I saw the HP ElitePad Windows 8 slate at a trade show last week and was impressed by a feature I had not heard about before: easy serviceability.
Tablets are usually intimidating to disassemble, thanks to screens that are either glued in place or which require alarming force to prise away. The ElitePad is different. It is a slate which is actually easier to take apart than most laptops, thanks to magnetic attachment. HP supplies a depolarising jig into which you slot the tablet, whereupon you can easily remove the screen with a suction handle. There are a couple of screws to undo first, but it looks like an easy job.
Here are a few screen grabs from the explanatory video (embedded at the end of this post) which show what is involved. This is the tablet in the jig with the screen about to be removed.
This is the screen coming away.
And here is the unit with screen removed.
Once opened up, HP says you can replace these parts:
- Dock connector
- speaker system
- SD and Sim card connector
- NFC (Near Field Communications) sensor
- wireless LAN
- power board
- memory card
According to the video, the motherboard “contains the SSD” which sounds disappointing, since one of the first things you might want to do is to replace the rather small 32GB or 64GB SSD with a larger one.
Unfortunately this feature is not aimed at home users wanting to modify or fix their own tablets; you need the jig and HP training. At least, that is the official line; but I imagine that the DIY community will also benefit from this approach.
The ElitePad has a 10″ 1280×800 screen, dual core Z2760 Atom processor, 2GB RAM, and 32GB or 64GB SSD. It also supports memory expansion via an SD card, and there an option for a SIM for mobile broadband. Battery life is around 8 hours.
HP is using expansion jackets to adapt the ElitePad for specialist tasks – a throwback to the iPaq (remember that?) handheld computer which used the same concept. This includes jackets with additional battery, a productivity jacket with a keyboard and stand, a jacket for medical use, a retail POS (point of sale) option, and a rugged case for outside use. I hated the iPaq jackets, which were horribly bulky, but these look like a better proposition, though it is still a shame to bulk up your nice slim slate with fat case.
According to HP, a key selling point of the ElitePad is enterprise manageability thanks to Active Directory support. Of course this is x86 Windows 8, not Windows RT which cannot be domain-joined.
I do get the impression that HP has put considerable effort into the ElitePad which is not just a me-too Windows 8 product. Good to see.
The main snag with the ElitePad is its high price. It starts at $699 in the US, or £520 + VAT in the UK, and considering the lowly specification in terms of processing power, and the extra cost of the accessories, it looks poor value, though if it is a perfect fit for your business it might still be worth it (and no doubt you will get a better price if you buy in quantity).