HP Slate 7 review
Design & Features8.5
Performance & Android9
The HP Slate 7 (currently available for as low as ₹13,999) showcases lot of speed in terms of processing and performance and is surprisingly a better tablet as compared to its competitors in the 7-inch segment.
Positives of speediness are overshadowed by its not so good display as compared to Google Nexus 7 that boasts off a better display coupled with faster performance, and visibly more up-to-date software.
HP claims that the tablet gives you a different feel is a bit artificial if not too forced as the native wireless printing support, even though comes in handy, is currently limited to HP printers only and despite the big label Beats Audio, the audio performance is none too impressive.
All in all the Slate 7 can be deemed as a good budget-friendly Android 4.1 tablet that is definitely competitive in terms of pricing and performance but is not the best in its category.
Design and Features
HP has definitely put in some efforts when it comes to designing the Slate 7 – sturdy frame, soft-touch plastic back, and stainless steel accents along its perimeter, give the tablet a distinctive look and feel. The tablet measures 7.76 x 4.57 x 0.42-inches (HxWxD) and weights under 400 grams placing it right there with the likes of Asus MeMO Pad and Nexus 7. HP has put the speakers along the bottom of the tablet flanking a micro USB port for charging and syncing with the included cable and power adapter. The top edge of the tablet has 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card slot, and Power button, while the Volume rocker has been placed on the right edge.
I won’t be going into the Beats Audio part as of now, but just a heads up that the enhancements are meant for headphone output only and if you are playing something through the built-in speakers you won’t be impressed if not disappointed as the sound output, even though loud, is tiny as you will find in most other tablet speakers.
The LCD display, not an IPS panel, can be rated as OK with its 1,024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 pixels per inch density. The resolution is lower than that of Nexus 7 and based on HFFS technology, which does produce a wider viewing angle as compared to its other 7-inch competitor – the MeMO Pad’s display.
Connectivity options are none too shabby but the absence of 3G does reduce the portability aspect of the tablet to a great extent. Slate 7 connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on the 2.4GHz frequency only. You can easily connect to Bluetooth headphone using the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR. The 8GB onboard storage may not be too great of an offering but, a 32GB card in our case worked fine as mentioned in the spec sheet. We went overboard a little with 64GB card but as expected it didn’t work. Well, fair enough! Can’t complain, can we?
Performance and Android
With dual-core 1.6GHz Rockchip Cortex-A9 processor accompanied by 1GB RAM the Slate 7 is impressive for the performance it delivers for a sub-₹13,999 tablet. I didn’t expect the tablet to perform that well but, I was pleasantly surprised. The scores on the Antutu overall system benchmark for Slate 7 were close to that of quad-core Nexus 7 and did beat Asus MeMo Pad. Unexpectedly the Slate 7 managed to outperform the Nexus 7 in some of our graphics benchmarks and when it comes to Browsermark and Sunspider benchmarks, the figures were equally impressive.
Slate 7 is HP’s first go at rolling out an Android tablet and as one may understand going all in on the first tablet may have been too much of a risk for HP. However, with a price tag like this, the Slate 7 will definitely appeal to a lot many Android enthusiasts but, there may be a few advanced users who may not feel too much comfortable buying one as it lacks some genuinely useful features that other companies have added to their tablets.
Beats Audio is up next. If we look at the implementation of Beats Audio in general, it is done through two different methods. In the first method, the vendor of the smartphone would install custom hardware like an amplified 3.5mm headphone jack while others would implement a software equalizer that jacks up the base. HP has adopted the second method here but, it is more than just booming bass. HP is offering specific settings tuned for different types of headphones (on-ear or in-ear). I wasn’t able to make out much of a difference except that for in-Ear mode volume levels would go down as compared to on-ear ones.
If you own a wireless HP printer then the wireless printing feature built into the Slate 7 may prove to be handy. But, the feature comes only with a handful of native apps like the Gallery or Email app. We have a wireless printer in our labs and on testing the Slate 7 I found that setting up the tablet and printing can be achieved in a jiffy. As long as the printer is connected to your Wi-Fi network properly you will see the printer listed in the print options automatically and you are ready to roll. On a little negative side, beyond the fact that it doesn’t work except with HP printers, the wireless printing feature comes built into only a few apps and not in Gmail or Chrome. There is this ePrint app that comes preloaded which you can use with ePrint compatible printers. The ePrint feature basically assigns an email address to your printer and print jobs can be sent through the app.
Out of the box HP Slate 7 supports MP3, AAC, WMA, and OGG audio files however it doesn’t support FLAC or WAV. In terms of video files, the Slate 7 supports MPEG-4, H.264, and WMV files at HD resolutions of up to 1080p. But, it doesn’t support DivX or Xvid. Just a reminder that you can alleviate the default omissions by HP and download apps from Google Play that will enable you to play these files.
Our battery testing mechanism isn’t state of the art but, we rely on the good old video tests at the brightest screen possible while the Wi-Fi is on. We found that Slate 7 used up all its juice in about 4 hours and 10 minutes. Compare this with the Nexus 7 and it is short by almost 6 hours. HP may not be up to the mark here.
Cameras on the HP Slate 7 don’t impress much either. With noisy low quality images in indoor lightings both the front facing and rear facing cameras are more or less the same as what you may find in other tablets in the same segment. HP touts that Slate 7’s camera is better than the Nexus 7 but, I am yet to find that one out. Another thing, I am yet to find a tablet with a camera that gives me descent images which are comparable with high-end smartphones. Also capturing images through a tablet doesn’t really fit the scene – carrying a book size device around a garden or in a party snapping up images – it’s just not done. But, as many people would say, I need a tablet and that has to have a camera – so HP you have got that covered.
I would like to applaud once for HP for its effort on Slate 7 as after the TouchPad firesale it was definitely a bold move from HP to reenter the tablet arena. If given an option between Slate 7 and Nexus 7, I would choose Nexus 7. Why? Well because the Slate 7 isn’t up to the mark when it comes to display with lower resolution screen and modest battery life. At ₹13,999, I would say it is tad more affordable than Google’s Nexus 7 and it does offer competitive performance but, I would want a sharper screen and a tablet that at least last 7-8 hours at one go. If I was looking for more storage and a rear-facing camera I would go for Slate 7 otherwise, Google take my money please.