Despite being the world’s largest computer manufacturer, HP has a decidedly unimpressive resume when it comes to tablets. The manufacturer seems to have an awfully hard time figuring out what it is that its potential customers want in a tablet, so it’s starting slowly with the HP Slate 7.
The focus, it seems, is less on innovation and more on building a solid tablet with a low price that will appeal to casual users. In this respect, the Slate is something of a hit-or-miss affair.
The good news begins with the device itself. Compared to tablets constructed from plastic, the Slate makes use of aluminum to produce a satisfyingly solid tablet without becoming unwieldy.
It isn’t exactly featherlight, but it’s still quite usable even at 7.8-by-4.6-by-0.42 inches and 0.82 pounds. The back of the device is wrapped in soft-touch material, available in either a muted gray or a blazing red. The texture feels pleasant and it’s a nice touch compared to tablets that feature a hard plastic backing.
In a somewhat unusual move, HP has packed many of the Slate’s features along the top edge. The power button is at top right, while the headphone jack, microphone and microSD card slot are clustered on the top left.
The volume rocker is also in a somewhat unusual place, on the right side rather than the more traditional left. A micro USB port is on the bottom of the device, flanked by two small speakers. It’s an unorthodox layout, but it doesn’t present any major problems beyond an initial adjustment period.
Resolving the Details
The HP Slate 7’s display is bad. In fact, it’s really bad. The resolution is at least acceptable, weighing in at 1,024-by-600 pixels. It can’t match the 1,280-by-800 pixel resolution of the Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, but it is more or less in line with the 1,024-by-768 resolution of the Acer Iconia A1 and other similar devices.
The problems begin with the bizarre aspect ratio, which is just narrow enough to prove much more of a nuisance than an improvement. Color and contrast are pretty poor and, while it’s tempting to chalk it up to the reality of buying a budget device, that theory doesn’t match up upon comparing tablets like the Nexus 7 or Galaxy Tab 3.
Under the Hood
With a 1.6-gigahertz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and a gigabyte of RAM, you’d expect at least moderate performance. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what you get. While the Slate 7 will certainly run whatever you throw at it, it probably won’t do it very well.
The Slate spits and sputters under heavy performance load, and a bit of lag is evident even while browsing the web or doing other relatively mundane tasks. Switching between landscape and portrait modes also incurred a lengthy wait.
The poor performance is coupled with average battery life, with the 3,500mAh lithium polymer battery falling well short compared to tablets like the Nexus.
It looks and performs like you’d expect from a budget tablet, and therein lies the problem. The performance and overall quality reflect the bargain pricing, but the price tag just isn’t low enough to justify a purchase.
Most consumers will be better off scraping together a few extra bucks to spring for the far better Nexus 7 or even the modest Acer Iconia A1. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 also represents a significant improvement over the Slate 7, but the price is substantially higher.
The Slate 7 is also hampered by the uncomfortable aspect ratio and poor real-world performance, which makes it tough to recommend even for the most casual of users. HP had the right idea with the Slate 7, but the result leaves a lot to be desired.