Another day, another new tablet from HP – at least, that’s what it feels like lately, and we’re not complaining. Today, the company officially revealed a handful of new Android HP Slate tablets in both 7- and 10-inch varieties. At least two of them are powered by Nvidia’s super quick new Tegra 4 mobile chipset, which partners 4 Cortex-A15 cores alongside an Nvidia homebrewed GPU.
HP Slate 7 Extreme
First up, HP’s new Slate 7 Extreme. If it looks familiar, that might be because you’ve read our story on the new Nvidia Tegra Note reference platform that partners their new Tegra 4 chip with a stylus-driven build of Android on a 7-inch tablet. HP didn’t just take the idea from Nvidia; they seem to have basically taken the Tegra Note and put their logo on it, as it looks precisely like the renders from Nvidia’s site.
Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality product – in fact, given HP’s resistance to modifying stock Android builds, even Android purists are likely to approve of the device. As far as I can tell, the software build is completely stock, including the icons and launcher, and the pre-installed HP apps (for things like their photo and print software, etc.) can be disabled in the app’s settings page.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Note line, this tablet comes with a stylus – but it’s a capacitive model, not one that requires a Wacom digitizer. And while most capactive syluses have been frankly terrible at doing anything more than slow sketching, Nvidia has worked to substantially reduce the latency (the time between when you drag the stylus and a line appears on the screen).
As a result, the stylus shipping with this tablet works quite well, both for drawing as well as writing things down. Moreover, in what may be a first for mainstream capacitive styluses, the tip of this model isn’t much larger than an old lead pencil.
Nvidia supplies software for both sketching and jotting down notes, as well as a special palm rejection mode in which only the stylus can interact with the screen, and not your fingers.
Thanks to the stylus’ special shape, you can flip it around and use it as an eraser in supported apps without having to hit any buttons or switches.
You don’t need to use the stylus exclusively to benefit from the superior latency, as even your fingers can take advantage of that. In some cases, that’s probably a good thing, as I found the included stylus to leave a bit of residue on the screen; just a bit of the capacitive rubber can be left behind.
Still, it’s a decidedly fast piece of kit, and the stylus makes it genuinely useful for taking notes, clipping things you wish to save or share from the web.
HP Slate 8 Pro
The HP Slate 8 Pro is the second new Android tablet HP will be selling that uses Nvidia’s Tegra 4 chipset, and it’s a curious sort. One of the few Android models to go after the niche carved out by Apple’s iPad, the Slate 8 Pro features a 4:3 aspect ratio, 7.98-inch display, with a fairly high resolution of 1600×1200. While that’s currently much higher than the iPad mini’s 1024×768, Apple is widely expected to put a ‘Retina’ display into it’s own 7.9-inch tablet in the next update.
Still, that’s not really here nor there.
The Slate 8 Pro is very lightweight and super comfortable to hold. HP has clad the back of it in a striking white plastic, with red trim indicative of the fact that the Slate 8 has some Beats Audio technology built in.
HP is also packing in software to make up for a few Android deficiencies out of the box, such as Kingsoft Office for working with documents, an HP-branded File Manager, and HP’s ePrint and Photo apps that come with all of their tablets.
Despite the plastic build, the Slate 8 Pro is really nice to hold, and it’s hard to deny that it has a certain charm. The plastic backing also helps to keep the weight down on all of the Android tablets. I didn’t get much of a chance to test out the cameras on any of the tablets, so we can’t speak much as to how well they perform.
HP also showed off a dock for the Slate 8 Pro, but I wasn’t very impressed. It works by sitting the tablet upright (and only upright) and is just a micro-USB tip that slides into the USB connection on the bottom of the tablet. While these might be considered pre-production units, the fit of the tablet on the dock feels more than a little wobbly, as it’s really only the tension of that USB connection that keeps it upright – there aren’t any lips or clasps to fit the tablet into.
HP Slate 7 HD + HP Slate 10 HD
Rounding up the Android stable are the HP Slate 7 HD and Slate 10 HD, two new Android tablets that up the resolution a bit over the original Slate. To help keep costs down, these two aren’t full HD tablets, coming up instead at ‘just’ 1280×800. Inside of each beats a dual-core CPU, front- and rear-facing cameras, and optional 4G cellular connections.
If you do opt for the 4G-enabled Slate 7 or Slate 10, you can also look forward to two years of free data, courtesy of HP and T-Mobile. Those customers will get 200MB every month, with the timeline starting upon delivery of your unit.
Just as the other two tablets might suggest, both of the new Slates are built largely out of plastic – the Slate 7 HD is dark and moody, while the Slate 10 HD is a pretty bright red. Again, the build quality, despite the materials, feels sound; you should be able to toss these guys into your bag without really worrying.
Despite the low resolutions of these latter two displays, they might yet sell well — it all depends on how low HP really wants to take the final cost of these tablets.
All four of the Android tablets will launch in the U.S. sometime this November; HP has kept mum on pricing so far.
Be sure to check out the image gallery below for more hands on pictures of the new products.