HP EliteBook 2740p Review


As you may have noticed if you follow my ramblings, I am a big Tablet PC fan. Recently, my favourite computer died (well, its batteries died). While Motion Computing took get care of me and helped me get some new batteries, this pointed out that I really need to start looking for a replacement.

Enter the HP EliteBook 2740p. This is the newest in HP’s ongoing series of convertible Tablet PCs, and features an updated processor, support for more RAM, and support for both stylus/handwriting input and multi-touch. I recently (about a week ago) received a new 2740p to use as my main work computer, and to evaluate for my employer. So, lets talk about this machine…

Configuration

I got pretty much the base configuration:

  • Intel® Core™ i5-540M Processor (2.53 GHz, 3 MB L3 Cache, 1066 MHz FSB)
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM (2D)
  • 250 GB 5400 rpm 1.8-inch hard drive
  • 12.1-inch diagonal LED-backlit WXGA UWVA with Digitizer & Touch (1280 x 800)
  • Intel Centrino® Advanced-N 6200
  • Bluetooth
  • TPM+FS
  • 2MP Webcam
  • HP 6-Cell 44 Wh Li-Ion Battery
  • Windows® 7 Professional 64

First Impressions

My first impression of the laptop when I unboxed it was that it felt very solid. Not heavy, but with a sturdy feeling to it. The case is aesthetically pleasing, and looks like it should be able to stand up to wear and tear. Placement of ports, switches and buttons seems logical, and nothing seemed overtly "cheap” About the only thing I was not impressed without of the box was the stylus – it is quite small for doing a lot of writing.

One good thing I note is that there is not a lot of heat coming of the machine. I was a little worried about this, as I have used HP’s TouchSmart consumer convertibles in the past, and they run really hot. The 2740p seems to stay nice and cool, however.

Performance seems pretty good, but I have not really done anything heavy on it yet.

Battery Life

I had seen numbers for the battery life of the 2740p in 5 hour range. I have not so far seen anything close to that – I see 3 hours, maybe 3 and a half at a stretch. Not bad, but not 5 hours. Also, the 3-3.5 hours is in power-saver mode, wireless off, etc. in “normal” working mode, I see something around 2-2.5 hours.

I suspect that I will definitely be buying the secondary battery for the 2740p if I want to use it on the road.

Display

I really like the display. It is nice and bright when I want it to be, and also looks good when I turn the brightness down. I like the fact that it is a matte finish, especially for handwriting and for reading documents it is much easier on the eyes than a glossy screen.

Ink Input

Ink input seems pretty good. I use Ink a lot – mostly in OneNote and in MindJet MindManager. Initially, I had trouble in OneNote as the accuracy of the stylus seemed really bad. Once I set the tablet settings properly (left-handed) and calibrated the digitizer, however, the handwriting in OneNote worked well.

Using the stylus to navigate is not without issues, however. Even after setting the tablet for left-handedness as well as calibrating the digitizer, I find there is significant parallax in the positioning of the cursor relative to the stylus tip. This is especially true near the edges of the display. It is better than on the Acer tablet MS gave out at PDC09, but far worse than it is on, say, my Motion Computing LE1600.

I was also disappointed in the coexistence of ink and touch on the 2740p. I still find that when I am  trying to write, the computer is recognizing touch events and confusing the process. There is a way around this – you can configure the machine to not automatically switch from ink to touch and back, but to rely on a double-touch gesture to switch modes. A little clunky, but at least it works.

Multi-touch

Multi-touch is, in a word, disappointing.  As I stated above, it does not coexist very well with stylus input. Once you are in “touch” mode, basic operations seem to work ok (scrolling, gestures for things like “back” or “forward”, etc.), but there seems to be a significant lag in touch response. I have not really had much success with multi-touch interactions at all – for example using a pinch type gesture to zoom in or out in IE or Word. The latency involved makes it not useful.

Quirks

There are a number of quirks (other than the ink/touch coexistence I mentioned above) that I have yet to resolve on the 2740p:

  • I cannot figure out how to make it use the fingerprint scanner for Windows logon. It is using it for BIOS-level authentication, and I can make it work for logons once I am inside Windows, but not for the actual Windows logon.
  • I cannot make the screen rotate automatically when I rotate the computer in tablet mode. It switches when I go from laptop to tablet mode or back. But when in table mode, when I rotate the machine, the display does not rotate.
  • I have had a lot of difficulties with BlueTooth. I have a BlueTooth mouse that pairs quite nicely with all the other computers I use, but the 2740p does not even see it (BlueTooth is working however, as I have successfully used it to connect to my phone).
  • Power cord: ok, this is a bit picky, but it has also been a problem on every tablet I have every used. The power cords are not designed to work well in tablet mode, they stick out way to far, and they put unnecessary stress on the connector. Seriously, is this the best they can design?

Summary

Overall, it is a nice laptop. Performance is good, battery life is good (and there is the option to add more), and the machine seems very solid and well made. I am still disappointed in both the handwriting and multi-touch capabilities, but maybe I will get used to them (though I should not have to get used to them, they should wow me out of the box!)

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About

I have been working in the world of technology for 25-odd years. I am an entrepreneur and consultant, focused on software solutions, social networking, and innovation processes. Currently, I am a Principal Consultant with T4G Limited, specializing in Portal Technologies (including SharePoint), software/systems development, service oriented architectures, and many other things which I will probably not remember until I need to use them. Prior to that, I was VP of Technology at Whitehill Technologies, Inc., where I spent almost 9 years helping to grow the company from a start-up to one of the most successful private software companies in Canada. Prior to that I worked on internet conferencing using early VoIP, and on large military communications projects. Before even that, I worked in satellite control, and remote sensing. Going way back to university, my focus was on theoretical physics and astrophysics. Currently my interests revolve around most aspects of software development, from technologies to management, and in the area of defining sustainable, repeatable processes for innovation within technology organizations. I also have a particular interest in Tablet PC technologies – I have been using one for several years, and I love it. On the personal side, I still have a strong interest in all aspects of science, especially physical sciences, as well as philosophy and comparative religion. In addition, I am into music, playing guitar (badly, I am sorry to say), and reading almost anything I can lay my hands on. I am also a member of the IEEE/IEEE Computer Society, and of the Association for Computing Machinery.

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7 comments on “HP EliteBook 2740p Review
  1. Hi Fred! Great review! I recently upgraded from the 2710p up to the 2740p, and understand a couple of the gripes with it! In terms of autorotation when in tablet mode, I don’t think there is any way except to use the button, same as the 2710p. For windows logon via fingerprints, I managed to get it set up through the supplied HP Protect tools 🙂

  2. Fredrik says:

    Hi Fred,
    I am a university teacher and use the PowerPoint for presentations quite a lot with my 2740p. An annoying thing is that for every new slide I show, and want to write on, I have to go down in the meny and select pen. With my former Fujitsu-Siemens tablet it was sufficient to chose pen/highlighter once through out the presentation. HP Support could not answer my question (HP:”Contact Microsoft”…)

    • Fred says:

      Yes – that is annoying. I do not recall that happening previously.

      That said, in my situation I typically only mark on one or two slides (a solution diagram or something) so it is not too much of an inconvenience.

  3. Ray Najjar says:

    Fred, thanks for the review. I’m in the market for a new laptop, looking for something that I could travel easily with, could be used for teaching (tablet/pen functionality), but also can do some computing (Matlab), as well as the usual email and web surfing. I have about $2K to spend. So far I’m eying the HP 2740 and the Lenovo X201T. Any thoughts on the relative merits of the two, or are there other models you’d consider? –Ray

    • Fred says:

      Hi Ray – I have not had an opportunity to play with the Lenovo, so I cannot comment on that or compare. I will say that the HP works well for presentations. I use PowerPoint, with the computer in tablet mode. I markup slides a lot and it works well. The handwriting experience is not as good as the Motion Computing slate I have, but then the slate cost almost $4k, and does not do touch. The handwriting experience on the HP is definitely good enough for annotating slides on the fly.

      As for the computing power for doing something like Matlab, well it probably depends on what you are doing. I have not used Matlab in a long time, but I use the HP for software development, and have had Visual Studio running and debugging with a fairly heavy empulator (for the MS Surface), and have not had performance issues. I have also done some fairly intensive image processing (alignment and stacking of several thousand frames for astronomical images) and the performance is pretty good. If I were to go back in time, I would probably have gone for the 8gb of RAM, though.

      On the road, I find the battery life good – usually 4-5 hours if I am not doing anything too intensive.

      As for other options, I really have not found any in the same price range. The “true” tablet market is being wiped out by the consumer-oriented devices like the iPad and Galaxy Tab, and I find those are not useful as general purpose devices.

      Hope this helps.

      Fred

      • Ray Najjar says:

        That’s a big help, Fred, particularly the comment about marking up PowerPoint slides, which is one of the main things I want to be doing.

      • Fred says:

        One of the things I like about marking up the slides is that I can save the slide deck with my scribbles retained. For example, I can go into a client situation with a “generic” solution diagram, mark it up based upon their specific requirements and our discussions, and then save it and share the marked up deck as a record of our conversation. I could see that being similarly useful in a teaching context.

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Please keep in mind that any opinions, points-of-view, comments, or other content which I post to this site are mine and mine alone. They in no way reflect the views of my employer, my country, my dog, my cat, or anyone else you can think of. To paraphrase Monty Python, "That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is, too."

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