The HP Slatebook is a gorgeous, cheap and light laptop, but its Android operating system forces a lot of compromises
The HP Slatebook is a fascinating compromise between ultrabook portability and tablet gaming performance. It runs Google‘s Android operating system, and uses an Nvidia Tegra 4 System on a Chip (SoC) to achieve this.
The chassis is a striking grey and yellow metal and plastic combination, and really stands out from any of the other cheaper laptops we‘ve reviewed. It feels well made, with the plastic yellow highlights feeling as well made as the rest of the device. It’s also very thin at just 1.6cm when closed. It’s light, too, weighing 1.7kg.
There’s a high-speed USB3 port on the left of the laptop, and this is accompanied with a 3.5mm input/output combination jack and an HDMI, which you can use to connect to a monitor or a TV. There’s also a MicroSD card slot to expand the device’s relatively small 32GB of storage. No wired networking ports are provided.
The keyboard doesn’t have a huge amount of tactile feedback, but it’s comfortable to type on all the same. Managing your text once you’ve typed it is significantly more difficult. Selecting text is a frustrating undertaking because it‘s not as simple as clicking and dragging; you have to move two little cursors around to decide where your selection begins and ends. Additionally, Android doesn‘t support the Ctrl+Backspace command that would normally allow you to delete an entire word and similar combination commands which many typists find useful. This is not a laptop for someone who spends a lot of time typing.
Navigating the Android operating system feels strange with the touchpad, and feels inefficient when the size of the icons makes them easy to prod with your finger by way of the touchscreen.
Unusually for a cheap, 14in laptop, the Slatebook has a 1,920×1,080 Full-HD screen, which makes movies, images and text super sharp. However, while this resolution is high for a regular laptop, it‘s actually quite low when compared to smaller Android tablets and smartphones. Compared to similarly-priced laptops, the display is very good. Displaying 74.7 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, it’s able to display more vibrant colours than a typical budget laptop, although it doesn’t do this with much accuracy and most colours are at least a shade paler than they should be. Greys and blacks weren‘t well-served either thanks to the relatively high amount of light leaking through on images that were supposed to be pure black. Deep blacks appeared grey, and greys appeared as a pale blues. The contrast level of 392:1 is also disappointing, meaning that finer details in photos and movies are lost.
HP has pre-installed a file browser application, meaning it‘s relatively easy to copy files over from a USB disk or look for documents you‘ve downloaded from the web. The folder architecture of Android is very confusing, which means you‘ll need to keep a close eye on where you‘re keeping your files. You can print to a USB printer, but you‘ll have to check whether your printer manufacturer has released an Android app that supports USB printing. Otherwise, you can set up Google Cloud Print on your home network as long as your printer has a network connection, or the PC it’s connected to is set up to run Cloud Print.
A real strength of this machine is the Google Play Store which is packed full of games and apps which are usually exclusively found on smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, many apps aren’t optimised for landscape screens and keyboards, so your experience will vary from game to game.
Apps such as Facebook and Twitter aren’t properly optimised to run on the Slatebook, meaning you get single, very wide columns of posts, as if you were using a smartphone running in portrait mode.
The browser can be a little sluggish when loading some sites with a lot of elements such as Facebook and Microsoft Office 365 Outlook. Some websites such as BBC News look great and fill the full width of the screen. Others, such as the Mail Online, are very hard to read because text doesn‘t scale properly.
Android isn‘t well suited to multi-tasking; you‘ll only ever be able to look at one application at once. It is at least easy to switch to a different application because there‘s a dedicated button on the keyboard that takes you to your recently opened apps. What‘s more, the notifications bar is far superior to that of Windows 8; you can keep track of your email, Facebook and Twitter notifications in one place, and this is also where you‘ll find media playback controls for music apps.
Performance when playing games is fine, and challenging titles such as Real Racing 3 look very good in Full-HD resolution. Amusingly, the laptop comes with a gyroscopic sensor, so games that use a gyroscope as part of the control scheme will require you to hold your laptop in the air and tilt it until you figure out how to change the game’s control settings.
The upwards-facing Beats Audio-branded speakers are reasonably good and significantly better than some of the other attempts at Beats laptop speakers. Music and speech is relatively clear, making TV shows and movies pleasant to hear.
Battery life is well above average for a laptop, managing to last 8h33m in our video playback test while set to High Performance mode. This means you could safely take this device out for a day of light work without having to take the power adapter with you.
The HP Slatebook is a strange device. It’s very well built and is one of the most attractive laptops we’ve seen in a long time. However, Android operating system is unsuitable to many tasks you‘d traditionally expect to be able to do on a laptop, aside from gaming. It‘s easy at this point to recommend a good 10-inch tablet, but the best of these such as the Sony Xperia Z2 cost closer to £400, which is £70 more expensive than the Slatebook. As a basic laptop with some good gaming performance, the Slatebook is a good buy, but you have to be prepared to face the many sacrifices running Android will force upon you.
|Processor||Quad-core 1.8GHz Nvidia Tegra 4|
|Memory slots (free)||Not stated|
|Max memory||Not stated|
|Sound||Beats Audio (3.5mm headset port)|
|Graphics memory||Not stated|
|Total storage||32GB eMMC|
|Optical drive type||None|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||2x USB2, 2xUSB3|
|Memory card reader||MicroSD|
|Operating system||Android 4.3|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||One-year collect and return|
|Price inc VAT||£330|