Test driving the HP ElitePad 900

Unlike ARM-powered tablets such as Microsoft's own Surface RT, the ElitePad runs full-on Windows 8 Pro atop a latest generation Intel Atom processor.

HP’s ElitePad 900 is a Windows 8 tablet designed for business users. Unlike ARM-powered tablets such as Microsoft’s own Surface RT, the ElitePad runs full-on Windows 8 Pro atop a latest generation Intel Atom processor.

The ElitePad is thin and light, measuring 261 x 178 x 9.2mm and weighing less than 680 grams. The back is made from aluminium with a rubberised panel along the upper edge, offering great grip in one-handed portrait mode. The front panel is made of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2, and picks up fingerprints like an over-enthusiastic CSI tech.

64GB of onboard storage may seem plentiful, but Windows 8 takes up around 11GB of that. With just Windows and Microsoft Office 2013 installed, we had 40GB of user-accessible storage left over. A microSDHC card slot is cleverly hidden at the rear, giving you the option of additional storage.

Performance is equal to, or slightly higher than, the Samsung ATIV Smart PC we tested in late 2012 – another Windows 8 tablet based on the same Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core CPU. While it’s far below a laptop in performance, and is not even capable of running our standard 3D graphics tests because it lacks DirectX 11 support, the ElitePad 900 is perfectly capable of running productivity applications such as Microsoft Office.

You’re not going to have much luck running apps as powerful as Adobe Photoshop or 3D Studio Max, but working online and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations aren’t going to present much trouble. Basic image editing, such as resizing and cropping images for presentations or use online, won’t give you much trouble either.

You’ve got all the wireless connectivity options you’d expect from a tablet: 802.11a/b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC, and 3G HSPA+ mobile broadband (sorry, no 4G/LTE for early adopters and jet-setters). A wi-fi-only version is available, which also lacks GPS, for $115 less.

The whole ElitePad offers a standard headphone socket at the top, and a proprietary connector at the bottom for the charger or optional docking station. Obviously missing, however, is even a single USB port. Given that one of the few advantages of Windows 8 tablets over the competition is the wide support for USB-connected peripherals, this is a real disappointment.

A short adapter cable is included in the box: it plugs into the ElitePad’s proprietary connector and provides a single USB 2.0 port. However in our tests, it often came unplugged at the ElitePad end - enough to break the connection. This appears due to the wide, shallow plug and the stiff cable, rather than some fault of our test unit. Similar adapters are available to add Ethernet, HDMI & VGA, a full-size SD card reader, or even a serial port.

If you’re doing everything in a local network environment, or online via 3G, the lack of an onboard USB port might not bother you. But if it does, HP offers an optional ‘Expansion Jacket’ that adds two USB ports, full-size HDMI output, and full-size SD card reader to the bottom of the tablet. The jacket can also add a secondary battery to increase the advertised maximum battery life from ten hours to twenty. It adds 260 grams and increases the dimensions to 269 x 205 x 18mm, but compensates with improved grip and durability. It’s a great accessory if you’re taking the ElitePad out of the office, especially with the optional second battery.

Also highly useful is the optional dock, which adds full-sized HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, four USB 2.0 ports and an audio line-out. Combine it with a touch-capable monitor, and the ElitePad will serve as a basic but functional office PC while it’s docked.

Without its accessories, the ElitePad is a poster-product for Windows 8 tablets in the office – its greatest disappointment being the lack of an onboard USB port. That’s mitigated by HP’s phenomenal range of optional accessories, which neatly address most of the use cases a modern business could throw at the ElitePad 900. 

SUMMARY: A great example of how Windows 8 tablets can shine, most useful if you invest in the optional expansion jacket and dock.



10.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel display

Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core 1.8GHz CPU

2GB RAM, 64GB SSD storage

Windows 8 Pro (32-bit)

RRP incl GST: $1,375 wi-fi only, $1490 wi-fi + 3G

Expansion jacket $110 ($259 with battery), Dock $202

The author @harleyogier is reviews editor of PC World New Zealand.

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