3 Convertible Tablets That Mean Business
The smallest convertible tablet of the three, HP's EliteBook 2740p squeezes a lot of computer into a small, rugged case.
The EliteBook 2740p's matte silver case is a step up from the other two tablets. It's constructed of magnesium and aluminum, and HP put it through some of the Mil Std 810G tests used for military computers (although that doesn't include the all-important drop tests). At 1.3 by 8.9 by 11.4 in. and weighing 3.9 lbs. (4.8 lbs. with the AC adapter), the EliteBook convertible is the thinnest and lightest of the three convertibles reviewed here -- but it's still more than twice as heavy as the 1.5-lb. iPad.
One reason the EliteBook is so light is because it doesn't come with an optical drive. Otherwise, it's as well equipped as the other tablets, featuring three USB ports, an external monitor connection, headphone, microphone, FireWire and ExpressCard ports, and a flash card reader. For security, it has a smart card reader and a fingerprint scanner, like the LifeBook T900, but unlike the Portege M780, it doesn't have an e-SATA port.
Other features include a 2-megapixel camera, a modem and Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth. Its 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi had a range of 100 feet. The EliteBook 2740p also offers something that the iPad can't: An optional Gobi mobile broadband card that can use AT&T, Sprint or Verizon Wireless networks and includes GPS mapping; it costs $125.
Like the other models, the EliteBook 2740p uses Intel's GMA HD graphics technology. Its 12.1-in. display offers maximum resolution of 1280 x 800.
The EliteBook 2740p has the best latch of the three convertibles, and when it's time to move from tablet to notebook, the screen rotates smoothly and opens to reveal a responsive keyboard with 19.2mm keys. It's the only one of the three that has a keyboard equipped with both a touchpad and a pointing stick. It also has an unusual but very effective pop-out LED lamp for those who work late.
The display on the EliteBook 2740p is flush with the surface of the case, whereas the other two have awkwardly recessed screens. This makes it more comfortable for writing, drawing or doodling through a long meeting. The EliteBook has a convenient pop-out place to store its pen, which can be tethered to the case, but its pen is the smallest of the three and is less comfortable to use.
Whether I was writing a Web URL or sketching a geometric figure, the touch display was responsive and kept up with fast finger or stylus movements.
The EliteBook is able to handle multitouch gestures, like spreading your thumb and forefinger on a Web page to zoom out. It also handles precise movements well -- when I used the pen, the EliteBook 2740p was able to correctly take me to nine out of the 10 Web addresses I hand-wrote on the entry window. It was tripped up only by the National Weather Service's forecast site; it took me three tries to get to that site.
On the downside, the EliteBook 2740p lacks the variety of controls and buttons that the Portege M780 and LifeBook T900 have when they're in tablet mode, although it does have buttons on the side for opening up a Web browser and an e-mail client, and one that mimics the Escape key.
The EliteBook also includes a lever called the jog dial that you press up or down to scroll through a document or Web page. A button on the edge of the display lets you rotate the screen's orientation; like the other convertibles in this roundup, the EliteBook lacks the iPad's ability to automatically rotate the screen as it's turned between portrait and landscape modes.
The EliteBook 2740p's Intel Core i5-540M processor runs at 2.53 GHz, but can sprint to 3.06 GHz if necessary. The review unit came with 4GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive.
Its six-cell 3960mAh battery pack ran for a disappointing 1 hour and 33 minutes in my battery tests.
Equipped with Windows 7 Professional, a basic EliteBook 2740p with 2GB RAM and a 160GB hard drive can be had for $1,599, making it a bargain-basement convertible. Even at $100 more, the unit I looked at is a good deal. It comes with a three-year warranty.
The EliteBook 2740p functions just as well as a traditional notebook as it does as a tablet; it's the one to get if size, weight and performance matter more than battery life (and if you don't need an optical drive) .