Solid build quality; Beats Audio built-in; microSD Card slot; Long battery life
Low-resolution display; Runs older Android 4.1; Not as fast as competing tablets; Lackluster cameras
The HP Slate 7 sports a premium design and offers Beats Audio for an affordable $169, but its screen and performance trail those of even cheaper tablets.
With its stainless-steel frame and sleek, soft touch back, you might not guess that the HP Slate 7 costs a mere $169. That's a pretty low price for an Android tablet, considering that HP also includes Beats Audio technology and a microSD Card, something you won't find on the pricier Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD. However, HP has other competition in the sub-$200 price range. Should you snatch up the Slate 7 or pass?
Our model came in silver, but you can opt for a red version for $30 more. That configuration also has 16GB of memory, compared with 8GB for the entry-level Slate 7.
The top of the Slate 7 houses the headphone jack, microSD Card slot (which is not covered) and a power button that's easy to press. You'll also find two small screws that flank all of these items; they don't mar the aesthetic, but are a bit distracting.
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Measuring 7.8 x 4.6 x 0.42 inches, the Slate 7 has similar dimensions to its 7-inch competition but is slightly narrower, making it easier to hold with one hand. For example, the Hisense Sero 7 Pro measures 5 inches across, and the Nexus 7 and MeMO Pad are 4.7 inches across. However, at 13.1 ounces, the Slate 7 is heavier than other 7-inch tablets. The Nexus 7 and ASUS MeMO Pad weigh 12 ounces, while the Sero 7 Pro weighs 12.7 ounces. Only the Kindle Fire HD (13.9 ounces) is heavier among this group.
On the plus side, the Slate 7's display is fairly bright, measuring 313 lux on our light meter. That's on a par with the Google Nexus 7 (314 lux) and better than the ASUS MeMO Pad (293 lux) but behind the Sero 7 Pro (369 lux) and Kindle Fire HD 7 (436 lux).
When we watched the HD trailer for "The Internship," we could easily make out the wrinkles in Owen Wilson's shirt (and his neck), and we enjoyed fairly wide viewing angles. However, the same clip looked crisper on the Sero 7 Pro.
Reading the Slate 7's display outdoors on a partly sunny day proved challenging. We noticed plenty of glare, and there were visible grid lines.
When we listened to Coldplay's "Paradise," activating Beats Audio did enhance the low end and made the track sound richer overall, but the bass competed with the vocals more than we would have liked. We appreciated the bigger thump a lot more when we played Busta Rhymes' "Why Stop Now." Beats Audio also improved the sound on games, such as the driving soundtrack to "Riptide GP."
The dual speakers on the bottom of the Slate 7 are serviceable but don't wow. The same tracks sounded louder coming from the Sero 7.
Swiping down from the top reveals the stock notification drawer, complete with a Settings shortcut and screen-rotation button. This is pure Google, with no skin in sight.
As with SwiftKey, you also get next-word predictions. For example, when typing "I plan," the Google keyboard guessed we wanted to type "on" next. Voice typing is also on board. Overall, we typed quickly, with few errors, using this layout, but we wish HP offered haptic feedback; key-press options are limited to a sound.
Otherwise, the Slate 7 comes with all of Google's own apps, including Gmail, YouTube, Google +, Hangouts, Maps, Movie Studio, Play Music, Books, Magazines and Music. And with full access to the Google Play store, you can take your pick from over 700,000 apps. The store also has a Tablet Spotlight section, where you'll see such titles as Subway Surfers (game), QuickOffice Pro HD and Hulu Plus.
Armed with a 1.6-GHz dual-core A9 ARM Cortex processor and 1GB of RAM, the HP Slate 7 offers fairly good performance, but it isn't the fastest tablet in its price range.
The Slate 7 easily handled a few demanding games we threw its way. We quickly cruised around the track in the "Riptide GP" Jet Ski racing game, and we happily mowed down flesh-eating aliens in "Dead Trigger." Just don't expect cutting-edge visuals, due to the low-resolution display on the Slate 7. Nor will you be able to enjoy little bits of eye candy enabled by Nvidia's Tegra 3 CPU on the $149 Sero 7, such as water-splashing effects dripping down your screen.
We also ran Geekbench 2, which measures processor and memory performance. With a score of 937, the Slate 7 again finished between the cheaper MeMO Pad (559) and the Sero 7 Pro (1,283). Lastly, the Slate 7 registered 2,198 on 3DMark Extreme, which measure graphics prowess. The ASUS couldn't run the test, but the Sero 7 Pro scored a 1,942.
The front VGA camera didn't fare much better. A shot we took of our face appeared blotchy. You can video chat with this tablet, but we wouldn't necessarily recommend it.
One bright spot is the Slate 7's endurance. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the tablet lasted 7 hours and 34 minutes. That's about half an hour longer than average, nearly 90 minutes longer than the Hisense Sero 7 Pro (6:09), and on a par with the Kindle Fire HD 7 (7:30) and the Google Nexus 7 (7:26).
The Slate 7 is also priced too closely to the $199 Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, which offer sharper displays and better performance. Another option is the $99 Hisense Sero 7 LT -- which has half as much storage as the HP (4GB vs. 8GB), but otherwise similar specs -- for $70 less. Overall, the Slate 7 is worth a look, but it's not the best bargain tablet.
|CPU||1.6-GHz dual-core A9 ARM Cortex|
|Storage Drive Size||8GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||VGA|
|Card Reader Size||32GB|
|Warranty / Support||1-year limited hardware warranty with 90 days of free software support|
|Size||7.8 x 4.6 x 0.42 inches|