows 8 scores an overall index score of 5.3, with the processor rated at 5.7, despite being a now veritably Jurassic Core 2 Duo T7700 running at 2.4GHz.
In usage, whether docked, jacketed or au naturel, the EP900 feels fluid in manipulating the Windows 8 Modern UI, but a first time load of even native apps, reveals the lack of horsepower, with the Calendar, Weather and News apps taking about 5 seconds to load, which as about the same as a Surface RT. By comparison, the same apps take about 2 seconds to load and display on the Surface Pro. One suspects that in full usage, having the mail, calendar and perhaps several Office apps open at once, the little Atom might struggle.
All of this brings us to the price. At €909 for the 64GB version this is not quite in in ultrabook territory, however, as a Surface Pro is available direct from Microsoft from €879, it gives pause for thought. But when one considers that the productivity jacket without the battery costs €116, the extra battery costs €116, the dock costs €138 and the pen costs €44, all of a sudden it makes less sense.
It seems a shame that such a supportive framework for a business tablet is let down by a processor that though sufficient today, is likely to struggle in the near future as needs expand. However, I hope Microsoft is taking note on the accessories.