In short, it’s the Slate that ain’t. Even though HP stuck “Slate 21” into the name of its $399-list Android desktop computer (the full name is “Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC”), the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electronics giant is quick to point out that this machine is not a tablet. That’s good, because this over-10-pound all-in-one with a 21.5-inch screen is far too big and heavy to carry anywhere except, perhaps, from one desk to another. Plus, unlike every Android tablet we know of, this one has no built-in battery, meaning that you can’t use it without a nearby power source.
That puts the Slate 21 into something of a category of its own. As we see it, despite this product’s “Slate” in the name, the inability to run unplugged does indeed disqualify it from the tablet genre. Instead, what you get with the Slate 21 is an inexpensive big-screen all-in-one (AIO) PC running on an operating system seldom seen on any kind of desktop PC (especially the all-in-one kind): Android. Here, it comes with version 4.2.2 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean) preinstalled.
An Android AIO: A peculiar concept? We thought so, at first. After giving it some thought, though, we realized that what we were looking at was an inkling of the next contemporary Internet appliance—an inexpensive big-screen content consumer, with the further advantage of a touch screen. We like the concept, in theory—but weren’t particularly thrilled with this first implementation of it.
Indeed, the Slate 21 seems like more of a halfhearted halfway point between product genres than a fully baked new idea. Take the spec list, for example: Aside from the lack of a battery, the Slate 21’s spec sheet—anchored by an Nvidia Tegra 4 ARM processor, 1GB of system RAM, and 8GB of eMMC flash storage—reads similarly to that of the average Android tablet. Both the RAM and storage allotments are on the low side. Most mid-level and high-end Android slates we’ve seen lately come with 2GB of RAM, and at least one that we know of, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), comes with 3GB. In addition, 8GB of storage space is, well, dismally small for a tablet or an AIO.
The good news is that the Slate 21 supports both USB and SD-card storage expansion, which is not the ideal approach, but workable. Furthermore, despite the low 1GB of system RAM, across the board the Slate 21 performed well enough on most of our benchmark tests. (We’ll look more closely at performance issues in the Performance section a little later in this review.)
We did find a lot to like about this AIO from a hardware POV, especially its full-HD 1,920×1,080-resolution screen, which is good-looking and crackles with quality thanks in part to its use of IPS technology. Between it and the set of built-in, loud DTS Sound+-enhanced speakers, the Slate 21 is without question one of the better-equipped Android devices for watching videos. Very few games and apps, on the other hand, can take proper advantage of the high-resolution screen (which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Features & Apps section a little later on).
The Slate 21 is, without question, a unique device. If you’re looking for a big-screen device for browsing the Web, watching videos, listening to music, visiting social media sites, and e-mail—well, we doubt that you’ll find another large-screen AIO with a nice HD panel like this one at or near this price range. But that only matters if all you’ll be doing on this machine is consuming HD video via, say, YouTube or Netflix. You need to keep in mind that, for the most part, neither Android, nor the apps written for it, are quite ready for this form factor—yet.
Unfortunately, the Slate 21 provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. Our impression after a couple of weeks with this unique AIO is that it’s an interesting first step in what seems to be a somewhat underdeveloped direction, but, like most toddlers just learning to walk, it stumbles plenty. Should the price fall a bit after its debut, we could see it working for us as an inexpensive large-screen Internet appliance and media-consumption device. But as it currently stands, it’s more of a curiosity than a compelling buy.
Read full review at Computer Shopper.