HP made sure this year's MWC had at least one big surprise, as it unexpectedly presented its first Android tablet, the Slate 7.
This 7-inch device competes on the scorching market of cheaper tablets of this size, while its features make it resemble models presented at last month's CES, like the Acer Icona Tab B1-A71 and Asus Memo Pad ME172. Its price is also similar -- it has been announced that HP Slate 7 will cost approximately $169 on the U.S. market.
Let us start with the pros. The device feels great when held in hand, and gives the impression that this is a higher-class tablet than it actually is, above all thanks to HP's good artisanship. Metal frames and a matte background enable Slate 7 to naturally fit into any size of hand, while fingerprints come off the screen rather well.
Its relative speed is praiseworthy, given its price. The Slate 7 comes with a dual-core A9 processor, which slightly lags while performing more demanding tasks like zooming in and out or scrolling web sites. It also features Android OS 4.1, and a display with a 1024 x 600 resolution. I actually expected more glitching and slower response to screen swipes, but HP's cunning plan to provide 1 GB of RAM made the lag bearable, not annoying. Asus did a similar thing on its device at CES, while the Acer model has only 512 MB of RAM.
It is also a positive that the tablet features a 3-mega pixel back-facing camera (and a front-facing VGA camera), which gives it an advantage compared to direct competition by Acer and Asus -- as these models lack a back-facing camera. This is not an insignificant advantage for HP's camp while purchasing a cheap 7-inch tablet.
What I did not care for is Slate 7's display, which, unfortunately, does not use the IPS matrix, as I had hoped an established manufacturer like HP would. Its screen was made by FFS technology and a HP representative at the company's booth claimed it provides very bright imaging under all lighting conditions. True, the imaging really was very bright (and the lighting at HP's booth was a disaster), however, this had a negative effect on color interpretation: the colors on Slate 7 seemed washed out.
Colder tones prevail on this tablet, and the general impression of blandness reflected on the contrast as well: while white tones really are white (which is not surprising due to bright imaging), black tones are almost light grey (which is also not surprising due to bright imaging). If display brightness is manually decreased, the contrast is better, but color interpretation becomes even poorer.
Still, after being introduced to it, I find that color issues on the screen are the only serious con HP Slate 7 has in its profile, and these are definitely not a deal-breaker for those who find the price their primary factor while purchasing a tablet. HP has cunningly infiltrated the Android OS tablet market battle by making its first model also belong to the entry class, where it will surely compete as one of the better choices in the following months.
As a HP representative told me off the record in Barcelona, we can expect more advanced devices from this company in the future, device which will compete with Nexus 7, as well as tablets with bigger diagonals.
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