It's easy to see the appeal of digitising the written word, particularly where business is concerned. Wouldn't it be helpful to have every handwritten note, plan, list and memo archived and easily accessible in digital form, rather than left under piles around the office?
Livescribe thought so with its Smartpen, and now HP has followed suit. The HP Pro Slate 12, launched alongside the smaller Pro Slate 8, aims to provide enterprise users with an easy way to convert paper notes into digital documents while offering all the features and performance of existing high-end productivity tablets.
At 300x222mm, the Pro Slate 12 is a giant among tablets. However, it's also a modest 8mm thick and surprisingly light at 850g, making it perfectly easy to carry and use one-handed. It's stylish too, with an elegant metal body and attractive speaker strips along either side of the 12.3in screen.
Behind the good looks is a reassuring sturdiness. The tablet weathered three days of being hauled around London in a satchel, and survived an accidental drop onto a kitchen counter without a hint of damage. Design-wise, our only real complaint is the Concore glass screen, which is reflective to the point of being outright unusable in direct sunlight.
For connectivity, there's no full-size USB port like on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Still, the single microUSB 2.0 port, microSD slot, nano SIM slot proved adequate for everyday requirements.
There's also a ZIF connector tucked on the bottom edge, enabling the Pro Slate 12 to plug into HP's Pro Portable Tablet Dock. This adds some extra connectivity options, like full-sized USB 2.0 and HDMI, but is sold separately and very pricey at £188.
Bundled with the Pro Slate 12 is the HP Duet Pen, which can be used on the screen and on paper thanks to a clever double-ended nib. Turning it from a stylus into a good old-fashioned ink pen is simply matter of pulling out the nib, flipping it around and sliding it back in.
When using ink, tiny microphones inside the pen pick up vibrations created by the nib travelling over the paper. These movements are then translated into digital copies of what's been written or drawn. It's an impressive bit of tech, especially since it does what the Livescribe Smartpen can't by packing itself into a device that isn't much thicker or any less comfortable to use than an ordinary pen.