Last year when Windows 8 was announced one of the devices I was really looking forward to getting my hands on was the ElitePad 900 by Hewlett-Packard. At the time I was looking for a pure Windows tablet which remains a rarity outside of the mini-tablets. The ElitePad also was one of the view Windows devices that had a screen size close to the iPad (4:3) which made it better for portrait viewing (but prevented Windows 8’s Snap view). It was also one of the few (if any) Windows tablet that had 3G/LTE connectivity.
The 900 looked to be a solid device but it lacked one thing…
It wasn’t in my local stores. The 900 was like a lot of the first gen Windows 8 tablets and hybrids Missing in Action. Now it was understandable that HP would be gun shy, they had a rough time when they released the HP TouchPad. Also the 900 was being aimed at businesses with its plethora of accessories. But I thought it could work.
Now flash forward to 2013 and HP has moved on. Last year they hired a new guy (whose name I’m forgetting) from Nokia to re-launch their mobile strategy. Their new strategy so far has been a focus on Android with a smattering of Windows. This year HP came out with the Slate 7 (nicely built, but poor screen), the Slate 7 HD (same build, better screen), the Slate 7 Extreme (HP branded but designed by NVIDIA), the Slate 8 Pro, the Slate 10 HD, a couple of Chromebooks (the 11 and 14), and finally the Omni 10 (the Windows one).
Now I won’t talk about the Pavilion line, HP’s budget series, because I want to save it and because I want to get to the Omni. Also understand this is a literal hands on; I am not a reviewer I was at a store looking and they had it so I touched it.
So in a lot of ways the Omni 10 is a budget ElitePad with better specs. A lot of that is due to it being 2013, Intel’s BayTrail processor, and Windows 8.1. The Omni maintains the overall look and screen of the 900 (10.1 inch screen with the 4:3 ratio); so holding the Omni is not like holding similar 10 inch tablets in portrait which can be awkward. HP swapped out the Aluminum of the 900 for a Matte plastic (polycarbonate is only for Lumias) that feels nice in the hand. Because HP used the 900 as the base design of the Omni you’ll find most of the ports, storage, and power on the bottom of the device. The volume rocker is on the side and the power is on the top. The Omni has a proprietary charger (like what you use to plug in headphones and not USB). It has a headphone jack.
As I said earlier the Omni 10 is really the successor to the 900. Its basic body is the 900 with added ports and a better screen. The device has weight (similar to the iPad 2 or 1) and has significant bezel. The plastic material makes it feel great to hold but you will probably need a case.
Now if you are wondering how Windows 8.1 handles on this device or how zippy BayTrail is; I want you to know I wonder about it too. And that is why I call this thing a hands on and not review (and apologies if I lead you on, I’m not that kind of tech writer except that one time honest). I found the Omni by chance because I read it had been quietly released for around $329 (US). Office Depot was where I found the device tucked away from their computer section next to a working Dell Venue 8 Pro (which really was nice). The Omni 10 is still not available for sale on HP.com.
I feel kind of bad for the Omni 10 because its kind of red-headed stepchild. HP is looking at Android and Chrome to bolster its mobility score and beyond x2 hybrid line isn’t pushing Windows 8.1. the Omni 10 is this interesting device which seems to be destined to obscurity which is sad.