HP EliteBook looks like an art major but is all business

HP EliteBook 2730pAt first, HP's EliteBook 2730p struck me as more of an artist than a warrior. It's an elegant, intuitive notebook PC that converts to a tablet and back again with a swivel of the display. And because it’s a tablet, it has a stylus that is tethered to the notebook via a string.

GCN LAB SCORE CARD

HP EliteBook 2730p

Pros: Light, easy to use, powerful Webcam, intuitive tablet-to-notebook conversion.
Cons: It could be more Internet-savvy.

Performance: A
Battery Life: B+
Features: A
Value: B+

This is where I started to have some problems with the device’s purported rugged qualities. The company touted the EliteBook 2730p as business rugged, having tested it against Mil-Std 810F standards for qualities such as dust and heat resistance.

But the string holding the pen looked mighty easy to break. Likewise, the sturdy but single hinge on which the display rotates is not exactly road warrior-ready. I can see why the company doesn’t do drop testing to measure shock resistance.

The chassis is made of a magnesium alloy, and the keyboard is spill resistant, with HP DuraKeys that are coated with a substance that makes them 50 times more resistant to wear and tear than regular keys. But still, I kept worrying that the display would snap off if I wasn’t careful.

The element of the HP EliteBook that struck me as truly rugged is perhaps its signature feature: the tablet surface that you write on with the stylus. You could drop a steel ball onto the display and it wouldn’t break — the display or the ball. It made a nice solid tap when you clicked on the 12.1-inch Illumi-Lite display with the stylus.

Weighing in at 3.74 pounds and fitting easily into a small backpack, the EliteBook 2730p was a trooper during my commutes on the bus and subway. The lightweight and workable size — about 8 1⁄2-inches by 11 3⁄4 inches — made the tablet easier to use than an Etch A Sketch but with vastly more professional results.

The tablet PC is amazingly intuitive and lets you toggle smoothly back and forth between the stylus and the keyboard. It can also read your writing and convert it to text if you’d like.

I wondered what my friends in the art department would think of the EliteBook 2730p, if they could tear themselves away from their Macs for a moment. I doodled madly with the stylus and the tablet software because they were just plain fun to use.

I keep coming back to that word intuitive. The EliteBook 2730p knew when I had the tablet in landscape mode and aligned the start button and desktop icons accordingly. When I was in portrait mode, it set up everything for that more vertical perspective.

One of the target markets for the EliteBook 2730p is the health care industry, and I think workers in that field would like the notebook PC. It’s easy to use and light enough that it wouldn’t feel like a chore to carry it from patient to patient.

Doing a little diagnosing of my own, I checked the EliteBook 2730p’s vital signs. It scored a 545.5 on PassMark Software’s PerformanceTest 6.1, which is very good for most notebooks. It got exceptionally high marks for 3-D graphics and disk sequential reading, again a nod to its use in the artistic fields.

It also did well on our battery test. It lasted three hours, seven minutes, definitely enough time for a few patient visits. You can also buy a battery slice if you need to boost your battery life. Our test involves a worst-case scenario of a movie running with no power-saving features active. Normal use would probably stretch that time.

My unit was priced at $1,899 and came with a 2-megapixel Webcam — considerably more powerful than the 1.3-megapixel cameras most notebook PCs ship with. The Webcam was so sharp and clear that I used it in lieu of a mirror to put on my makeup one morning. It has two built-in microphones that picked up the sound of me rustling through my makeup bag. Such a powerful Webcam could definitely have useful applications in the medical field and would also make teleconferencing a breeze.

The EliteBook offers a few features that are not essential but nice to have. A little book light at the top of the display pops on and off, a handy feature for travel.

Of special interest to government users, the EliteBook 2730p boasts several security features, including a fingerprint sensor and HP SpareKey, a series of security prompts patterned after those used by banking Web sites.

My main criticism of the EliteBook 2730p is its performance on the Internet. It crashed several times on the two broadband connections on which I tested it.

Other than that, I was suitably impressed with the EliteBook 2730p. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor with a 120G hard drive and 3G of RAM, it is robust enough for most indoor work, whether in a factory or health facility.

My initial worries that I would break the swivel display and lose the stylus turned out to be unfounded. Looks are deceiving, and the EliteBook 2730p is made of the right stuff.

Hewlett-Packard, 800-727-2472, www.hp.com

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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