After months of waiting, the HP Slate is finally here. I was fortunate enough to get a hands-on look at the Windows 7 Professional-based tablet, and here's what I found.
When I tried out the HP Slate 500, it was well out of the box and already set-up entirely. Being that I only got a chance to play with this 8.9-inch tablet for about 15-20 minutes, this is a first look, first impression review.
The HP Slate definitely felt heavier and sturdier than I imagined before picking it up. One and a half pounds isn't astronomical, but when so compact, it certainly feels a bit like an ultra-slim brick.
Powered by an Intel Atom Z540 processor, the HP Slate 500 powers up like any other notebook or desktop running Windows 7 by hitting the button pictured above. There aren't many buttons or ports around surrounding the edges, leaving most of the controls to the touch screen. But here is what you will find on the sides: an on/off switch, a power connector, an SD card slot, a USB port, a Home screen button, an onscreen keyboard tab, a headphones jack and volume controls. (Additional connectivity options can be found on the back of the included docking station, which includes another two USB ports, HDMI and a headphones jack.)
The LED-backlit, WSVGA display supports both pen-touch and multi-touch operation. Users can write on the screen with the included (and pictured below) digital pen, which sports a button near the tip that acts as a right-click control. If your handwriting is good enough for a touch screen, then this might be the tablet for you. Mine, not so much. It was a bit like how when I sign my name on those little machines where you slide your credit cards at stores. Messy and illegible. Perhaps that's me and I just need to take more time to practice my handwriting on a touch screen, but I'd rather not bother.
Thus, there is a digital keyboard. I'm not a big fan of these on anything bigger than a smartphone, but that's a personal preference.
However, I do see many potential and likely successful uses for such a portable device. The HP Slate is currently only pre-loaded with Windows 7 because HP expects that most companies will wipe the device clear and install its own software relevant to the particular business. For example, checking up and monitoring inventory of a stall room in a clothing and/or shoe store. Without having to call on a walkie-talkie or walk to the storage room, a sales associate can inform the customer right on the sales floor by looking up the product stock on the Slate.
HP also offered me the example of insurance agents who could use this to photograph and even record a car accident site using the 3-megapixel camera on the back and the webcam on the front. Then the details could be jotted down using the digital pen and also implemented into whatever software program the insurance company decided to install to file the claim immediately via built-in Wi-Fi or an attached 3G USB dongle.
This is definitely not a competitor for the iPad. It might look like one (but just a bit smaller), yet this is not an entertainment or personal device whatsoever. It is geared towards productivity, and it certainly seems that HP made the right decision by going business-friendly with this one. HP and Microsoft seemed a bit lost when the device was first unloaded at CES 2010 earlier this year, meeting poor reception from mostly everyone who saw it. Now, I think this gadget has a much better chance.
Available through HP's direct sales force, the HP Slate 500 is shipping now for $799. The bundle includes a digital pen, a docking station and a portfolio case. If you are an individual consumer but you still want your hands on one of these, you should be able to find it on HP.com