Have you played the Elite setting recently in single player without a completely maxed out character? It is that experience I am talking about. Please do so and see what I mean.
Edit: It feels like the people on the test server did not properly test the most recent patch (assuming the patch adjusted difficuly levels). Or this never would have passed testing.
And one more thing. 'Decent equipment' means mostly whites and green items, perhaps 1 or 2 blue, and no more than 1 purple. This is because no player who is playing through the game normally is going to be able to find much more level appropriate - useful equipment - than this for any given level they may be at. The types of items that drop are of a wide enough variety that 80-90% of everything you find will be pretty much useless for you as you do missions.
If cryptic expects 'elite' to mean players with all purple equipment and the best builds, then they might as well change the Elite difficulty to 'Twinks Only' and not even allow access to it for any player who does not already have a level 50 and 20-40 million energy credits in the bank.