While most of us may own tablets of some size or kind, not all of us may have the luxury of using it for work purposes. The ‘Bring Your Own Device’ scenarios being faced by companies means that more of their staff are bringing personal devices into the office environment and requesting them to be integrated with enterprise services such as corporate email or applications. As someone who’s previously worked in an enterprise background, these personal devices are often a nuisance, as users may lost the devices with critical company information on it, or the device requires special protocols or services to operate, or other such complications.
As a response to the need for an enterprise-grade tablet, few manufacturers have been producing Windows 8 tablets that can better integrate into a company’s existing IT infrastructure without compensating on security or functionality. HP are the latest to join that group, with the release of the ElitePad 900 tablet, which was unveiled a few weeks ago here in Dubai. I decided to give the ElitePad a quick spin to see if it really was a suitable addition to the enterprise world.
The build quality on the ElitePad 900 is certainly very good, and HP will be more than happy to reveal the numerous tests that the ElitePad was submitted to. From six-edge drops to temperature tests, the ElitePad has certainly gone through some hardcore testing to ensure that it is as durable as possible. The entire device is crafted from aluminum, with a sturdy Gorilla Glass front that ensures your new toy remains scratch-free. Overall the build quality is quite good, however there is a noticeable amount of flex on the left side of the device if you apply a bit of pressure to it.
At the top you’ll find the power button, rotation lock, and headphones jack. To the left you’ll find two small buttons to control the volume, and on the right side hidden behind a plastic flap is a microSD and SIM card slot. And that’s pretty much it – the ElitePad doesn’t contain a single port on it, with the exception of the large expansion port at the bottom. This expansion port is used to connect two kinds of devices; proprietary dongles offer one particular port, while ‘Smart Jackets’ offer a great number of ports and functionality.
My ElitePad came with the Expansion Jacket, which added two USB ports, a full HDMI port, memory card reader. You simply slide the ElitePad into the jacket, and snap the top half back on. The jacket does add a bit more weight and size to the tablet, and I have to say that it wasn’t always easy to snap the top cover back on in a hurry. The other annoying thing I experienced a bit too often was when I was trying to life the ElitePad out of my bag, I ended up pulling off the top cover accidentally and the tablet slipped back into my bag. You can also opt for the ElitePad Docking Station, which is perfect if you want to use the ElitePad at your desk.
One thing that the ElitePad does have going for it is that it is fully user-serviceable with the help of a special jacket. Simply slide the ElitePad into the jacket, apply a special suction cup to the screen, and the entire device opens up so a system administrator can access the internal components for upgrades or troubleshooting.
In order to keep the battery life as long as possible. HP have opted to use the Intel Atom processor, which previously saw both success and failure when netbooks flooded the market. The low-powered processor does do wonders for the ElitePad, but it also means that you won’t get that much power at your disposal. Simple applications like Office or browsing the web will run fine, but anything more taxing than that will certainly suffer.
In contrast however, when I connected to a Citrix server cluster which was based in the UK, I was able to run the same application and searches without a single problem. No matter what I threw into the query window, the results were computed and produced on screen without any hiccups. This highlights a core use for the ElitePad, and that is it is perfect for remote desktop or accessing virtual applications. The 16:10 screen ration also means that enterprise applications were scaled properly on screen and didn’t have any weird scrollbars pop up like on other tablets.
The ElitePad’s screen is certainly quite bright, and the 1,280 x 800 resolution may seem weird at first, but works well with most applications. The only downside is that should you choose to watch videos on the ElitePad, you’ll be seeing black bars at the top and bottom. Viewing angles were also very good thanks to the IPS panel, and for the most part you won’t feel fatigued from staring at the screen for too long.
Camera-wise you’ve got a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera, and a front-facing 1080p HD camera, which is perfect for regular video conferences. The speakers on the ElitePad were loud, but lacked any real depth, as again this is a business tablet and not really a multimedia consumption device.
On its own the ElitePad can get you around eight and a half hours on a full battery, with brightness set on automatic and a decent amount of application usage. If you’re using the ElitePad Jacket battery, then you’ll of course squeeze out even more usage out of the ElitePad. The tablet also remained cool at all times, thanks in part to its fairly low-power processor.
So does the ElitePad truly represent what an enterprise tablet should look like? In some ways, yes it does. The inclusion of Windows 8 Professional means that administrators have access to enterprise-level features of Windows that aren’t available in other editions, which will ease deployment and reduce security risks. But where the ElitePad might be of concern is for enterprise applications that require a bit more juice, so it’s worth ensuring that your applications’ minimum requirements can be run on the ElitePad. It’s also worth asking what would make the ElitePad a better choice over HP’s own Envy x2, which combines a tablet cum laptop form factor in one device. Still, as far as enterprise security and features goes, the ElitePad retains familiar aspects that would make it easier to deploy in an enterprise environment, as long as the applications running on it aren’t too taxing.