HP Slate 7 review
7 in 1,024x600 display, 372g, 1.6GHz ARM Cortex A9, 1.00GB RAM, 8GB disk, Android 4.1
HP took its time before launching an Android tablet, having been burnt by the WebOS-powered TouchPad several years ago, but the company has finally released one: the Slate 7. Rather than try to compete with Apple's iPad, HP has instead focused on the entry-level 7in market with a budget device designed to take on tablets like the Google Nexus 7.
The Slate 7 has a minimal appearance, thanks to a smooth, soft-touch plastic back that provides plenty of grip. The aluminium edging and machined buttons add a touch of class, making it feel like a more expensive device. It has volume keys on the right-hand side and a power button at the top, alongside a 3.5mm audio jack and a MicroSD card slot. It supports MicroSD cards up to 32GB in size, which means you can increase its meagre 8GB storage capacity. It also has a Micro USB charging port, which is at the bottom of the device, sandwiched between the speaker grilles.
The Slate 7’s 7in, 1,024x600-resolution display is a basic screen, so it isn't going to win any awards for image quality, but is still perfectly functional. The panel uses fringe field switching (FFS) technology, which helps create better viewing angles than on TN devices. Unfortunately it has a grainy appearance and isn't particularly bright, even at its highest setting. It attracts fingerprints very easily too, which makes it even harder to see the screen in bright sunlight. Still images and videos look reasonably sharp and colours are fairly vibrant, but there's nothing that stands out above the competition. Sat side-by-side with the latest Nexus 7, it pales in comparison.
The stereo speakers managed to produce reasonably loud audio for a tablet, with a warm mid-range, but the high-end is tinny and there's no real bass. You'll definitely want to plug in a pair of headphones for doing anything more than watching short YouTube clips.
The Slate 7 is pretty energy efficient, and it lasted eight hours and 56 minutes in our battery test. That puts it behind the Nexus 7’s battery life of 10 hours and 20 minutes, but it’s still among the best scores for budget 7in tablets.
When the Slate 7 first launched it ran barely tweaked version of Android 4.1, which made it feel very similar to a Nexus 7 in general use. It has HP's ePrint app preinstalled, which is great if you have a compatible HP wireless printer, but is fairly useless for everyone else. Thankfully it's possible to uninstall it, so that it doesn't occupy storage space that would be better devoted to something else.
The main addition is Beats Audio, a non-configurable music equalizer that adjusts the headphone output based on what pair of Beats headphones you happen to be wearing. It works with any pair of in- or over-ear headphones, but simply boosts bass and treble rather than give you control over individual EQ settings. With it disabled, music sounded tinny and weak, but even the passive option increased the bass far too much for our tastes. It has no effect on the integrated speakers.