When Microsoft launched their new Windows 8 OS back in October 2012, there were enough laptops, tablets and hybrids on offer to make you feel like a kid in a candy store. HP, too, launched a few of their own new devices to coincide with the launch, and the HP ElitePad 900 was one of those on the list; the company’s first tablet released for enterprise built specifically for Windows 8. At the time of its release, the ElitePad 900 was one of the more expensive tablets released for Windows 8, but should we automatically assume it’s one of the best?
As with many of the EliteBook laptops that was released before, the ElitePad 900 has a sleek metal chassis with military MIL-STD810G standards. What this means is that the tablet was designed for use for everyday life, and even in rugged environments. HP put the device through its paces with tests including liquid spillage, vibration, saw dust, altitude, extreme high and low temperatures, and even the dreaded drop test; all of which it passed. This proves extremely handy if you’re office is the great outdoors, or just prone to a few spills of coffee and the occasional “forget you have your headphones plugged in and walk away” mishaps. Many devices that are built to withstand such rugged tests are often bulky and aren’t pleasing to the eye at all. This isn’t the case with the ElitePad 900, as it still manages to look the part of a business device during presentations.
Despite its pleasing looks and amazing durability, the tablet hasn’t set the world alight in terms of its overall performance. Its performance specifications include a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 Dual-Core CPU, 2GB RAM, 10.1” display with a wide-angle resolution of 1280x800px, and 32GB eMMC SSD for storage. Also included is an 8MP rear-facing camera, and a front-facing camera able to capture video at full 1080p (surprising because it isn’t able to play back its own full HD recordings).
Even though we wouldn’t expect anyone to purchase the ElitePad 900 for its gaming graphics capabilities, its graphics performance is still an important aspect of this review. Not surprisingly, the device doesn’t handle the payload all that well, getting by only with basic-graphics games. This set a bad precedent as the video playback was still to come. Needless to say, it didn’t perform all that well here either. Even on the occasion that the video playback was relatively smooth, we still had the soft and tinny sound to contend with. On a more positive note, though, the display offered a good colour and brightness variance, which looked pleasing when viewing photos and other stills.
Where the ElitePad 900 really disappoints is that it doesn’t include many standardised ports for easy use. In order to utilise any USB, HDMI, Ethernet or even VGA capabilities of the device, you will have to purchase a separate, proprietary dock. It goes a long way to provide one or two of the said ports and offer purchasable adapters to convert to the remaining ports. This is of higher importance when using Windows-based devices, for which one is expected to perform daily tasks such as copying files onto your flash, or connecting it to the projector during a presentation.
The device does offer some respite in that it offers a 3.5mm audio port, microSD card slot, broadband connection point, and, on some models, a SIM slot with built-in 4G connectivity. These provide a greater level of mobility for your tablet for those always on the go.
The HP ElitePad 900 offers a mixed bags of goods for the consumer, who may find it tough to convince themselves to dish out the starting RRP of R10,362. It’s clear that the device has been built for modem business use, even for the outdoors, making it very useful and mobile. The device also offers easier maintenance for IT technicians with easy to open and replace components. While all this may be good news for some, you may often be left cold in environments whereby we often find our gadgets too modern for everyday use, particularly here in South Africa. HP offers a wide variety of accessories for the tablet, but with its limited performance capabilities, and even more limiting default port options, we can only sit back and wonder how much more effective a higher-end model of the device would be.