When you think of tablets you probably don't think of the workplace, although some are trying to embrace the technology. Even the ads for Microsoft's Surface tablet, while showing workers using them, are filled with dancing and acrobatics that don't really bring the workplace to mind.
The HP ElitePad 900 is aimed squarely at the enterprise with some unique features that the company believes will make the tablet right at home there. On the surface the ElitePad 900 is an attractive 10.1-inch tablet that rivals the competition in looks and form.
The sleek form of the 900 is slightly lighter than the iPad and about as thin. It is comfortable to use in the hand for extended periods and doesn't particularly look like a work system.
That's because the biggest enterprise-class feature of the ElitePad 900 is hidden under the surface. HP has designed the tablet to handle the bumps of the workplace as it meets the strict military MIL-spec standards. It is a big achievement for HP to meet these standards in such a thin, light form. Impressively, the 900 is slightly smaller than HP's own Envy x2 tablet which isn't ruggedized.
Hardware specs as reviewed:
Processor: Intel Atom, 1.8GHz
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Cameras: 8MP- rear; 1080p- front
Communications: Wi-fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC
The ElitePad 900 is a nice Windows 8 tablet due to its svelte form. The 10.1-inch size is ideal for typical tablet functions as it feels comfortable in the hands for long periods. The 900 handles most functions of Windows 8 with ease and style.
Strangely, HP decided to use a display in the ElitePad 900 that only handles a screen resolution of 1280x800. This means that until Windows 8.1 comes out later this year, the 900 cannot do the nice function of Windows 8 that allows displaying two apps side-by-side, This decision by HP is odd as snap view is particularly suited for work tasks and the lack of it is clearly felt. HP should have used a display with 1366x768 which works fine on a 10-inch screen as demonstrated on other tablets (e.g. ThinkPad Tablet 2). The display is otherwise quite bright and vivid.
Screen resolution aside, the ElitePad 900 is a typical Atom-based tablet running Windows 8. The performance doesn't set the world on fire but it handles most tasks with ease. Most things run handily with occasional hesitation if lots of apps are running.
The HP ElitePad 900 is a solid tablet for the enterprise that can stand up to rough handling. It is attractive enough to be comfortable in the board room yet solid enough to go to work in the field or warehouse. Field work could be particularly useful with proprietary uses for the integrated NFC in the tablet.
The enterprise focus is apparent in the pricing of the 900. At the time of this review the ElitePad 900 was priced at various online retailers at around $700. There is an optional pen (not reviewed) that HP sells for $49. This pen does not use Wacom technology and thus doesn't support the hover feature that some Windows 8 functions require.
Next: Don't forget your jacket -- Unique expansion accessories
Don't forget your jacket -- Unique expansion accessories
In addition to the ruggedized construction, HP has developed a couple of accessories it calls jackets to make the ElitePad 900 work in various environments.
Battery Expansion Jacket
The first accessory is a small shell that the tablet is popped into that adds an additional 5 hours of battery life through a small battery in the jacket. The jacket is constructed of durable plastic and protects the ElitePad 900 all around with the exception of the screen. The tablet's proprietary charging connector can charge both the jacket battery and the tablet.
In addition to adding the extra battery life, the jacket has the following ports on the bottom: 2-USB, HDMI, and a full-sized SD slot. The tablet's volume rocker control is replicated on the back of the jacket since it covers the tablet back, as is the power button on top.
The Expansion Jacket with battery adds 0.86lb to the 1.36lb of the tablet alone.
Some tablet owners need a keyboard and HP has produced the Productivity Jacket for them. This is a full case the has a very good keyboard inside.
Once the tablet is popped into the jacket it becomes more like a laptop than a tablet with a keyboard. The case holds the tablet at three different viewing angles to handle most any use case. The three slots that prop the tablet use magnets to hold the tablet sturdily in place.
It is a full keyboard that is one of the best I've tested on models designed for tablets. The top row of function keys double as tablet controls for one-finger operation.
This keyboard has an advantage over most models designed for use with tablets as it uses a physical connection to the ElitePad 900 instead of a Bluetooth connection. The tablet plugs into the jacket through the charging/docking connector. This connection eliminates the short lag before the keyboard can be used as is common with Bluetooth models.
There are two USB ports and a full-sized SD card slot on the back of the Productivity Jacket. There is also a power jack for plugging in the tablet power adapter for operation/charging.
The keyboard does not have any kind of touchpad which would be very useful for Windows 8 operation. All UI interaction must be via the tablet touch screen. While using the case the lack of a touchpad is sorely felt. Even an optical trackstick would have been welcome like that on the ThinkPad Tablet 2 keyboard.
The Productivity Jacket weighs a significant 1.87lb not counting the tablet.
HP has produced a solid tablet in the ElitePad 900 that while designed for the enterprise could easily meet consumers' demands. The high price of the tablet and accessories will likely leave consumers behind.
The two jackets provide useful features to the tablet that can handle virtually any environment and work scenario. It is easy to envision the tablet used in the field, especially in warehouse environments.