Ever since the webOS-based HP TouchPad debacle back in July 2011, many a pundit has pundit-ized about what role HP might end up playing in the non-Windows tablet scene. With the introduction of HP’s first Android tablet, it looks like that role will be…a supporting actor.
Instead of coming back with a confidenttour-de-force, rolling out something new and ground-breaking, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant has quietly sidled into the Android slate market with an entry-level compact slate, the HP Slate 7, that’s more run-of-the-mill than run-of-table.
In a marketplace awash with mini tablets, our first question about the Slate 7, as we took it out of the box and looked it over, was whether this was a serious contender, or just one more me-too tab. The first impression tended toward the latter. And at this stage in the Android-tablet game, HP needed a home run to get a slice of this very competitive pie. How else to make yet another 7-inch slate attractive enough to gain a foothold against the market-dominating Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad Mini, not to mention the price-chopped Barnes & Noble Nook HD and cheap mass-market tabs from the likes of Hisense and many others?
HP told us that its strategy for the Slate 7 is two-fold: first, to focus on functionality and features where the market leaders have fallen short; and second, to offer a quality-built, well-performing product at a competitive price. For example, the Google Nexus 7 has only one camera and doesn’t provide a means for expanding storage. The Slate 7, on the other hand, comes with both front- and rear-facing shooters, and you can expand its storage capacity via a MicroSD card. In addition, HP has included Beats Audio enhancement and improved printing capabilities.
We’d say HP has succeeded partially in its aims. While the Slate 7 performs well, and it does feel thoughtfully put-together, it remains a budget tablet at heart. And alas, the compromises of budget-friendly products always shine through somehow. What you give up on the Slate 7 is a gyroscope and GPS, which are standard features on most Android slates. In addition, this tablet has a lower-resolution screen than on most other 7-inch slates that aren’t cut-rate models. And just as much a concern, this tablet didn’t last nearly as long on our battery-rundown test as a bunch of others we’ve tested. That includes several low-cost 7-inchers—notably, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7″)$199.00 at Amazon.
The question with any low-cost tablet is, of course, whether these trade-offs make sense versus competing models—a question we’ll try to answer over the course of this review. As for the price, you can buy the Slate 7 with either 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage; HP pegs these models with list prices of $169.99 and $199.99, respectively. However, as we were writing this in early July 2013, HP announced an instant rebate of $30 for both versions, dropping them to $139.99 and $169.99.
HP told us that this pricing would last “for a while,” which we took to mean at least for the foreseeable future. In any case, considering current tablet trends and other new players on the scene, such as Hisense and its two under-$150 slates (the $149-list Sero 7 Pro and the $99Sero 7 LT, both exclusive to Walmart), the pressure on HP and others to maintain these low prices—or perhaps drop them even further—is immense.
Overall, the Slate 7 is well-built and attractive, and it performed well on our suite of benchmark tests. Still, given its screen resolution and somewhat diminished feature list, we’d have trouble recommending either model—but especially the 16GB version—at the list price. With the instant savings, it’s a better buy. The problem is, like so many other compact tablets we’ve seen lately, it doesn’t much stand out from its mass of competitors.
Indeed, HP has chosen quite a tough time to enter this free-for-all. We like the Slate 7 as an entry-level slate for first-time buyers, or perhaps as a second tablet for a family with children. But at its list price, you might as well opt for one of our Editors’ Choice compact-tablet winners, such as the $199, 16GB version of the Google Nexus 7, without a second thought. With the rebate, on the other hand, it’s a safe pick if you’re budget-strapped enough that the extra $30 would be a hardship. But know that the 8GB version of the Slate 7 will likely have you scrambling for a $20 MicroSD card before long, dashing much of the discount.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.