HP Slate 7 review: first look
The HP Slate 7 and the recently released HP Envy x2 hybrid are HP's attempts to put the TouchPad disaster behind it.
In contrast to the £800 Windows 8-based Envy x2, this is a 7in tablet aimed squarely at the low-end of the Android tablet market. When it's released in the US later this year, it will cost $169, and a UK release will follow shortly after. We were told by an HP representative to expect a price of around £129, which is similar to the basic Amazon Kindle Fire.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the price isn't the only thing the HP Slate 7 shares with the Kindle Fire. Its screen sports the same 1,024 x 600 resolution, and the design is similar, too – at least when viewed from the front. It has a very broad screen surround, which isn't the most elegant look.
Flip it over, however, and things start to improve. The Slate 7 comes in two colours – bright red and the silver-grey pictured here – and it looks rather handsome in both. We're also fans of the soft-touch plastic finish, subtly curved at the edges, and stainless-steel-effect trim around the edge, which lends the tablet a more premium feel than Amazon's bland, black slab. For a cheap 7in tablet, it isn't bad at all.
It ought to be pointed out that the HP Slate 7 also has a few features that are missing from the Kindle Fire: two cameras (3 megapixels at the rear and 0.3 megapixels at the front), Bluetooth and, of more dubious value, Beats Audio sound processing. The latter provides users with three preset profiles for listening to music, depending on your preferences and audio equipment: Beats On-Ear, Beats In-Ear and Beats Passive.
The most important weapon in the Slate 7's arsenal, however, is that it runs a largely unadulterated version of Android Jelly Bean 4.1, making it more like a cheaper Nexus 7. This means you have the freedom to buy apps and other content from Google Play, as well as install the Kindle software. It feels reasonably responsive, despite the dual-core 1.6GHz Cortex A9 processor and 1GB of RAM. And another bonus at this price is the ability to expand the tablet's 8GB of internal storage – a microSD slot on the top edge will accept cards up to 32GB in size. Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Nexus 7 has this capability.
There had to be a catch, though, didn't there? With the HP Slate 7 it's the quality of the screen that disappoints. According to the spec sheet it uses a technology similar to IPS, ensuring wide viewing angles and bright colours. When we laid eyes on it, it looked plain dull, especially in comparison to the IPS and PLS displays we've seen on most other phones and tablets at this week's show. A sizeable gap between the touch layer and the LCD panel beneath – visible when the tablet is viewed from the side – could be partly to blame.
Despite this, the HP Slate 7 does show promise. It isn't particularly sexy or exciting, but it offers more flexibility than the Amazon Kindle Fire and will likely come in at a similar price. We will await news of its official UK release with interest.