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HP Pro Slate 12 review: Large-screen business tablet with dual-purpose stylus

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  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good
  • $569.00

Pros

  • Large 12.3-inch screen
  • Duet Pen offers interesting possibilities
  • Mobile broadband support
  • Solid, durable build

Cons

  • Relatively few ports and connectors
  • Limited Duet Pen support
  • Low-resolution screen

Large 12-inch tablets are not quite as rare as hen's teeth -- but almost. If you want a 12-incher running Android there are two Samsung options, the Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 and Galaxy NotePRO 12.2, both with 12.2-inch screens, while Windows fans can opt for the 12-inch Surface Pro 3. For the record, HP's Pro Slate 12 (£418 ex. VAT, £502 inc. VAT) beats all of these on screen size with its 12.3-inch display.

It isn't just the screen size that makes the Pro Slate 12 different. It comes with a stylus called the Duet Pen that can be used both on and off device. In the latter case, you can write with it onto ordinary paper and your work will be picked up by the device and digitised.

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The 12.3-inch Pro Slate 12 ships with Android 5.0 and costs £418 (ex. VAT) in the UK. Image: HP

Design

Thanks to its 12.3-inch screen, the HP Pro Slate 12 is enormous for a tablet. Its desktop footprint of 30cm by 22.2cm is not far short of our 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad T440p laptop, so it will need plenty of space both on your desk and in your bag -- a particular consideration if you intend to work with both the Pro Slate 12 and a notebook.

The overall size has an effect on weight which at 840g is not far off the very lightest ultrabooks. We found the Pro Slate 12 simply too heavy to hold one-handed for prolonged periods.

One of the main uses cases for business tablets is in customer- or client-facing environments where notebooks are intimidating and/or disturb the client interface. Anyone needing to work standing up rather than with the Pro Slate 12 on a table might have a problem with its size and weight.

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On the plus side, the Pro Slate 12 is thinner than the average notebook. Indeed, at just 7.99mm it's thin even for a tablet.

The build is excellent. A tablet this large and this thin could feel flimsy and bendable, but the metal casing guards against that. In fact, the Pro Slate 12 feels solid in the hands. The metal edges are ever so slightly angled outwards towards the back and the shiny silver strip that sits all around the screen's border is distinctive without being intrusive.

Some might argue that the footprint is unnecessarily increased by the pair of speaker grilles flanking the screen (in landscape mode), but in fact they both direct sound at the user and provide a larger grippable area when you're working in landscape mode. If you're interested in this tablet as a portable presentation device, you'll be pleased to know that the speakers deliver good-quality sound.

The Pro Slate 12's screen provides plenty of productive real estate, but there are a couple of drawbacks: the screen is very reflective, so you may struggle to find a viewing angle that suits a group of people sitting in a meeting room; and the display resolution, at 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, is not particularly high. (Indeed, HP makes an 8-inch Pro Slate 8 Tablet with a 2,048-by-1,536-pixel screen that retails for £300 ex. VAT).

Duet Pen

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The Duet Pen. Image: HP

The Duet Pen is the main attraction in terms of productivity, though. As its name implies, it has two functions. You can draw or write onto the tablet's screen as normal and your input is digitised immediately. Alternatively, you can draw or write onto paper, whereupon your work is captured in both physical and digital forms. It manages this trick by sending ultrasonic sound to the tablet. If you look carefully at the speaker grilles you'll see four holes for the microphones that pick up the sounds.

The Duet Pen has a double-ended writing nib with a rubber stylus for use on the tablet at one end and an ordinary ink pen at the other. You pull out the nib and reverse it depending on how you want to work. This is not a particularly elegant solution, but it's easy enough to switch writing modes.

HP has tweaked the Android keyboard so you can call up a writing mode for handwriting recognition. The handwriting recognition is very good -- it coped with my pretty sloppy cursive script, and I never felt it made too many errors or had to wait for it to catch up with me.

HP provides several applications that take advantage of the Duet Pen's capabilities. Corel Painter is provided for those with a more artistic bent, while WPS Office, the free Microsoft Word-compatible productivity app, caters for pen-based drawing and highlighting as well as supporting text conversion via the HP Duet writing area keyboard replacement. The most interesting app, however, is HP Notes.

With this you can create notebooks that are designed to accommodate either on-device or off-device input. Select the latter and as you write or draw onto paper your input is turned into digitised content. This is a fast, efficient and effective system, although we did encounter one glitch. It only worked for us with the Pro Slate 12 in one of its two portrait orientations, and nowhere in the documentation or on the device itself was there any indication of that fact. We fiddled about with the tablet the wrong way up for quite a while before working this out. Thanks, HP! For your information, the correct orientation has the webcam on the left side.

The Duet Pen is powered by its own battery, which you charge via a Micro-USB port. The tablet reports the pen charge level in its notifications area so you can see whether it needs a boost. To pair the pen, you simply place the nib onto a target area in the centre of the tablet's screen.

The Duet Pen has a utilitarian build, and its design ethic does not match that of the Pro Slate 12 itself. It's too large to live in a housing on the tablet, so you'll need to remember to carry it with you. Spare Duet Pens are available for £35 (ex. VAT).

There are a few other issues. HP Notes does not support both on- and off-device input in a single notebook, for example; nor does it let you turn pen-based input into editable text. Our experiments suggest the setup is not workable away from a flat desk and both paper and tablet need to be quite close to each other (HP sells a folio case that holds the tablet and a pad of paper in appropriate proximity, but that's not available in the UK via HP online at the time of writing). Also, only one Duet Pen can be accommodated at a time, precluding the possibility of collective whiteboarding.

So far, few apps take advantage of the Duet Pen and can only hope that more will come along to help the technology gain traction. The pen has a rocker button on its side, but it's barely utilised beyond minimal support in Corel Painter.

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The Pro Slate 12 has an 8-megapixel main camera, plus a 2-megapixel front-facing webcam. Image: HP

In terms of specification, the HP Pro Slate 12 is a capable business tablet. It's powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC , supported by 2GB of 800MHz DDR3 RAM. There's 32GB of internal storage memory plus a MicroSD card slot for expansion. There are two cameras: a front-facing 2-megapixel webcam and an 8-megapixel main camera at the back.

Wireless connectivity includes the usual wi-fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac, with Miracast support) and Bluetooth (4.0+LE), plus NFC. There is also a SIM card slot, allowing you to remain connected when out of wi-fi range.

The HP Pro Slate 12 is short of ports and connectors. Aside from the MicroUSB charge port, MicroSD and SIM card slots there's just a headset jack and a HP docking port which is not, at present, associated with any accessories at HP's website.

It ships running Android 5.0, and unusually this is an almost vanilla implementation. We have already noted HP Notes, Corel Painter and WPS Office as additions and there are a couple more, including Avast Mobile Security and Evernote, but thankfully there's almost no 'bloatware' here.

Conclusion

The HP Slate Pro 12 takes pen-based tablet input to another level, and the Duet Pen certainly has potential. However it needs wider app support before it delivers true business value. On the plus side, the Duet Pen does not need special paper (as required by Livescribe), and if apps do start to support it, this could be a real bonus.

The 12-inch screen is both a blessing and a curse: despite its relatively low resolution, it's good for giving presentations, and the near A4 size has obvious benefits for those interested in digitising written notes. Yet it makes for a relatively large and heavy tablet that fits less easily into your travel bag than its smaller tablet brethren.

HP also does the Pro Slate 12 no favours by offering a sparse selection of ports and connectors. Infrared and HDMI are two we'd have liked to see, in particular.

If you're a business user who can't manage without a notebook, the smaller, lighter (and less expensive) 8-inch Pro Slate Tablet 8 might be more appealing.

Specifications

Display
Resolution 1600 x 1200 (163 ppi)
Touchscreen Multi-Touch
Multi-Touch Display Yes
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size 12.3 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 31.24 cm
Native Resolution 1600 x 1200
Pixel Density (ppi) 163
Image Aspect Ratio 4:3
Miscellaneous
Compliant Standards FIPS 140-2
Manufacturer Selling Program HP Smart Buy
Features ARM TrustZone, DTS Sound+, Data-at-Rest Encryption, Miracast, UV protection, capacitive touch screen
Color gray
Color Category gray
Compliant Standards FIPS 140-2
Processor
Type Snapdragon 800
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Processor Number Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.3 GHz, 4 cores)
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Clock Speed 2.3 GHz
Memory
Storage 32 GB eMMC
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC
Security Protocols & Features Wi-Fi Miracast
Camera
HD Video Recording 1080p
Features HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Networking
Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0 LE, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, NFC
Multimedia
Audio Two microphones, stereo speakers
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 32 °F
Max Operating Temperature 104 °F
Humidity Range Operating 10 - 90% (non-condensing)
Min Storage Temperature -4 °F
Max Storage Temperature 140 °F
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 10 sec
Technology lithium polymer
Capacity 37 Wh
Header
Brand HP
Product Line HP Pro Slate
Model 12
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
System
Platform Android
Handheld Type tablet
Expansion and Connectivity
Expansion Slots 1 x microSD
Interfaces 1 x headset mini jack (3.5mm)
1 x Micro-USB
1 x HDMI (supporting via optional adapter)
RAM
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 2 GB
Flash Memory
Installed Size 32 GB
Form Factor Embedded MultiMediaCard
Card Reader
Slots (for SD) microSD slot
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSD
Flash Memory Cards Max Supported Capacity 32 GB
Digital Camera
Cameras (for SD) rear camera + front camera
Rear-facing Camera Yes
HD Video Recording 1080p
Features HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Audio Output
Type stereo speakers
Audio Input
Type two microphones
GPS System
Navigation GPS receiver
Expansion Slots
Type microSD
Total Qty 1
Interface Provided
Interface HDMI, Micro-USB, headset mini jack (3.5mm)
Qty 1
Location supporting via optional adapter
OS Provided
Type Android 4.4.4 (KitKat)
Cable Details
Type micro-USB cable
PDA Software
Type Corel Painter Mobile, Evernote, HP Duet Pen Software, HP Notes, HP Print, HP TouchPoint Manager, Kingsoft Office, Secure Boot, Skype, avast! Mobile Security
Power Device
Type power adapter
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Full Contract Period 1 year
Dimensions & Weight
Width 8.7 in
Depth 0.3 in
Height 11.8 in
Weight 29.98 oz

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