Tablet or laptop?
That's the question many folks ask themselves when buying a new computer, and increasingly they have the option to choose both, in the form of a convertible machine that can serve in both form factors.
HP is one of the companies starting to embrace convertibles, and I recently got to try out one of their top machines from their business line — the HP EliteBook Revolve, and I'll let you know how it measures up and who might want to pick one up.
In terms of convertible or hybrid machines, you have a variety of methods available to do this. You can have a detachable tablet or keep it all in one piece. If you're doing all-in-one, you can have the screen fold all the way back, or you can do what HP did — have the screen swivel all the way around and then lay flat on top of the keyboard.
Amanda Knutson, HP product manager, explained the design choice, saying that the detachable form is more aimed at the consumer market, but the convertible design is more attractive to companies because there is less of a risk of loss, and the convetible is more capable of being used for content creation, not just consumption.
This is not the first EliteBook model to be a convertible, but it's leagues ahead of its predecessor, the EliteBook 2760p, which was a bit thick and clunky by comparison and had a pen attached to it — something that is thankfully gone here on the Revolve.
The EliteBook line is known for its sturdy build and high-quality materials. The Revolve follows in that line, with a magnesium build and the usual military-spec standard testing. This makes it a durable work machine that can take some abuse that might get thrown its way during your travels on the job. The latest Corning Gorilla Glass protects the screen.
The machine weighs in at just over 3 pounds, so it's ideal for traveling due its light nature.
The screen size on the HP EliteBook Revolve is respectable 11.6 inches, but might be a little small for some people. There is only one resoultion option -- 1366x768, with no upgrades available, which is disappointing.
WHEN TO USE A TABLET
I'll be honest with you; I really didn't use this machine as a tablet much. For what I was using the machine for, it didn't really seem necessary. It worked very well for all my computing needs, but the standard laptop mode was my preferred mode of operation.
Of course, I'm not really a tablet guy. People who love tablets, they might take the opposite tact as me. In terms of operating as a tablet, everything worked very well and the screen was responsive. You also have touchscreen control ability when you're in laptop mode.
Knutson said there are several situations that might be ideal for the use of the Revolve in tablet form, including people who are traveling for work, doing presentations, or sitting on a plane and don't want to break out the full laptop.
Keep in mind, too, that when you are in tablet mode, this is still going to be a lot thicker and larger than a typical standalone tablet would be. It's still a tablet form but not what you normally associate with a tablet.
PROCESSOR, RAM, STORAGE OPTIONS
My machine came a 1.9 GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor, and 4GB of RAM.
You can bump up to an i7 processor, and go as high as 12GB of RAM, but even with the specs I had you'll probably be just fine unless you're doing some really intense stuff on you computer. Graphic designers or video editors or other labor-intensive workers may want to upgrade, but the vast majority of people can get by with teh 4GB of RAM and the i5 processor.
Multitasking worked well and I was never slowed down by doing a lot at once on this machine.
In terms of storage only solid state drives are offered. Mine had a 128GB drive, which isn't that big, but you can go up to 256 GB. There are no standard spindle storage drivers offered.
The keyboard is fully-sized and well-designed, and comes standard with the backlighting feature. This is essential if you're going to be working in darker environments, so it's a good standard feature to have.
The touchpad is a good size, but i had some regular issues with accidental brushing of the touchpad with my palms when I was typing, which could get a bit annoying.
You'll get all the ports a professional user could want on this machine — including 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 RJ-45 Ethernet port, 1 DisplayPort , a headphone/microphone combo plug-in, the power connector, the docking connector and micro SIM and microSD slots. There is no HDMI port, since that's a more consumer need, but you can get a dongle for HDMI connections.
A 720p HD Webcam is integrated into the machine, good for business and personal use when you are on the road and need to have video chats (though as a side note, I've noticed Windows 8 and Skype don't always work so well together).
Some newer computers and tablets are really great in terms of battery life, but I can't say that the EliteBook Revolve fits into this category, as I found myself charging more than I would have liked. It's not the worst I've seen (I got about four hours per charge, closer to five if I was having a good day), but it could have been a lot better. The good news is that charging is a quick process, and if you work in an office environment or conference rooms, outlets aren't far away.
The EliteBook series is all about business and being able to monitor/control machines from afar. You want to have remote management capability from the office, so you can make sure everything is kosher with the machines out in the work field. An IT employee can upgrade software from afar, wipe machines remotely or even shut down a computer without being near it.
It's also compatible with other EliteBook docks, which is helpful. And there is a full array of security features to make sure none of your secrets are swiped.?
My review machine featured Windows 8, but for folks who don't like the new system (and that number isn't small), Windows 7 is still offered on the HP EliteBook Revolve. You can also get a version of Windows 7 that includes Windows 8 ready to go inside of it, so when you're ready to switch it's an easy changeover since its right there on your computer.
Knutson talked about who might want to pick up an EliteBook Revolve, in a market full of these convertible laptops.
"With Revolve, the biggest strategy in the convertible line is to get as slim and light without sacrificing the commercial features that you need in a normal workday," she said. "Not everything is WiFi yet, we have the Ethernet RJ45 port. Still allows that work environment, and the drives and memory and processors gives you the right productivity if you need to dock it or really work on a presentation, and then remove it and continue on."
More intense programs like a graphic artist would use should function well, but RAM upgrades would be critical for that to work. And be aware that this kind of work will worsen the battery life, too.
With the EliteBook line, HP offers a 3-year warranty, which is longer than the one-year warranty most consumer machines have.
This HP EliteBook I tested starts off at $1,449. If you downgrade to an i3 processor you can get the base model starting at $1,249. The i7 costs more and comes with the 256GB hard drive and 8 GB of RAM.
Calling this machine a convertible is really kind of selling it short. I would say instead that it's a well-built fully operational laptop that has ample security features, is aimed at business users, and has the bonus feature of being able to transform into a tablet form. It's doesn't look gimmicky and it works well. Other than a few quirks, the battery life and a pretty steep price, there's little about the Revolve that concerns me.
The price makes the chances someone will buy this machine for personal use slim. But if a company were looking to buy its staff high-quality and reliable computers, they could do a lot worse than the HP EliteBook Revolve.