HP has just made its Slate 500 slate available. It is a product designed for business and its main objective is to bring the Slate (call it a tablet if you want) form factor to the Windows market. Businesses do run Windows software and often, employees in the field carry laptops that could be replaced by lighter slates/tablets. HP Believes that the Slate 500 will improve the productivity and working conditions (weight, size) for many workers, but also create new applications, thanks the sheer size reduction when compared to previous Windows Tablet computers. We played with the HP Slate 500 (the 1GB RAM model), and it was surprisingly responsive, especially when compared with Tablets that we had seen at IDF in September. The Slate 500 is in fact the best Atom-based tablet computer that we have seen to date.
It is about as responsive as a good Netbook. Even better: except that it doesn’t seem to have any of the slow app loading, thanks to the SSD (Flash) storage (Netbooks usually ship with very slow hard drives). The Slate 500 is also compatible with all the existing Windows apps, including Adobe Flash and from a software perspective, you can look at it as a 1.5Lbs Netbook. For the IT department, it is another “PC” to manage, and not some kind of “exotic” new platform like Android would be. There’s a front and a back camera that you can use for Skype and to take pictures. The back camera is OK, but the iPhone 4’s camera is better for example, so there’s room for improvement. The display is multitouch, but there’s a Pen that is included as HP expect many apps to use some form of writing. Of course, the HP Slate 500 is compatible with all existing PC accessories that use Bluetooth or USB.
Windows 7 has not been built for slates, so HP has added a few very handy buttons like a ‘keyboard” one that shows/hides the virtual keyboard (by the way, Microsoft should work on its virtual keyboard — it’s not good). There’s also a “Home” button that brings you back to the desktop. Finally the CTRL-ALT-DEL brings the famous screen from which you can log off/lock/start the task manager etc…
Overall, the build quality is good, but it’s not to the level of the iPad (which is great). For instance, the Slate 500’s display is pretty good, but the LCD IPS of the iPad looks simply much better.
That said, HP points out that this is not their answer to the iPad. We expect a consumer Slate that is powered by Web OS sometime in 2011 to do just that. Instead, the HP Slate 500 is providing to businesses what the iPad can’t: a total compatibility with the applications they run today. HP says that the battery life is about 5 hours, and we take it that this is while sitting there, display on, doing nothing (standard depletion test), so this is the absolute best case scenario. For those who use it and put it back on the desk often, there’s an optional charging dock, along with a USB port replicator.
- Windows 7 Pro 32bits
- Atom Z540 1.86Ghz
- up to 2GB of RAM (533Mhz bus)
- 64GB SSD storage
- 8.9″ multitouch display (1024×600)
- Broadcom video hardware accelerator
- Front (VGA) and Back (3 Megapixel) cameras
- 5.91 x 9.21 x 0.58, 1.5lbs
- 2-Cell battery (30Whr)