6 Things We Like, 3 Things We Don't About The HP Revolve 810 G1

Ultrabook Ultra

In a market crowded with Ultrabooks, it's the little things that set competitors apart and can make or break one over another. Apple's MacBook Air is known for long battery life. One Dell model has a screen that flips horizontally. Samsung and Lenovo offer detachable keyboards. What's special about the EliteBook Revolve 810 G1 from HP? Quite a few things, actually, and one of them isn't the way its screen flips around. Here are six things that set HP's latest laptop/tablet apart (it's technically not an Ultrabook), and at least three that make it just like so many others.

Replaceable Battery

This is the first and only Ultrabook we know of to include a user-serviceable battery. This means that the system doesn't have to go back (or into the trash) when the battery inevitably wears out. The system's bottom panel also is removable, and HP is OK with its resellers performing maintenance, repairs and upgrades without returning systems to the factory. This could represent a revenue stream not available with other brands of Ultrabook.

Full-Size Ports

Also unusual among Ultrabooks, all Revolve ports are full size. Most competitors shrink one or more ports -- usually monitor and wired networking -- and some forgo certain ports altogether. The Revolve 810 delivers full-size USB 3.0 ports, one of which is powered during sleep mode, a gigabit Ethernet port and dual-mode DisplayPort, which can be adapted to HDMI and single-link DVI. These are all on the unit's rear edge along with the power input and an LED that glows amber when charging and white when full. The right-side edge is home to a 3.5-mm headset jack, volume controls, rotate lock, power switch, docking connector and a microSD/SIM card slot. The two remaining edges are clear.

There's A SIM Slot

In case you missed it from the previous slide, HP slipped a Micro-SIM capability slot into the Revolve 810's MicroSD card slot, allowing it to operate on HSPA mobile broadband networks. There's also dual-channel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. Since the Revolve can transform into a tablet, it needs to do tablet-y things. So it's got a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, ambient light sensor and SAR proximity sensor. In tablet mode, controls are accessible for volume and power, and there's a dedicated switch for toggling screen rotation.

It's Tough

The EliteBook 810 G1 presumably gets its name from the MIL-STD 810G, a level of abuses developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to determine field readiness. According to HP, this unit can survive 26 drops from a desk height of 30 inches onto any side, angle or edge. It's protected from incursion of sand, dust, moisture and a certain degree of liquid. It resists spills onto the keyboard by diverting the liquid away from core components and out through drain holes on the bottom. We haven't tested any of those claims yet, but as soon as we're done reviewing this machine, the gloves come off.

By the way, this rugged little machine didn't suffer too greatly in terms of size and weight. With its 11.6-inch screen, it tips the scales at an eyelash above three pounds, about the same as most 13-inch Ultrabooks. It's 8.4 inches wide by 11.2 inches long by 0.80 inches thick.

It's Fast

The tested unit was equipped with an Intel Core i5-3437U processor running at 1.9 GHz with 4GB of 1,600-MHz RAM and 64-bit Windows 8 Pro. In performance tests with 64-bit Geekbench 2.3, the Revolve's top score of 7,415 put it in eighth place in the CRN Test Center's Top 10 Laptops. It joins HP's EliteBook 8560p, which remains in sixth place.

But unlike its EliteBook brethren, the Revolve 810 delivers extremely fast startup times. From a cold boot, the machine was ready to accept input in about 9 seconds. And its wake-from-sleep time is measured in milliseconds; once the lid is opened, the system is ready before hands can reach the keyboard.

Not-So-Good Things

The EliteBook 810 G1 is not without its foibles. For example, the only physical indication that the battery is charging is a tiny LED on the unit's rear edge. It glows amber while charging and changes to white for a while when the battery is fully charged. And then it shuts off, offering no way to determine how much charge is in the battery without powering up the system. We'd call this a minor flaw, but the next few might be deal-breakers for some organizations.

Rear Entry

The absolute worst place to locate ports on a laptop is the rear edge, yet that's exactly where HP put most of Revolve's ports. In our view, the backside is the least convenient place for plugging and unplugging cables and it's the most vulnerable location for stress. Even worse, Revolve's long, straight power connector protrudes like a kick-me sign from the unit's rear edge. The cable itself appears rugged enough, but it's the connector and motherboard that usually get concussed. We prefer side-only connections on laptops; they're easier to use and less problematic.

Battery Life

The Revolve 810 delivered four hours and two minutes on a charge. Years ago, that would be groundbreaking, but today it's middle-of-the-road. We'd chalk this up to its third-gen Intel Core i5 processor. The far more power-efficient 4th-gen Haswell CPU would certainly have delivered longer time on battery. We employed our standard test process: We played an AVI movie file continuously using VLC Player with the screen cranked to full size and brightness. We left all other HP power-saving features unchanged. The Wi-Fi radio remained on during playback, and we occasionally checked email and browsed the web.

Good Triumphs

The Revolve has other shortcomings. It's pricey at $1,295 to start, its webcam supports only 720p, and the stereo speakers don't get very loud and distort badly when overdriven. But, it does include a 3-year warranty, and on the whole, the Revolve is a terrific machine. Its 1,366-x-786 10-point touch screen is bright and beautiful and driven by Intel HD Graphics 4000. It folds flat for writing with an optional stylus, and it swivels to let the unit double as a tablet. Revolve maxes out at 12 GB of RAM and a 256-GB SSD. It's serviceable by the end user or the reseller, and it's rated to take quite a licking. For field operations in construction, healthcare and other outdoor applications, the CRN Test Center recommends the Revolve 810 G1 from HP.