HP’s recent tablet hybrids have been made with a focus on consumers, but the business market isn’t being left out, evident in the Elitebook Revolve, a notebook with an older type of convertible hinge and some new innards to bring this style of machine into 2014.
Microsoft’s Windows 8 may have brought around touchscreens to more computers, but the whole idea of a tablet laptop isn’t anything new, and they’ve even been around longer than most of the tablets out today. In fact, with previous versions of Windows, companies like HP experimented with different tablet form factors, such as the convertible middle hinge form-factor.
That’s the design that HP is bringing back for the Elitebook Revolve 810 G2, a tablet laptop hybrid that brings together a touchscreen and a laptop to provide what could be the best of both worlds.
In this machine, you’ll find an 11.6 inch touchscreen running the high definition resolution of 1366×768, connected to the base of the computer by a hinge that not only allows the screen to lie flat, but also twist around 180 degrees and collapse down against the keyboard and mouse.
Under that keyboard and mouse, you’ll find familiar components to some but not all tablet-laptop hybrids. In fact, while many of the machines we’ve seen in the past year or two come equipped with an Intel Atom processor, HP has ignored that system on a chip, going for a more powerful Intel Core i5 chip instead, straight out of the fourth-generation “Haswell” breed.
As such, there was a Core i5 4300U clocked at 1.9GHz in our review unit, but HP makes models ranging from the Core i3 4010U (1.7GHz) all the way up to a Core i7 4600U (2.1GHz) depending on how much you want to spec this machine up.
Memory is set to 4GB as standard, with an extra 4 optional, while the storage is all solid state, with128GB standard in the machine and in our review unit. Windows 8.1 runs natively here, though anyone who prefers Windows 7 can apparently have that as an option, as well.
Connections and ports are a little more varied than what you’ll expect, something that we expect goes part and parcel with this machine being built for business, so expect 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi support here, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, Near-Field Communication (NFC), and even some 4G LTE connectivity, making this highly suitable for going on the road, while the ports include two USB 3.0 spots, a 3.5mm headset jack, Ethernet, a full-size DisplayPort, and a microSD slot to expand the storage if needed.
A special docking connector can also be found on the side for anyone keen to add extra ports with one of HP’s docks.
One interesting addition to the tablet hybrid formula is a replaceable battery, a feature we’re not used to seeing on a machine of this style, which will let you — when you remove it — see the microSIM slot.
While the Elitebook is a computer, a fact which his obvious when you see the keyboard and mouse, there are also a few buttons here on the sides, thanks to it also being a tablet.
Most of these are consistent with other tablets out there, and this includes a power toggle switch, a rotation lock switch (unmarked as such, but it’s the toggle next to the power button), and a volume rocker, with all of these located on the right side.
Now that the tablet has started to encroach on the space that is the laptop, it can be hard to work out what you’re in the market for.
Do you want a slim and light laptop computer in the style of the Intel Ultrabook? Do you want a relatively durable laptop with plenty of powerful innards to take with you on the road? Or do you want a tablet, thin and light and with a touchscreen that feels like it’s from the future?
If you’re unsure, the hybrid computer might be more what you’re into, providing parts of both the laptop and tablet world, and in essence, giving you both a laptop and a touchscreen slate without needing to spend on both types of machine.
While there are plenty of these combo devices on the market, most are geared at consumers, with very few of them built to handle the rigours of life for a business person. That is, they’re often not built for accidental drops of water — as most things probably should be — or with casings that go beyond plastic (once again, as most things probably should be).
But HP has one, and aside for the strengthened body — which carries a magnesium chassis — there are some other changes, starting with one on the inside, with the switch to an Intel Core i5 processor, a more capable generation of processor than the system-on-a-chip that is Intel’s Atom, which is a fine processor, but doesn’t really pass muster if you’re doing a lot of processor intensive work.
Another neat feature impresses us greatly, and that’s the replaceable battery, which is easy to remove — push the eject button and voila! — and features a microSIM slot underneath.
That part too — the SIM slot — is an excellent addition, making it possible for anyone to jump onto a mobile connection from anywhere in the world, provided of course they have a SIM and a plan with data.
Forget the mobile broadband dongle, because it’s built into the machine! W00t!
Even the inclusion of some of the ports are wonderful, and we’re particularly enamoured to see two USB 3.0 and a full-size DisplayPort, which is unusual to see, especially over the HDMI port that you’d normally see on a machine like this.
Switch the machine on and see it in action, and you’ll find Windows 8.1 served up in a form-factor we haven’t really experienced that operating system on.
Performance is a little all over the place, which is strange given the specs.
For the most part, there’s a decent usability experience, with enough power and prowess for most to work with, but given the specs, we were surprised to see some graphical tests just didn’t cut it, running like a dog and falling to pieces on the Revolve.
Even though there’s a Core i5 working here, the Revolve reminds us of an Atom machine, working well for office applications, web browsing, emailing, and multitasking through the lot of them, but not much more. For many, that’ll be fine, but we’ve seen similarly spec’d Ultrabooks that performed better.
The keyboard is equally hit and miss, as while it’s soft and comfortable to type on, it’s also so soft that it doesn’t feel at all firm, and feels like it has a more travel than you might expect.
It’s a strange keyboard, that much we can attest to, and while it’s not as amazing as say a Lenovo or Apple keyboard, and it feels a degree more rubbery, it isn’t an uncomfortable keyboard, either.
The battery, though, isn’t as bad as either the system or keyboard, managing somewhere between four and nine hours depending on how much you decide to tax the system.
Are you a light worker, with writing, spreadsheets, emails, and web surfing? You’ll see closer to the full nine.
Do you want to try and get a little more done? Maybe some Photoshop work, or the odd game here? Start around three or four, and maybe you’ll find a little more.
At least HP has made the battery replaceable, which is something few small notebooks have, affording you the opportunity to carry a spare with you on a trip.
It might not seem like much, but that’s a feature we can seriously agree with.
And that one feature helps to make you realise that business is obviously the focus of the Revolve, and business that isn’t sure quite what it wants, notebook or tablet.
But for this compromise, you’ll find a fair degree of weight and heft for this 11.6 inch size, coming in at 1.4 kilograms, and really feeling like it.
In fairness to HP, the Revolve 810 G2 has been designed to pass military tests for ruggedness, with a magnesium chassis and a spill resistant keyboard, making it one durable tablet hybrid. But it’s such a heavy machine that you’ll only ever want to use it as a laptop, because holding a 1.4 kilo tablet just isn’t likely to be on the cards for anyone, unless of course you have hands of Truckosaurus.
We also suspect that spill resistant keyboard is part of the reason the keyboard feels so rubbery, mentioned earlier in the review. As we said before, it’s not a bad keyboard, but it’s not a great one, and that soft feeling helps to make this keyboard feel more like a toy than something a professional would use.
But hey, at least you’ll be able to drain the spilled coffee from your machine (seriously, don’t drop coffee on your laptop).
There’s also an issue with the screen, which sits at 11.6 inches, but runs with the piddling high definition only resolution of 1366×768, far lower than the Full HD we expect out of displays these days, with that resolution the minimum suggested.
You can also see the pixels on the screen easily, likely due to how easily viewed lines are on the screen, noticeable on white and proving that no, sadly, this isn’t a fantastic quality screen. That’s a real shame too, as the display has decent angles, washing out only at extremes, and only ever so slightly.
Mind you, low resolution screens has been a pet peeve of ours for a while, and HP is one of the main offenders, only including excellent displays from time to time. This, sadly, isn’t one of those times.
Outside of these hardware issues, our last complaint is one to do with price, because yowza, this is one expensive piece of kit.
While it’s not technically an Ultrabook, HP’s Elitebook Revolve 810 G2 commands a price higher than most Ultrabooks out there, starting with a recommended retail price of $2199.
That is a very high price for what’s on offer, and for the most part, it feels like HP is asking for this price tag due to the military spec componentry. While it’s true that there aren’t many computers out there with both a Core i5 processor and a 4G LTE chip, we’re not sure we agree that the two together should carry a value over the two grand mark.
Sorry HP, but we don’t see the same value in dollar signs here.
While HP might not have been present in the tablet space for all that long — paging the Touchpad, anyone? — recent efforts by the company show it returning to form.
Indeed, it’s doing it again in the Revolve, which not only revives an older tablet style, but also makes it durable and useful for longer distance, which will suit business users getting ready to travel.
But then there’s that price, something which seriously stunts the value of the machine.
$2199 for real, HP? We don’t get it. We really don’t.
If the dollar signs don’t bother you, though, and the idea of a 4G equipped semi-rugged tablet grab you, there’s plenty to like here, but if it were us, we’d probably pick something better and tether our phones (but that’s us).