HP is a company well known for their Windows laptops, in fact they are consistently rated in the top 3 manufacturers of laptops, but with demand for Windows 8 laptops not exactly exceeding expectations, they’ve taken to dipping their metaphorical toe in the waters of some alternative operating systems such as ChromeOS and Android.
The first device from HP to run Android – the Slate 7 – failed to set either us or the world aflame with desire when it was reviewed, but the Slate 7 was a first attempt, and as first attempts go, it wasn’t terrible and HP had something cooking in the background that they possibly felt would be more along the lines of what their market needed, and so now we have the Slatebook X2.
The Slatebook series from HP has been Windows based so far but with the X2, they’ve stepped into Android but they’ve embraced ARM with a new SOC from NVidia – the Tegra 4. The Slatebook X2 is actually the first Tegra 4 based device we’ve seen here in Australia, indeed, it’s the first Tegra 4 based device most countries will see as the NVidia Shield – the other Tegra 4 based device – is only shipping to the US officially. While the previous Tegra SOCs have failed to really get going, the Tegra 4 could possibly be the first to explode the Tegra line up, at least that is what HP is hoping with the X2.
HP are selling two different versions of the HP Slatebook X2, one with 16gb of on-board storage which is priced at at $649, currently being stocked in Dick Smith stores but available to order from HP Resellers and a 64gb model priced at $749 which is exclusive to JB Hifi. HP have supplied us with a 64GB version to review.
When you get your Slatebook X2, in the box you’ll find it comes with the tablet and dock are already clipped together. As accessories you’ll receive a 15V/1.33A power adapter and power cable and that is it.
So, once it’s out of the box, how does it go?
When looking at the Slatebook X2, it’s a tablet with a keyboard dock, nothing more nothing less. The key feature that is attracting people to look at this device is the Tegra 4 SOC. The NVidia Tegra line has seen some highs and lows, the Tegra 2 suffered memory leaks and the Tegra 3 was quickly overshadowed by higher end offerings from other companies, this time around the benchmarks on the Tegra 4 are still quite impressive and paired with 2GB of DDR3 RAM, the Slatebook X2 is not going to be a slouch when running Android.
Most tablets are used for consumption of media, something that Google capitalised on with the Nexus 7 device. HP have given the Slatebook two storage options a 16GB version and a 64GB version, with only $100 seperating the two, it’s definitely easy to make the choice on which option you should choose. Even with an SD Card reader included in the dock and a microSD card slot in the tablet, the option to have 64GB of storage – well, 54.76GB when you first turn it on, before you install apps – available without expansion is a definite attraction to most people.
The Slatebook X2, comes with a proprietary power connector that connects to the docking unit. Unlike other Android devices which utilise a micro-USB connection, it’s not a showstopper but something to think about when you are trying to recharge your tablet.
Connectors on the Slatebook X2 have to be described in two parts – the Tablet and the dock :
The Tablet is turned on by the power button which is located on the back of the tablet on the right hand-side, the volume rocker is also on the back of the tablet, but on the left hand side. The location of these buttons is something you will need to get used to, in terms of turning the device on it took me half a minute to work out how to turn the device on when docked. It would actually be a great idea to put a secondary power button on the dock – there are volume controls on the keyboard.
The keyboard on the dock is not really the best, the keys are too small to allow typing very quickly – I should know, because I typed this review on it. The accuracy of the keyboard is also hampered by the size of the keys. What it does have is custom Android keys – Home and Multi-tasking keys next to the ALT keys on either side of the space bar, as well as a back button at the top left, certainly makes it easy to navgate round Android without needing to touch the screen if you’re not feeling so inclined.
With the Slatebook docked as a clamshell, you also get a trackpad; it works but is not what you would describe as terribly responsive, nor accurate, it often took a couple of taps for it to recognise the touch, a in all you really should attach a mouse unless you’re only after the most basic function from the trackpad.
Hardware wise, HP know what they’re doing. Manufacturing modern day computing hardware since the late 60′s and digital testing equipment even longer, HP know how to make a computer and make it en masse, and it shows. The Slatebook X2 is fairly weighty, when you first pick it up with the slate docked into the keyboard, the 1.2KG mass means you’re certainly not going to forget about it in a hurry, but it’s this mass that gives you a bit of security that the tablet hasn’t just been thrown together or is in any danger of breaking apart at the first touch.
The mechanism used to attach the slate to the keyboard dock is extremely well built, the tablet feels well secured and in no way like it’s about to dislodge at any moment.
The slate is quite a nice device, although the use of a matte plastic material for the back, while understandable in the context of keeping costs down with mass production also lends itself to giving the tablet a slightly cheaper feel to it than would be the case with other materials such as aluminum or even a rubberised coating. But, with the main line of HP’s laptop and tablet range being plastic, it’s certainly in keeping with the regular materials used for their devices and who is going to argue with the top PC manufacturer in the world?
The tablet portion of the Slatebook, has a raised lip surrounding the screen which can be uncomfortable to use when just holding the tablet, it’s not a show stopper but certainly something to be aware of.
With a 10.1″ WUXGA LED-backlit IPS display with a 1920×1200 resolution, the Slatebook X2 is already behind tablets like the Nexus 10, but it’s a decent resolution, I mean it is a HD screen. Viewing angles are pretty good as you expect with an IPS Display.
There are some problems with the screen though. Despite claims from HP claim that the screen is ‘The display that dazzles’ there seems to be a greyish tinge to the screen very reminiscint of the AMOLED screens of some Samsung devices, it’s quite usable but I found that if you don’t have it at maximum brightness, it’s incredibly dim; and even still could be considered a bit dim even when at maximum brightness.
The bezels surrounding the screen aren’t overly large they make the screen easy to use as a tablet when detached from the dock. In terms of sensitivity the screen has no issues with multi-touch and swipes were detected with ease.
The Slatebook X2 comes with dual batteries, one in the tablet and one in the dock. HP estimates that you’ll get around ’14 hours 45 mins 1 of battery-powered tablet and notebook use’ out of the Slatebook X2, in practice it actually came fairly close, playing videos on the tablet alone got me around the 5.5 hour mark. When docked it then stretched it out to about the 6 hour mark, overall it’s a pretty decent battery life but nothing like the power savings promised with the Tegra 4 SOC.
The HP Slatebook comes with two cameras on the tablet portion of the device, a Rear-facing Full HD 2.0MP camera – with no flash – as well as a Front facing HP TrueVision HD Webcam. The concept of taking photos with a tablet is definitely a bit of a taboo, but if you absolutely must take a photo then the 2MP camera on the Slatebook X2 is not terrible. It’s not going to win awards, in fact the pics are a little grainy and washed out with some colour bleed.
The Front Facing camera on the Slatebook is labelled as a TrueVision HD camera, but in usage, it seems to have issues working with different tones – Light and dark seemed to confuse it and being in a darkened area makes the camera just about useless. But in optimal, well lit conditions the camera is definitely usable.
The photo app..or Apps I should say are a little confusing, there are seemingly two apps but both are built out of the stock Android camera App, the only difference between the HP Photo App and the stock Android camera App is that the HP camera App has a custom shutter graphic overlaid on the shutter button. Menus and settings all appear to be exactly the same, so it’s a little strange to see.
Anther let down on the customisation that HP has done with the camera is that they have not included Photo Sphere support. Despite coming with Android 4.2.2 which supports Photo Spheres the only options for the camera modes are Panorma, Video or Still shot.
The Slatebook X2 contains WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, the tablet connects into both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks on WiFi routers, it also connects to public WiFi hotspots and Android hotspots with no issues and maintains a steady connection.
Also included on the Slatebook is Bluetooth connectivity, there’s no specifics on the version of Bluetooth, but it connects to Bluetooth headsets with A2DP and mice and keyboards.
Connecting an Android device to a PC is a necessity for most people and the Slatebook X2 has an issue – no microUSB port. Basically if you wish to transfer files on and off you need to do so via USB Key or USB Hard Drive. Airdroid, I hear you ask? Not compatible with this device. Not a show stopper either, but definitely something that’s worth considering.
With Android 4.2.2 on the slatebook, Miracast is included and the options for Wireless Display pop right up in the settings, connection to both the Netgear PTV3000 and the LG DWD-300 Miracast dongles allowing wireless screen mirroring of the device.
HDMI Out port on the side of the dock is a full sized connector allowing you to connect standard HDMI cables to your TV and just like Miracast, mirror your display on the TV. It works quite well as TV out goes, there’s not much to say.
Sadly, for those that like to use their tablet as a large screen GPS, there’s no GPS included in the Slatebook X2. It’s something that you would certainly expect from a tablet in the $750 price range but it’s not included.
The sound quality on the Slatebook is quite good. The Slatebook X2 comes with stereo speakers; they’re not perfect by any means, at top volume you get the usual tinny sound associated with most on-board speakers but they will do the job.
DTS Sound + has been included in settings and is an interesting inclusion, when you enable it you’re given a choice of three presets – Music, Movie and Voice. They don’t do a huge amount that I noticed anyway, but I’m not really considered an audiophile. Interesting inclusion but overall not terribly useful.
Annoyingly on the Slatebook the 3.5mm headphone jack is hidden away at the bottom of the tablet making it difficult to have your tablet sitting in a stand with a headphone plugged in. When it’s docked it’s fine, but the headphone jack on the dock is almost hidden, or so it seems as it’s located at the back of the dock on the right hand side. It’s more a problem with positioning than commentary on the quality of the sound which is fine and really depends on the quality of your ear/headphones.
With a Tegra 4 SOC paired with 2GB of RAM on the Slatebook X2 I admit I had pretty high expectations for the Slatebook X2, and in the end it does make for quite a decent combination, you’ll find it quite smooth when navigating around the general OS, swiping between screens and dropping in and out of the App drawer shows no lag at all. Launching Apps can get a little slow as you launch a massive amount of apps but that’s to be expected.
Of course with a Tegra Device you’ll of course want to visit the Tegra Zone. It’s not bad, you can load up games like Dead Trigger and Rip Tide GP2 – Dead Trigger did immediately crash on first load but after that it was plain sailing – after installation though, they both run fantastically, the graphics and the game as a whole runs smoothly, there’s no dropped frames or missed touches, even loading between different levels seems to be fairly smooth. I did find it interesting that the first game offered in the Tegra Zone, the newly released Gameloft game – Asphalt 8, is listed as not compatible with your device.
Benchmark wise, the Slatebook X2 received a score of 4,031 – The compare screen in the app advises that tablets like the Exynos running Nexus 10 receives a score of only 2,433, so it’s a pretty massive jump.
The Slatebook comes with Android 4.2.2 – when first loading up the Slatebook I was prompted to install a 411MB update. Excited that this update notification could possibly be for an as yet unannounced updated from 4.2.2 to 4.3 I installed it, it turns out it was an update to Android 4.2.2 going from Build 4.2.2-l7r14-09-17 to build 4.2.2-l714-13-18. Nothing terribly exciting appeared or disappeared after the update, so I can only assume this was purely an update to the underlying OS.
As far as skinning goes, HP has left Android pretty much stock, there’s no cartoony animations or out of place themes, it’s literally stock Android 4.2.2. The lockscreen allows you to add widgets as you wish, the stock Jelly Bean Keyboard is installed which includes gesture typing and HP have done a pretty good job with the Slatebook X2 software wise.
It is essential to bear in mind that this is only their second Android device so it will most likely get better as their mobile division begins to work on customisations for Android to target HPs core Enterprise market which should see them add more and more functionality to it most likely through a skin. As time goes by, by and large we’re seeing OEMs add some pretty good functionality to Android through customised skins and I expect HP will be no different. For now, enjoy the stock Jelly Bean experience.
While the OS has been left alone, this is not a stock AOSP ROM, what HP have done is include some apps to add functionality. The selection of apps is not bad and seems to generally be aimed at creating a device capable of being used in an office environment, an office package for document creation, editing and viewing. Additionally they’ve added an App for making printing that much easier – at least for HP printers.
Unfortunately you’re constantly reminded that this Android is still having ‘teething’ issues related to Tablet Apps. There have been improvements to the Tablet App Eco-system on Android of late, but it’s still something that you’re constantly reminded of. One of the improvements is the addition of the Tablet 101 and Tablet App Highlight section in the Apps section of the Google Play Store, it’s a welcome addition but it does have a slightly negative bearing on the experience of using an Android tablet, in that it only really shows a selection of apps.
ConclusionAs only the second device that HP has released running Android, the Slatebook X2 is a step in the right direction, when compared against their first attempt. As a laptop replacement that can be used as a tablet when necessary, the Slatebook X2 does a pretty Ok job but it’s not perfect. The keyboard is a bt cramped and typing for long periods of time is a little difficult. The hardware though is fairly responsive and works well, and you’re not generally ever wishing you had more power under the hood.
Despite being built out of plastic, the device still feels fairly weighty when it’s docked, so it’s not something you want to be carrying around for long periods of time. As a tablet it’s fairly comfortable to carry, but as a device sitting on a desk it’s acceptable.
The one thing I like to do with review units is hand them to people for a quick impression, the two things that cropped up every single time was –
These aren’t good things to really have as the first impression of your device.
As a whole, the Slatebook X2 is actually a pretty good, there are issues with weight and the position of the power button, but once you get over that and learn where the power button is, it’s down to a choice between a 16Gb model at $649 or a 64GB model at $749, a choice which if left to me would have me handing over the extra $100 with little to no second thoughts.
As to whether I would buy the X2, I’d probably be waiting for a next generation device, it’s good but just not there yet.