Remember when tablets were called Tablet PCs, and they were geared toward productivity instead of apps and entertainment? Here's something to jog your memory. The HP EliteBook 2740p ($1,699 as configured) is a powerful convertible targeted at mobile professionals looking for pen and touch input. This 3.8-pound machine features a durable design, a fast Core i5 processor, and lets you get online and check your e-mail and calendar without booting into Windows. The touch functionality feels a little thin out of the box, and we wish the standard battery lasted longer on a charge, but overall the 2740p is a solid business tablet for the money.
Design and Durability
Tough but light enough to qualify as an ultraportable, the 2740p has an all-aluminum matte silver surface and a full magnesium enclosure. This modern-looking but slightly chunky convertible feels like it can stand up to a fair amount of abuse, whether you're toting it from your office to the conference room or traveling cross-country. The hinge also feels sturdy, even if it's not bi-directional like the Lenovo ThinkPad X201.
With a 1.3-inch profile, the 2740p has the same thickness as the ThinkPad X201 Tablet but is bulkier than the 1.1-inch thin Dell Latitude XT2. The 2740p weighs the same as the XT2 at 3.8 pounds, but is lighter than the 4.2-pound X201 Tablet (when equipped with a larger eight-cell battery).
Click to enlargeOther durability features include a spill-resistant keyboard, a DuraKeys treatment that prevents the print from rubbing off over time, and HP 3D DriveGuard for protecting the hard drive. Plus, the 2740p was designed to meet the MIL-STD 810G military standards for vibration, dust, humidity, extreme altitudes, and high temperatures.
The front of the notebook houses a latch for opening the lid, as well as the power switch, and above the keyboard you'll find small backlit mute and volume buttons that worked well. On the top of the screen bezel, HP positioned the webcam to the left of the display latch and a keyboard light to the right that pops out when pressed. A switch on the top edge of the bezel reveals a wireless antenna, Swiss-Army knife style. In tablet mode the right side of the system houses a jog dial (good for scrolling) and Esc key, along with a button for changing the display's orientation.
The 2740p runs warmer than its biggest competitor, but it wasn't uncomfortable to use. After playing a Hulu video clip for 15 minutes, the area between the G and H keys measured 87 degrees Fahrenheit, the touchpad registered 97 degrees, and the bottom of the system hit 101. By comparison, the ThinkPad X201 Tablet reached only 86, 81, and 88 degrees, respectively.
Keyboard and Touchpad
HP did a nice job maximizing the available real estate on the 2740p's deck to include a full-size keyboard, with attractive metallic keys. We wish the keys provided a bit more tactile feedback, but their smooth texture was extremely comfortable to touch. On the Ten Thumbs typing test, we managed a rate of 80 words per minute with a 2-percent error rate, similar to the 80 wpm/1-percent error rate we got on our second try with the ThinkPad X201 Tablet.
The keyboard on the Thinkpad X201 Tablet is more responsive, but the 2740p provides a better overall typing experience because of its comfortable palm rest. While the X201's short palm rest dug into our wrists with its jagged lip, the 2470 has more room and a softer edge to rest your hands.
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If you're working in a dark room, a flip-out LED above the display can illuminate the keys.
Click to enlargeAs with the EliteBook 2540p, HP includes both a pointing stick and a touchpad. The pointing stick provides accurate navigation; you can use it without removing your hands from the home row. However, to keep it from being jumpy, we had to slow down the pointer speed in the control panel.
The tiny 1.1-inch long touchpad had us constantly bumping up against its top edge. The good news is that the buttons beneath both the pointing stick and touchpad have a nice rubbery feel that is easy to press.
Touch Display and Audio
The 2740p uses a Wacom digitizer that supports both pen and touch input. Thanks to its LED backlight, the 12.1-inch display (1280 x 800 pixels) delivered bright and crisp images. Photos really popped when we opened the Pictures folder, and the matte finish means you won't have to worry about glare or reflections.
Because this is a multitouch display, you can use pinch gestures to zoom in on images and within other apps. The action was quite fluid, and the rotation gesture worked well. Scrolling in Internet Explorer was similarly smooth. Unfortunately, just like all other Windows 7 tablets, closing or minimizing apps proved a challenge because the overall interface isn't optimized for touch. While Lenovo bundles its SimpleTap utility for controlling many commonly used functions, HP does not include any touch-friendly utilities.
Click to enlargeWhen the system is in tablet mode, you can not only use touch, but also take advantage of the jog wheel, which lets you scroll through options and even click on them by pressing it. Using the wheel alone, we were able to open the Computer icon on the desktop and start browsing through our folders. The Esc button on the side eliminates the need to pull up the virtual keyboard for that action.
There's even a little hole in the side of the bezel for Ctrl + Alt + Del that requires you to stick a paper clip or other thin object inside to activate it. We don't see the point of this, as one could more easily flip the notebook open and type Ctrl + Alt + Del in the time it takes to dig out a paperclip.
The two front-mounted speakers on the 2740p produced fairly clear audio when we streamed "Lisztomania" from Phonenix on Slacker, with plenty of volume to fill a small room. Dialog from a Glee episode on Hulu also sounded crisp.
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As far as Tablet PCs go, the 2470p offers a satisfactory pen input experience. The pen itself, which pops out of a spring-loaded holster, has just the right amount of heft. When we used the bundled OneNote 2007 application to jot down some memos, it did a remarkable job of converting our scribbles to text, even if the program inserted more returns than we'd like. We could certainly see everyone from office workers to physicians using this tablet to take notes or fill out forms while away from their desks. We also like how easily the display secures to the base when you want to enter tablet mode; on the ThinkPad X201 Tablet you have to push in a tab to secure the screen.
The problem we had with the 2740p is that we sometimes minimized an app or displayed the desktop when writing by accidentally brushing our hand against the screen. In other words, the palm rejection could be better. The display orientation also took as long as four seconds to change when swiveling the screen.
Ports and Webcam
HP includes so many buttons, switches, and ports on this convertible that it's almost confusing. A modem port (remember those?), two USB ports, and a headphone/mic jack line the right side, along with dedicated buttons for launching QuickWeb (the instant-on browser) and QuickLook 3 (e-mail, calendar, tasks) without booting into Windows.
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The back of the notebook houses the VGA, Ethernet, and power jacks, and the right of the system is where you'll find a powered USB port, FireWire, ExpressCard/34 and memory card slots, a wireless switch, and the pen holster.
In our Skype test, the 2-megapixel webcam delivered an image that was detailed but with a bluish cast. The other caller said our audio was loud and clear, though he sounded faint on our end.
Made for speed, the 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5 processor inside the 2740p and its 4GB of 1333-MHz RAM helped it notch a PCMark Vantage score of 5,374. That's well above the ultraportable category average of 3,251. Both the ThinkPad X201 Tablet (5,445) and the HP 2540p (6,002) outpaced this notebook, but they benefit from having a more powerful Core i7 CPU. In our tests the 2740p proved to be very responsive, even with several applications and multiple tabs open at once. And we rarely waited for the system to react after touching the screen.
To test this tablet's multithreaded processor further, we converted a 114MB video file from MPEG-4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Converter. The 2740p finished the task in 55 seconds, beating the X201 Tablet's 58 seconds and even the blazing Sony VAIO Z by a second.
However, this convertible's hard drive isn't as zippy as its processor. In our LAPTOP Transfer Test the 5,400-rpm, 250GB drive turned in a rate of 18 MBps, which is considerably lower than the category average of 25.5 MBps. Then again, the X201 Tablet wasn't much faster at 19.3 MBps. The 2740p beat the X201 Tablet's boot time of 1 minute and 18 seconds, but 67 seconds isn't much to brag about since that's 8 seconds longer than the average ultraportable.
Click to enlargeWhile the 2740p is the furthest thing from a gaming notebook, we were pleasantly surprised when it reached 59 frames per second when playing World of Warcraft (at 1024 x 768). That dropped to a measly 11 fps at native resolution. Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator HD paced the machine to a well-above-average 3DMark06 score of 1,903, 400 better than the X201 Tablet. Flyovers in Google Earth were fast, and the laptop played a 720p YouTube trailer of the movie 2012 without any hiccups.
Battery Life and Wireless
The 2740p's six-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes in the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That runtime is better than the Latitude XT2 (3:25), but more than an hour less than the ultraportable average (5:29). The culprit is the powerful Core i5 processor, so if you want more endurance you'll want to invest in the optional slice battery that fits into the bottom of the notebook, which HP says will increase endurance to 11.5 hours; we'll update this review after we've tested it. The X201 Tablet, outfitted with a larger eight-cell battery, lasted 5:10.
If you're looking for strong wireless throughput, the 2740p delivers. The notebook's Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 AGN card notched a blistering 46.1 Mbps at 15 feet from our router, and an above-average 20.4 Mbps at 50 feet. Bluetooth and mobile broadband connectivity are optional, and HP Mobile Broadband can facilitate asset tracking, mapping, and navigation via a GPS receiver.
The 2740p took a relatively short 1 hour and 1 minute to charge to 80 percent of capacity, and 1:48 to reach 100 percent. During that time, the notebook used an average of 37.2 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 15.6 is better than the category average of 19.6 (lower is better) and way better than the X201 Tablet (32). However, the EliteBook 2540p (13) is even more efficient.
Software and Security
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HP bundles lots of useful business software with the 2740p, starting with QuickWeb and Quick Look 3. The former utility gets you online within 30 seconds without booting into Windows, while the latter lets you read e-mail, calendar, task, and contact information--as well as edit--with the push of a button. Just keep in mind that you'll need Outlook installed for QuickLook to work. Other programs include HP Recovery Manager, HP Support Assistant, Roxio Creator Business, HP Power Assistant, and Skype.
On the security front, HP protects your data in several ways. The right edge of the display (top in tablet mode) houses a fingerprint sensor. Other utilities include HP ProtectTools, a TPM security chip, HP Spare Key, HP Disk Sanitizer, and File Sanitizer.
Warranty and Support
HP backs the 2470p with a three-year warranty and a one-year warranty on the primary battery. To see how HP fared in our last Tech Support Showdown, click here.
While we expect many more options to become available, as of press time there was only one other configuration of the 2740p that we knew of. For $100 less than our review model, you can get this convertible with a slightly slower 2.4-GHz Core i5 processor, a smaller 160GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM instead of 4GB. Though pricing has yet to be determined, you will soon be able to outfit the 2740p with a 2.66-GHz Core i7-620M processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and an 80GB or 160GB SSD, according to the company's website.
For those who want the versatility of a tablet that supports both pen and touch input, the HP EliteBook 2740p is a good value. For $1,699 you get Core i5 performance, a sturdy design, and security features galore. The price of that power, however, is below-average battery life; you'll want to spring for the heavy optional slice if you want all-day endurance. We also wish the touchpad were taller. Overall, we prefer the pricier but more powerful Lenovo X201 Tablet ($1,900) because it features an even faster Core i7 processor and an eight-cell battery that doesn't add too much weight, along with a better pointing stick. But if you're on a tighter budget, the 2740p is a solid choice.