There is no shortage of ultra-light convertibles on the market, includingLenovo's ThinkPad X200 TabletandDell's Latitude XT, but the HP EliteBook 2730p (an update to theHP Compaq 2710p) can run with the best of them. Unlike many in its sub-five-pound class, it lasts more than five hours on a charge, has a semi-rugged build and includes unique business-travel features such as business card-reading software and a night light. It may lack an optical drive and the ability to manipulate the screen with a finger, but it's still one of the best business tablets on the market.
Road-Ready, Professional Design
With its silver, brushed-metal design, the 2730p looks like its EliteBook brethren. Its DuraCase anodized aluminum lid combined with a magnesium alloy chassis lets it take a beating. In fact, it meets military standards (MIL-STD-810F) for altitude, high temperature, vibration, and dust. According to HP, it can operate at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and withstand 10 grams of dust per cubic meter blown at about 20 miles per hour for 6 hours.
One thing you won't overlook with the HP EliteBook 2730p is its light weight and thin stature. With the six-cell battery (which is flush with the system) the 11.4 x 8.4 x 1.1-inch notebook weighs in at a mere 3.8 pounds (the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet is 4.2 pounds). However, a sacrifice was made for its thin and light build: no optical drive. HP does, however, offer a dock for $279 that contains an external DVD drive.
Nevertheless, a biometric fingerprint reader and night light located next to the screen is part of the package, and the system has a nice assortment of connectivity options, including two USB ports, FireWire, VGA, Ethernet, modem, headphone, and microphone. It also has an ExpressCard/54 on the left edge and a SD Card slot on the right. A convenient rocker switch for scrolling resides on the screen's edge along with dedicated Esc and screen-rotate buttons.
Keyboard and Touchpad
One of the 2730p's strongest features is its keyboard. Similar to that of the keyboard on theHP Mini 2140, the EliteBook 2730p's full-size, spill-resistant keyboard is coated with HP's DuraKey finish, which makes the highly responsive keys comfortable to type on. Above the keyboard is a responsive touch-sensitive strip containing shortcuts for raising, lowering, and muting audio, and a button that launches HP's presentation settings menu.
Similar to many Dell Latitudes, the 2730p opts for a trackpoint-and-touchpad combination. While we like the choice of the two navigation methods, we preferred using the trackpoint and the mouse buttons below the space bar; the 2.7 x 1.0-inch touchpad is incredibly cramped and the second set of mouse buttons, carved out of the deck below it, require too hard of a press to make selections. While the concave trackpoint is more recessed than those found on Lenovo's ThinkPad line, it was comfortable and allowed us to navigate the desktop smoothly.
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HP EliteBook 2730p Tablet Performance
Click to enlargeThe lightness of the 2730p was even more apparent when we held it as a tablet in the crook of our arm. Its 12.1-inch (1280 x 800-pixel) Illumi-Lite antiglare display served up minimal reflections or grayness (typical of tablets, due to the digitizer over the display) when we watched Hulu or YouTube clips. When using the convertible while lying in bed we wished the screen was a tad brighter, but we enjoyed good viewing angles. For $150 extra, you can outfit the notebook with an outdoor-readable display.
The stylus, which slides into the right side of the chassis, is very light and comfortable to hold. We appreciated the small button on its spine for left-clicking on the desktop. The 2730p's LED-backlit resistive (passive) touchscreen display recognizes only the input of a stylus, unlike the ThinkPad X200T and Latitude XT, which have more advanced touch functionality. The X200T allows for finger input and the XT has a capacitive screen that is capable of multitouch finger gestures. HP doesn't plan to offer a panel capable of pen and finger inputs at this point.
When we rotated the 2730p to tablet mode, the screen responded quickly, changing its orientation in less than 2 seconds; you can also manually change the orientation with the shortcut button on the screen's edge. The 2730p sensed the stylus when we hovered over the screen. Typing in Microsoft Word was responsive with no lag, and we didn't have to press too hard on the screen. Handwriting detection was very accurate; the tablet application understood almost all of our scribbled notes.
Webcam and Audio
The 2-megapixel webcam captured sharp images. During a Skype video call, our caller complimented the quality of the image and was able to make out our co-worker's plaid shirt in the background. The speakers located on the bottom of the laptop were loud enough at mid-range volume to hear our caller in Germany over Skype. Additionally, when we listened to Rilo Kiley's "Breakin Up" on full blast, audio was surprisingly loud and full.
The dual microphones located on the screen's bottom bezel recorded the voices of our colleagues in a meeting. Like theThinkPad X200T, the 2730p has noise-cancellation technology, which helped eliminate the sound of the stylus scraping across the screen and our keyboard strokes.
Business Card Reader
Like the EliteBook 6930p and 2530p, the 2730p comes equipped with Presto BizCard 5, which, used in conjunction with the webcam, can scan business cards. Slide a business card faceup and upside down into the small slot in the front of the notebook; launch the program, press the icon to start a capture, and slowly lower the notebook's lid until you hear a quick succession of beeps, followed by a shutter noise. In addition to the snapshot sound, you know you've lowered the lid enough when the LED light on the lid glows solid blue. The camera on our preproduction unit of the 2730p wasn't capable of taking macro photos, so we were not able to test this feature.
Click to enlargeOur configuration, a 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor with 3GB of RAM, produced a score of 3,465 on PCMark05 (which measures total system performance for Windows XP), which is about 450 points higher than the Lenovo X200T's score (which sports the same 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9400 CPU), and roughly 570 points above average for ultraportables. We saw snappy performance while simultaneously writing this review in Microsoft Word, chatting in Skype, and watching video clips on Hulu.
The Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics card produced expected, yet not stellar, results. The 2730p's 3DMark03 (which tests DirectX 9 performance) score of 1,854 was 575 points lower than the X200T's score of 2,429, but nearly 200 points higher than the category average. A score of 707 on 3DMark06 (which tests DirectX 9 3D graphics, CPU, and 3D features) was lower than both the X200T (805) and the average (842). It was no surprise the F.E.A.R. scores were low: the system chugged along at 21 frames per second in autodetect mode (800 x 600-pixel resolution), which dropped to an unplayable 5 frames per second with the settings maxed out (1280 x 800-pixel resolution). Far Cry 2 didn't fare much better, as the system struggled at 4 frames per second (1280 x 800-pixel resolution).
The 5,400-rpm, shock-mounted 120GB hard drive produced below-average results. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media), the 2730p copied and read files at a rate of 12.2 MBps, which is far below the 20.9-MBps ultraportable average. However, the system booted Windows XP in a snappy 46 seconds.
Wireless Connections and Battery Life
On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the 2730p's six-cell battery endured for 5 hours and 4 minutes--2 minutes below the average for an ultraportable. Compared to its rival professional convertibles, it got 50 minutes less runtime of the Lenovo X200T, but 3 hours more than the Dell Latitude XT. For those looking to extend battery life even more, HP will offer an extra UltraSlim six-cell (46-WHr) battery slice for $179, which should provide double the runtime.
The 2730p's 802.11b/g/n card moved data at a rate of 20.1 Mbps when we placed the system 15 feet away from our access point and at a 16.4 Mbps clip when 50 feet away. Both scores are far better than the 18.0-Mbps and 15.1-Mbps ultraportable averages. Our unit was also outfitted with Bluetooth 2.0.
HP allows you to outfit the 2730p with mobile broadband using Qualcomm's new Gobi technology for an extra $125. This allows users to access AT&T and Verizon Wireless' networks through GSM and CDMA WWAN when not in the range of a hotspot or wireless network. An antenna extends from the top of the screen to allow for better cellular data reception.
Security, Software, and Warranty
On the software side, the 2730p has HP's QuickLook 2, which lets you press a button to get your e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contact information before the system boots. HP SpareKey lets you configure three predetermined questions as an alternate form of authentication in case you forget your password. HP Privacy Manager protects against identity theft by using digital signatures and encryption in e-mail and IM. HP File Sanitizer permanently deletes files and personally identifiable information. Users also have the option of installing recommended and optional software through the HP Info Center (press the launch button on the chassis to access it).
Beyond security utilities, HP includes McAfee Total Protection, HP Webcam, InterVideo WinDVD, NewSoft Presto BizCard 5, and a suite of Roxio programs. HP includes a three-year warranty with 24/7 toll-free phone support.
Like most HP notebooks, the 2730p is highly configurable. Although our $1,599 unit had a 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, users can select the base 1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SL9300 to knock $50 off the price. Selecting a 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 with 1GB of RAM and an 80GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive drops the price to $1,479. Our unit had a 5,400-rpm, 120GB hard drive, which you can upgrade to an 80GB SSD for $450.
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The HP EliteBook 2730p offers strong performance and endurance with a well-rounded feature set and a good pen experience. Its $1,599 price is very competitive, considering the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet starts at $1,884 and the Dell Latitude XT costs north of $1,700. However, we wished it had a faster hard drive and the ability to recognize finger inputs. If you're seeking a sleek, durable business tablet with basic pen capabilities, the EliteBook 2730p is the right choice.