As a tablet PC user since the launch of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition in November 2002, I've longed for a lightweight, portable and thin slate device that essentially functions as a digital notepad computer, and this is what I believe HP has delivered in the 500. There's nothing new here, the Slate is just a vanilla Windows 7 Professional device with practically no 3rd party applications installed except Evernote and the camera software, but I think that's actually a good thing as it keeps the unit from being bogged down given its adequate but less-than-powerful Atom platform.
BUILD & DESIGN
The HP Slate 500 packs a lot of hardware into its svelte 5.91 x 9.21 x 0.58 inch body, and it only weighs 1.5 pounds to boot. The unit is impressive with an Atom Z540 1.86 GHz CPU, 64 GB SSD, 2 GB of DDR2 RAM, front-facing VGA camera, rear-facing 3 megapixel camera and an 8.9-inch 1024 × 600 screen with an N-trig Duo Sense capacitive touch and digital pen digitizer. This combines to give the HP Slate 500 topline specs at a topline price compared to most consumer slates. The 500 is sealed with no user replaceable battery or other parts.
The device is physically attractive and the rubberized back with a distinctive textured repeated pyramidal design with the HP logo in the center allows for good gripping either lying on a surface or in one's hand, and the flat back allows the Slate to function well for inking on a desk.
The device is fanless and completely silent but still manages to keep cool most of the time. The back does get quite warm when the device is charging or being taxed, such as when playing HD video. It's not scalding, but it might make your hands sweat.
Ports, connections, buttons & accessories
The Slate has one USB port, a full SD slot, a combination headphone/microphone jack and a combined power/dock connector. There are five hardware buttons along three sides of the machine. On the right in the primary landscape orientation is the combination power and screen rotation lock switch that disables the accelerometer. At the top right is the home button that minimizes all open windows and when held down for several seconds turns off the display backlight. To the left is the Control-Alt-Delete button for domain security purposes. On the top left is a volume rocker and finally on the left side is a toggle button for the Windows Tablet Input Panel.
The dock is lightweight with a folding leg and provides two additional USB ports, a headphone/microphone jack, a power connector that's identical to the one on the HP Slate 500, and finally an HDMI output. The Slate pops in and out of the dock nicely.
The metal digital pen uses an AAAA battery and is very comfortable to hold but the battery cap at the top is a bit flimsy, I've already broken the plastic ring around the top but fortunately it hasn't interfered with the pen's function as far as I've noticed. As with most digital pens on tablet PCs, it has a right click button.
The leather portfolio is form fitted for the Slate and has cutouts for the cameras and a strap holder for the pen. It reeks of professionalism and is a wonderful touch to the package as the Slate 500 is a device many will want to take to professional settings such as meetings.
The total weight of the Slate, dock, AC adapter, portfolio and pen is 3 lbs. according to my postage scale, which is accurate to within two ounces.
The 8.9-inch screen is bright however, viewing angles are not very good in primary landscape mode. I've found that rotating the screen 180 degrees so that the HP logo is at the top provides better image quality especially for video when viewing the screen outside of 45 degrees. As is common with slates, the screen is smooth and glossy and does produce glare, but I've not found it distracting in normal indoor lighting conditions though bright and direct sunlight will washout the screen. There is a good amount of backlight bleed around the edges of the screen. It's not typically a problem but it is noticeable with darker colors and blacks, especially during video playback in darker lighting conditions.
The dual cameras are basically of cheap-USB-webcam quality and you'll not be using them to do serious work, but the rear facing camera is quite a bit better and produces fair quality photos and videos in bright light. They're fine for videoconferencing and calls.
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