First impressions of the HP Slate 7: A solid if unspectacular Kindle Fire rival

February 27, 2013

TabTimes got some hands-on time with the 7-inch Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) tablet at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain this week and was generally impressed with the product.

At $169, the tablet is HP’s surprise bet in the consumer space against the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and like these two, the model sports a stylish if fairly ordinary silver and black design with thick bezels.

The textured rear is smooth and that coupled with the dimensions of the tablet (10.7 mm thick, 197mm x 116mm, 358g) makes it easy to hold. The stainless steel side also makes it feel sturdy without being unduly heavy.

Looks and weight aside, the overall performance of the Slate 7 is fairly ordinary. The 1024 x 600 resolution screen pales in comparison of the 1280 x 800 resolution screen on the Kindle Fire HD and the Jelly Bean user interface isn't as intuitive as it could be (HP did say however that this test unit wouldn’t be the one released to market).

Searching on websites and moving from the homescreen to the app menu was fluid despite the dual-core Cortex A9 processor, although the capacitive touchscreen was sometimes not as punchy as expected. 8GB of memory comes included and while that isn't a huge amount, it's about right given the price of the device.

Unlike some other cheap Android tablets the good news here is that Google Play store is included, while the ability to print from email, web and gallery to a HP printer (via WiFi Direct) is truly a unique feature.

Sadly, the poor WiFi at the tech conference meant that tests did not go as well as HP would have liked. The tablet is also able to print by plugging a USB cable from the printer to the Slate 7.

Keen observers will also note that the tablet comes with Beats Audio but that sadly failed to live up to the hype in our short test. Sure, the audio quality was reasonable when Beats was turned on and Beats headphones attached, but once disconnected the quality was tinny and generally best avoided.

HP says that the Slate 7 will go on sale in April, with the U.S. price set at $169 and the European price at €149.

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