HP ElitePad 900 - HP's First Windows 8 Tablet For Business World (Part 1)

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On paper, the ElitePad 900 has almost everything that we expected from a business tablet: pen support, security features such as TPM and a dock with Ethernet and extra ports. It's offered with a wider-than-usual range of accessories, including useful goodies like a second battery and keyboard case. Not to mention it is one of the best tablets we've seen, and of course that is not what we require from enterprise tech.

HP Elite Pad 900

HP Elite Pad 900

HP's PC business lines are always amazingly pretty. Please do remember, good looks are not located high on our list of criteria, but at least they make a strong impression. Now when the company was more comfortable with the tablet (and especially Windows 8), HP was selling ElitePad 900, its first Windows 8 tablet designed for the enterprise. Like all those EliteBook laptops that came before it, it has metal frame that is not only pretty, but also meets the military's MIL-Spec standards too.  On the other hand, it has everything you expect from a business computer: support for pen input, mobile broadband and security features such as TPM. It is also sold along with many accessories, including some cases that add further functionality besides just protection from scratches. With a starting price of $699 for the 32GB model, it is slightly more expensive than its competitors. Would this also means it's a little bit better too?


ElitePad is the most attractive tablet that HP has ever made

ElitePad is the most attractive tablet that HP has ever made

We will say this without hesitation: ElitePad is the most attractive tablet that HP has ever made.  And it's for the enterprise. Stealing the show is that machined-aluminum rear, with its flush volume rocker and smooth, hard finish. Indeed, it looks so pretty that it was present in the grand campaign aired during last year's Summer Olympics (not the place for those ugly devices). In contrast, there's a black, soft-touch panel on the top of the back cover, around where the antennas and NFC chip are. Typically, that might make for a mismatched design but in this case, the contrast between the cold metal and rubbery accent works quite well.

The nice thing of aluminum is its lightweight: with 1.38 pounds, ElitePad is very easy to hold, especially because the chamfered edges create a natural resting place for the thumbs. (For reference, the tablet weighs 0.06 pound less than the iPad 4, which is already pretty portable.) Like all previous HP's EliteBook laptops, it is designed to withstand drops, water spills and any other accidents that may occur at the workplace. (The IT guy just wanted to refresh your computer every few years, you know?). In particular, the tablet meets military's MIL-SPEC-810G standard, covering drops, vibration, sand, heat, cold, rain and humidity. We cannot guarantee the aluminum surface will not get dirty - we had one small scratch ourselves - but at least the machine will remain usable.

lack of ports on the device means that you will probably rely more on the SmartJacket option

Lack of ports on the device means that you will probably rely more on the SmartJacket option

Our tour of the ports will be fairly brief, and it is not necessarily a good thing: lack of ports on the device means that you will probably rely more on the SmartJacket option, which adds a lot of weight. On top, you'll find the power button/lock on one side, the headphone jack and screen-orientation lock switch on the other. Located on the left is the volume rocker, which isn't actually on that chamfered edge but rather, on the back side. Same deal with the SIM slot and microSD reader, which sit behind a pin-accessible door on the right.

As we have said, the NFC chip is located in the back cover, towards the top where that black rubber trip is, it is clearly marked by the NFC logo. Bottom edge is home to dual speakers, along with the docking connector you will need to make use of all those optional accessories. There is an 8MP camera at the back, paired with an LED flash, along with a 1080p webcam up front.

Display and Sound

HP has chosen to match the nice design with an equally nice display.  What we have here is a 10.1-inch IPS screen made of Gorilla Glass 2. The brightness rating tops out at 400 nits, which is preferably close to what you would have on a tablet today (the product of Asus seems to be the exception). The only thing keeping this from being a truly top-notch screen is that the resolution is reduced to 1,280 x 800, and it's not even entirely HP's fault: after all, the Atom processor does not support resolutions beyond 1366x768. In addition, the company said that business customers do not require a higher resolution. And who are we to argue with HP's marketing department?

a 10.1-inch IPS screen made of Gorilla Glass 2

A 10.1-inch IPS screen made of Gorilla Glass 2

In short, it's a cute display. As you wait, the colors lose some strength when viewed from the side or when the tablet is facing upwards. However, regardless of the angle, the screen is always easy to read, especially when you maximize the brightness. We would also add that glossy screen reflects surprisingly little light -- or, at least, the screen glare that is there doesn't get in the way.

And in case you're wondering, ElitePad supports pen input, like the other Windows 8 tablets aimed at the corporate world. However, because the digitizer is made by Atmel, not Wacom, you can't just sub in any old pen if you lose the one you bought from HP. Pens are sold separately for $ 49 dollars and indeed, we do not have a chance to test the ElitePad with it.

HP ElitePad 900’s speaker

HP ElitePad 900’s speaker

At this point you may have noticed that most of HP's consumer PCs have Beats Audio on board, but because the ElitePad is a business computer, it has SRS technology. Indeed, without Beats' EQ settings to emphasize the low notes, the sound here is fairly constrained. It proved to be the worst at the highest volume setting, but fortunately the speaker setup is loud enough that you can easily keep the volume around 40 / 100 if you're listening by yourself. And if you're on a conference call and need bigger sound, nobody cares if your colleagues sounded somewhat small.

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