You guessed it, the Slate 7 has a 7-inch screen. It's an IPS display with 1024 x 600 pixels, and behind it are a non-specified 1.6 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor (okay, we'll spill the beans, it's a Rockchip RK3066), 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The memory is expandable by up to 32 GB via microSD card. Along with the microSD slot are a micro-USB port for charging and transfers and a 3.5mm audio jack. The operating system is Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean.
The HP Slate 7 is currently on sale for around £100.
DESIGN & HANDLING
The Slate 7 is decidedly industrial: it looks cold and serious, and the screws are out in the open for everyone to see. It sort of looks like a tablet some generic and/or little-known Chinese brand might have made, with an HP logo slapped on the back. With its overly wide borders and overly hefty weight, you get the feeling you've seen it before.
It gives similar one-hand handling to the first Nexus 7. Fortunately, Google and most other brands have moved on to more ergonomic designs since then.
But it has nice finish and the manufacturing is solid. Unlike some other low-priced tablets, you don't get the impression the whole thing will come apart after a few months of use. However, HP could still have used a bit more finesse in the design and placed the speakers somewhere where your hand doesn't cover them every time you hold the slate in landscape mode.
In today's market, entry level tablets don't automatically get lumbered with TN screens, as IPS technology has come down in price. And thankfully, HP opted for IPS, which at the very least ensures nice, wide viewing angles. We measured the contrast at a relatively decent 842:1, which is more or less on par with the iPad Mini, and maximum brightness at 313 cd/m². Both of these help keep the screen easy to read when used outdoors.
Colour rendering is reasonably accurate and well balanced over the spectrum. The average Delta E reaches 5.5, while the colour temperature is just over 7000 kelvins. Note that Delta E measures the difference between perfectly reproduced colours and those actually displayed onscreen—colours can be considered accurate with a Delta E of 0 to 3.
The ghosting time is on the lower side of average for an IPS display, at 26 ms. Plus, the touchscreen latency of 150 ms is twice that of the iPad Mini.
All in all, the Slate 7's screen ensures decent display quality, but it's let down by screen resolution that's just too low by current standards. With this 1024 x 600-pixel display, this tablet feels like a throwback from 2011, a time when we were constantly hounding manufacturers to up resolutions to at least 1280 x 800 pixels on 7" screens. Text, icons and images are lacking in precision and crisp razor-sharpness.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
HP didn't add its own interface or overlay, nothing other than the HP ePrint wireless printing app and the Beats Audio control panel in the settings menu. In other words, it has straight Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean and all the official Google apps (Gmail, Play Store, Google+, Maps, Now...).
The user experience is... pretty chaotic. And that's after installing HP's huge 100 MB update that was supposed to improve things. There are a lot of lags and display issues (such as homescreens overlapping each other and icons getting stuck on top of each other), and transitioning between apps can be extremely choppy.
Browsing the web is like browsing the rest of this tablet: not very good. Pages takes a long time to load, there can be so much latency when opening certain elements that you're not sure if you correctly selected the link or not, and the zoom is choppy and imprecise. But let's not forget the visual side of things, because, as we saw earlier, the resolution is too outdated to compete with other tablets, most of which have at least 1280 x 800 pixels, and make text and images online much easier on the eyes.
To get the most out of videos and multimedia files on this tablet, you'll need to download a third-party media player app from the Google Play Store to extend the file format support. Still, with the low screen resolution and absence of mini- or micro-HDMI output ports, Full HD is a pretty pointless exploit on the Slate 7. That said, if you stick with "SD" formats, it's a perfectly good video player.
For gaming on the go, the good news is that the Slate 7 can run Real Racing 3, one of the most demanding, heavyweight games in the Play Store. Quality isn't the best, however, with some heavy glitches and choppy moments, a good dose of aliasing and so-so texturing. Still, not many entry-level tablets can boast the ability to run that kind of game. And that just about tells you everything you need to know about gaming on this tablet. It can, at the very least, run almost any game from the Android store.
Audio quality is fine, on the whole. As we've seen with the latest Beats-touting HTC devices, Beats Audio technology has actually improved, and brings a worthwhile boost to the sound quality on this 7" tablet. It manages to make a richer, fuller sound from the relatively basic audio content that's likely to find its way onto this kind of product. The headphone output is powerful and has a good dynamic range. The speakers aren't great, but saturation isn't too much of a problem.
With a 3000 mAh battery, the Slate 7 was never going to promises hours and hours of use on a single charge. In practice, we found it lasted for a little over five hours of video playback and scarcely more (5 hrs 20 mins, on average) for mixed use. That's far too low, even for an entry-level device, especially since the tablet is slow to charge, taking over three hours to fill up the battery.
The Slate 7 has a 3-Megapixel rear-facing camera that is really quite poor. The image isn't anywhere near sharp, and is plagued by a snowstorm of noise and a red overtone that make the camera pretty much unusable. It's more or less the same story with the front-facing webcam too. This is bugged by annoying latency and poor sensitivity, which makes video chat quite a painful experience.