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HP SlateBook X2 hands-on review

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Following the failure of HP's homegrown webOS operating system back in 2011, many people questioned whether the PC heavyweight would ever make another mobile device. A couple of years on, HP has returned to the fray, releasing a legion of tablet devices. One of the most interesting of these is the HP SlateBook X2 convertible.
HP Slatebook X2 docked

This is because, unlike HP's other tablets, the SlateBook doesn't run on Windows 8, or Windows RT, instead it runs off Google's Android OS, hinting that, like many customers, it too may be less than enamoured with Microsoft's latest operating systems.

Design and build
The SlateBook follows the same design philosophy as Asus' transformer series of devices, bundling the 10in Android tablet with an attachable keyboard dock that turns it into a netbook replacement. The tablet section of the device is made of polycarbonate and features a fairly unassuming, slightly rounded unibody chassis, with power and volume buttons lining the top of its right and left-hand sides. In fact the only noticeable design features on our grey demo unit were its 1080p rear-facing camera and 720p front-facing camera, which had metallic lines encircling their lenses.

Despite being made of polycarbonate, not metal like Asus' Transformer Prime and Infinity convertibles, the SlateBook did feel fairly sturdily built. Unlike many plastic tablets, the SlateBook didn't bend or move when we pressed on its back; it felt fairly solid.

HP Slatebook X2 dock and tablet

We found the same was true of the SlateBook's keyboard dock. Built with plastic, the dock felt robust. The dock is a nice touch as it offers users a second battery that can be used to charge the tablet section of the device and boosts the SlateBook's connectivity, adding a USB 2.0 port, SD card slot and HDMI port. With the dock's battery, HP claims the tablet will be able to last around 16 hours off one charge, which, if true, will make it a great travel workstation for business users on the move. However one consequence of the dock's second battery is that when put together the SlateBook is fairly bulky and heavy compared to other Android convertibles, measuring in at 212×285×20mm and weighing a hefty 1.4kg.

Display
The SlateBook boasts a 10.1in IPS 1920x1200 display. The display was a little disappointing, with it looking significantly more grainy and washed out compared with other 10in tablets, like the Google Nexus 10 and Sony Xperia Tablet Z. That said it was more than usable during our tests and it did prove to boast decent viewing angles. We'll be interested to see how the SlateBook's screen deals with more difficult outdoor lighting conditions in our full review.

Operating system and software
Unlike its little brother the Slate 7, the SlateBook runs on the latest 4.2.2 Jelly Bean version of Google Android. This is a boon as most other tablets at the moment are still running on the older 4.1.2 version of Android and means the SlateBook features multiple user account support – a key feature missing on the previous version.HP Slatebook X2 file manager Additionally we noticed HP has added a few useful productivity apps to the mix. Chief among these are a custom-built file manager and ePrinter app that lets the tablet automatically sync with HP printers without the need to install drivers. Sadly we didn't get time to really test the apps out in this hands-on review, but if they work this could be a key selling point for business users.

Performance
The SlateBook runs using Nvidia's brand-spanking new Tegra 4 processor, packing a 1.8GHz quad-core chip that's backed up by the now standard 2GB RAM. The chip was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year and is meant to be a game changer in the industry, with Nvidia claiming devices powered by it will be twice as fast as other top-end tablets, like the Apple iPad and Google Nexus 10. Running through a few basic tasks like opening webpages and streaming video, the Slatebook was a nippy device; look out for some more thorough speed tests in our full review.

Chances in the market
Set to cost around £400, we're cautiously optimistic regarding the HP SlateBook X2's chances. While the tablet probably won't set the consumer market on fire, it could well capture a significant chunk of the enterprise and bring-your-own-device markets, winning users over with its slew of productivity apps and sturdy design. Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the HP SlateBook X2.

23 May 2013

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