GBM Review: The HP 2730p Elitebook Tablet PC
The HP 2730p Elitebook Tablet PC is more than worthy of your consideration as your next or your first Tablet PC. There is much to like: from the performance to the battery life, to the excellent design. I’ve had the privilege to be evaluating an early unit of the HP 2730p and I have to say that although I have a few quibbles, I’m extremely impressed. Some things just feel right in your hands. By and large this Tablet PC feels very right in my hands and, as an Inker, that is really important to me. Here are my further thoughts.
Form Factor and Design
HP turned heads with the HP2710p for many reasons. One of which is the design and the form factor. HP stayed with that same form factor and improved on it, and I’m glad they did. Maybe I’m biased as a Tablet PC lover, but this looks and feels different than most convertible Tablet PCs, and quite frankly, I think Tablet PCs should look and feel different than just your every day notebook. It is sleek, it is light, it is thin. It weighs in at 3.7lbs. It makes you want to pick it up and work (or play) with it. It just feels good in my hands. It is also a head turner. Flip the screen around into slate mode and you feel like you are holding a slate Tablet PC. Other convertible Tablet PC owners should take a cue from HP and give their designs something special. After all the price points aren’t going to be falling any time soon on the upper end, so you might as well make potential owners feel like they are getting something special. Hands down, when it comes to look and feel the HP 2730p is a winner. On the functionality of the design it wins as well.
HP has also given users an option for navigation. The 2730p has both a track pad and track (or thumb) stick. Each has two buttons, which are located well. You can turn one or the other off. I prefer the track stick and it works quite well using the Synaptics software and drivers.
HP has also beefed up the ruggedness of the design a bit. The HP 2730p now conforms to the military MIL-STD 810F standards for altitude, high temperatures and dust. I noticed right away that the 2730p felt a sturdier in my hand from the earlier 2710p. When I got to check out Rob’s 2710p last year I questioned if it would hold up getting bounced around in my gadget bag. I don’t have that fear with the 2730p.
Inking and Tablet PC Features
Smooth. Nice. Works like a charm. The Wacom active digitizer works as we expect it should. The screen is flush to the bezel. Using the pen on the HP 2730p is the closest thing I’ve found to that great feel of the long gone, but never forgotten HP tc1100. I do find myself having to occasionally recalibrate in portrait mode. I’ve seen this in other Tablet PCs as well, so that isn’t specific to this Tablet PC.
HP listened to customers of the 2710p and took care of a few complaints. First, the pen garage has a double clutch mechanism that keeps the pen from falling out. Once you depress the pen it pops out an inch and just sits there waiting for you to remove it. You can shake the Tablet all day long and it won’t fall out until you pull it out. Next, HP added a jog dial which makes scrolling through a web page, an eBook, or a long document very easy in slate mode. The jog dial can also be used to adjust screen brightness but only in combination with the brightness command on the Q Menu.
HP is touting longer and longer battery life on the entire Elitebook line. In fact, depending on your configuration, HP is claiming that the Elitebook 6930 will give you 24 hours of juice. You won’t see 24 hours with the 2730p but you will see a significant improvement. With the right configuration HP is touting up to 15 hours of battery life. That right configuration includes the Ultra-slim battery slice, which is the same accessory that worked with the HP 2710p. I don’t have one of those and am evaluating this unit with the onboard 6 cell battery. I’m comfortably getting around four hours of battery life in my normal working conditions without tweaking HP’s Optimized battery profile at all. Again, I’ll refer you to posts here where HP is looking forward to even greater battery life efficiency if you add one of the new Intel SSDs that will be available later this month supposedly.
The WXGA resolution (1280 x 800) is now the standard on 12 inch Tablet PCs, and that makes a high res screen lover like me quite sad. That said, I find the resolution here workable in my situation, even though I have another preference. The Ilumi-lite back light screen is more than bright enough and I think (but am only going by memory here from a year ago) it is brighter and clearer than the 2710p. It is crystal clear and the viewing angles are quite good. As I’ve said this unit has an active digitizer only and I hope we’ll be seeing this series of HP Tablet PCs with a multi-touch screen option in the future. Windows 7 will offer multi-touch. HP needs to be on board with that. (That’s a big hint HP.)
Processor and Performance
The unit I’m evaluating is running the newer Intel Core2Duo LV SL9400 processor (1.86GHz) with 6MB of L2 cache and a 1066 MHz FSB. Frankly, it screams. This is one fast Tablet PC, and for my heavy tasks more than powerful to get the job done. The 2730p has two other configurable processor options, (LV SL9300, ULV SU9300) and for my money, I’d recommend the LV SL9400 if you budget can deal with the slightly higher cost. This unit also is running with 3GB of RAM and I’m sure that makes a difference as well. I can’t say enough on how effortless anything I’m doing on this Tablet PC feels. Quite frankly, even though I do see some occasional Vista weirdness (it is running Vista Business) this is what I think we all hoped Vista would perform like when it was first released. This leads me to believe what many have said, including myself, that Vista’s delayed birth was way too premature for the hardware we had available on these mobile devices. That said, as Vista has been getting used to me working with the apps I use every day, I do since some slowing down when it comes to sleeping and returning from sleep.
You’ve got WiFi, (a/b/g/draft-N) with choices between Intel or Broadcom radios and you’ve got integrated BlueTooth. You will also be able to choose (I don’t think this is available yet) HP’s Mobile Broadband option which is powered by GOBI, the new technology that allows travelers to switch between multiple carriers. That is a great addition for international travelers. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to test the on board wireless option with AT&T as I’m lacking a driver that I can’t track down yet.
HP has a full suite of security options from a finger print reader to encryption and a new wizard to walk you through the set up. The finger print reader works as advertised and I haven’t set up encryption so I can’t comment on that.
The keyboard is one of my quibbles. While typing action works just fine and the keyboard has a nice feel for touch typing, I’m not a fan of the layout. The function keys are far too small for my taste and the layout of the page down, page up, home, and delete keys is not to my taste. I’m sure this is a compromise for size and weight, but I’d much prefer to see these keys be a little larger and little easier to use. I’m sure in time I can adjust to what’s there, but I’d prefer not to hunt and peck.
You’ve got 2 USB ports, an Express card slot, and SD card slot, audio in and out, VGA, LAN, and modem connections, and a Firewire port. I’m glad to see the Firewire port. The positioning of the ports makes sense to my way of looking at things and while some wish there were an additional USB port, I’m comfortable with two.
Sound and Audio
The HP 2730p has an array microphone system that works well for recording, VoIP, or Voice recognition. Unfortunately, the one mono speaker is not an asset. You get very little sound out of the speaker regardless of what mode you are in. This can certainly be improved and is this Tablet PC’s biggest failing in my opinion.
Usability and other features
HP has some nice usability features, some that I like, some that I think aren’t that big a deal.
- I’m surprised how much I use the on board light above the screen when I’m typing. It works well for lighting up the keys (except the page up, page down, home, delete keys-which are in the shadows). As I said, I’m surprised how much I use this feature.
- The webcam (2 megapixels) is nice and works well as a webcam. The business card reader function with this still leaves a lot to be desired. It is just too clunky of a system to use. (Check out Rob’s InkShow of the HP 2710p to see what I mean by clunky. It hasn’t improved in my opinion.)
- The capacitive touch volume control works as advertised and is cool to look at, but you can’t access it in slate mode.
- You’ve also got a capacitive touch button adjacent to it to launch presentation mode. This button along with the Info button are somewhat configurable allowing you to bring up the Info Center, presentation mode, or the Q Menu.
Some Other Niggles
- I don’t understand why HP chooses to only allow rotation into two orientations, a primary landscape and primary portrait mode, instead of using all four orientations.
- HP’s buttons and latches are not the easiest to operate, nor are their labels easy to find and read.
I’ll end as I began. This Tablet PC is worth your strong consideration. It is a great performer (in the config I’m evaluating), handles Tablet PC functionality well, and offers you a range of configuration options when you purchase. I know there is a lot of excitement surrounding the addition of Intel’s new SSD technology later in the month. For what it is worth, my opinion there is that even with a HDD spinning at 5400rpm this a very fast performer and unless you’re really in need of that extra boost, it might not be worth the price premium. But that’s your call. HP has produced a winner. They’ve listened and improved on some small but key usability issues that make a very good form factor even better. I actually hope we see this form factor continue for another version or two, and would love to see it with capacitive touch. Oh, and a better speaker(s).
Check out more on the HP 2730p (including pictures, more specs, benchmarks, and video)
- GBM InkShow: First Look at the HP 2730p Elitebook Tablet PC
- GBM InkShow: Rob’s Review of the HP 2710p Tablet PC
The GBM Lenovo/HP 2730p Tablet PC Shootout
- GBM InkShow: Interview with Lenovo’s Mika Majapuro on the ThinkPad X200T Tablet PC
- GBM InkShow: Lenovo X200 Tablet PC Hands-On Video Review
- GBM InkShow: First Look at the HP 2730p Elitebook Tablet PC
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Testing Webcams
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Testing Webcams in Slate Mode
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Windows Experience Index Scores
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Side by Side
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Weight
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Outdoor Viewing
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Benchmarks
- GBMPodcast #61: The Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout Continues
- Lenovo/HP Tablet PC Shootout: Performance Testing
And yes, the Shootout will continue, and there will also be a full review of eth Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet PC, as well as more video with both. I also haven’t reviewed the Quick Look of the HP 2730p feature but will doing that in a separate review.