When it comes to providing alternatives to Windows-based PCs, we can’t fault HP for a lack of trying. Not only has the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company brought a couple of Chrome OS-based Chromebooks to market of late, but it has also rolled out a few such lean machines based on all-out Android. One was the 21-inch Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC we looked at last year; the second is the subject of this review, the $429.99-MSRP HP SlateBook 14-p010nr PC.
Now, mind you, the Slate 21 was an unmitigated flop. (It wasn’t just us who thought so; our sister site, PCMag.com, concurred in its even harsher review.) While hardware issues related to performance, design, and construction kept us from recommending the Slate 21, the software was also to blame: Android itself was a big, or even bigger, problem. An operating system meant primarily for use on smartphones and tablets, it just wasn’t prime-time ready to drive a full-fledged desktop PC.
That was 2013. Now, here we are about 10 months out, with a brand-new Android-based laptop.
This isn’t the first attempt at such a thing. Lenovo has an Android laptop, the Lenovo A10 (not to be confused with the Lenovo A10 Tablet), being sold in markets outside the United States, and Asus pioneered the Android/Windows laptop hybrid in machines like the mixed-bag Transformer Book Trio. And HP did try its hand at an Android tablet with a detachable keyboard dock, the SlateBook 10 x2, some months back, in the vein of earlier Asus Transformer Pads. But it’s still a pretty lean group.
The hardware itself is not a problem, this time: The SlateBook 14 is a darn nice machine. Its chassis is sleek, loaded with productivity and convenience options, and, due primarily to its Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor and 2GB of system RAM, it performs quite well. The other components are no slouches, either; the raw numbers we gathered on this laptop say nothing about the SlateBook’s sharp-looking 1,920×1,080 (full HD) screen and ear-pleasing Beats Audio speakers and sound system. Together, the display and speakers make for a superior device for watching videos and listening to music.
This is, decidedly, a laptop, though. Unlike the several Android-based tablet/laptop convertible systems we’ve tested, such as the $299 Asus Transformer Pad TF103C that debuted around the same time as this machine, the SlateBook 14 does not detach from its keyboard. It also cannot flex in the way that Lenovo’s various Yoga machines and HP’s own Pavilion x360 can, with the keyboard rotating 360 degrees to bend back on itself, so that the display panel (which is touch-sensitive) becomes a de facto tablet. Was that a missed opportunity? Maybe, though many will say a 14-inch tablet would be unwieldy, anyway.
Then again, even if the SlateBook had that tablet mode, you might not want to touch certain apps on it, in any case. Sure, there are a million or so Android apps out there. However, because Android is designed foremost as an operating system for smartphones and tablets, a significant number of them do not format properly on high-resolution screens like this one. (It’s a problem on very high-resolution Android tablets, too.) Sometimes, the app won’t use the entire screen, which looks funny. In other, rarer cases, the app itself is rendered in a manner that makes it unusable.
While Android on a laptop makes more sense and has a more natural feel than Android on an all-in-one desktop, there’s no getting past the fact that the OS just wasn’t designed to run on high-res screens and in this form factor. (You have to reach across a keyboard to touch the screen, which you’ll want to do much more than you would, say, in Windows 8.) Still, Android looks better on this smaller, high-resolution 14-inch screen than it did on the much bigger all-in-one displays in essentially the same resolution. (HP’s Slate 21 has a 21-inch screen, while AOC’s mySmart AIO we recently tested comes in 22- and 24-inch varieties.)
Android appropriateness, then, becomes the real question. Is there a viable need for an Android laptop when it costs as much as a Windows one, and, more to the point, is Android robust enough to serve as your primary computing device’s OS? As we’ve said a few times in the past about these outlier Android machines, it really depends on what you plan to do with it.
Overall, this is a well-built machine, and we can think of many applications for which it would work seamlessly. But it all depends on your expectations. The SlateBook works well for media consumption. If your aim, however, is any kind of real content creation—editing images or video, doing spreadsheet work, and the like—this model only makes sense if you’re already familiar with (and satisfied with) the generally lighter-weight Android apps that handle these tasks. And you won’t save much money by opting for it, given that you can find Windows laptops with local storage and even bigger screens starting for around the same money.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.