Following HP's disastrous previous entries into the tablet market, there is clearly a lot riding upon the 7-inch shoulders of the HP Slate 7 HD. Given the value of the tablet PC market, this is an area that HP can't afford to miss out on.
When it comes to the modern tablet market, there are two clear winners, in the form of Android's OS and Apple's iPad range, although Windows 8 tablets have slowly started to provide a decent third option.
Recent news that Android has now overtaken the iPad in tablet dominance is no surprise given the wide range of price tags that it covers, from the highest-end Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 all the way down to the much cheaper Google Nexus 7.
That is where the HP Slate 7 HD sits, running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean for the rather reasonable price of £129 (about $215, AU$239), or for £169 (about $282, AU$312) if you want two years' worth of free 3G data (250MB per month) included.
For the added cost you also get double the internal storage, up from 8GB to 16GB, so it's starting to look even more reasonable. The Slate 7 HD is one of the cheaper Android tablets out there, which may help it against the likes of the Kindle Fire HDX, Tesco Hudl and Nexus 7.
The budget market is fierce and HP knows that, offering in the aforementioned 3G data connection on top of a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM and a HD 1280 x 800 7-inch screen.
Also included is Beats Audio technology to make music and movies stored on the 16GB (and the microSD card) sound better.
This all comes wrapped up in a frame measuring 201.3 x 119.8 x 9.95mm, so it is by no means a tiny tablet. It felt a little large in the hand, and the thick black bezel that wraps around the 7-inch screen screams cheap.
A massive HP logo on the front, where the home button on the iPad sits, doesn't help the cause, either.
Add to that the textured plastic back panel and I was left feeling rather disheartened with the Slate 7 HD in the hand. Where the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX make you think you've got a much more expensive tablet, the HP sits a little further down the scale.
The front of the Slate 7 HD comes with that aforementioned thick black bezel and HP logo, as well as a forward-facing 2MP camera and light sensor, leaving the rest of the front to be taken up by that HD screen.
Around the back is a different story. The review model in question is red, although it does also come in silver, as pictured.
All the necessary buttons and ports are located on the back; the power/lock button, volume rocker and covered microSD/microSIM ports. I found that with these buttons sitting flush I often missed them, giving a very unintuitive feel.
A 5MP camera is also located on the back, although it is missing a flash. I doubt this would be a massive problem, though, unless you are short of any other camera device.
Along the bottom sits the microUSB/charging port, as well as the external speakers and headphone port, leaving the top completely free.
In all, the Slate 7 HD is an interesting device, if only because it marks a true intention from HP to try to deliver a solid tablet to a tough market.
Given that the letters H and D are in the name of the HP Slate 7 HD, it is clear where one of the HP's biggest selling points is.
Backed up by Beats Audio, there is little to suggest that the HP Slate 7 HD hasn't been designed with watching movies in mind.
The screen certainly lives up to its billing: it's both bright and crisp, although it lacks the same pop and sparkle that accompanies full HD tablet screens.
This is somewhat disappointing given that the Nexus 7 comes with a 1920 x 1200 screen, as does the similarly priced Kindle Fire HDX.
I found that the screen struggled when out in direct sunlight. Whilst trying to snap photos, the Slate 7 HD's screen was impossible to see, unless I held my hand up to shield some of the light from the screen.
This is something that will prove frustrating, especially if you want to browse the web whilst out and about.
Feel the beat
Beats Audio is also pushed into the tablet, thanks to a collaboration that has seen the technology pushed into a wide range of HP products, including a variety of laptops.
This did make the sound richer when pushed through headphones, although a certain amount of this will depend on what headphones you are using.
Pumping the sound out of the external speaker is a completely different story. The Slate 7 HD suffers from a similar problem as was found when watching movies on the Sony Xperia Z1: the speaker placement.
Whilst this is fine when you want to just blast out some music, it is totally different when you're sat holding the tablet.
I found it very disorientating having all the sound entering one ear, so much so that I would definitely recommend investing in some decent headphones if you plan on watching a lot of movies or shows on the Slate 7 HD.
The other key area that HP will try to capture you with is its 3G Data pass. Selecting this option provides you with a 3G connection of 250MB per month for two years, through a supplied SIM card. Whilst this is a reasonable price, I do wonder just how much data you might get through in a month.
Heavy users who plan on streaming movies or TV shows through the likes of BBC iPlayer will struggle with only 250MB per month, although it's ideal for casual web browsing and sending the odd email whilst out and about on the morning commute.
Pricing will also undoubtedly be another area that the Slate 7 HD will look to compete in. At a mere £169 (about $282, AU$312), it is one of the cheapest tablets on the market, especially with that data package thrown in.
Given the price of the iPad Mini 2 (16GB model is £319, $399, AU$479 for the Wi-Fi only and £419, $529, AU$629 for cellular), the 7 HD has a strong case.
Unfortunately, though, I think the HP Slate 7 HD will struggle in comparison to its more established Android-toting rivals, especially given the low price of the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX.
Both can be found around the same price, and with higher-powered internal components.
Interface and performance
In day-to-day use, the HP Slate 7 HD performed rather well, the 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and 1GB RAM providing adequate power to keep Android 4.2 Jelly Bean running smoothly.
Moving between the home screens was handled with aplomb, with only a hint of slow-down no matter how fast we swiped left or right.
You'd really struggle to call the HP Slate 7 HD lightning fast, though. It took a split second to load Google Now with a swipe up. That doesn't sound like long, but it was rather noticeable especially given a strong Wi-Fi connection.
This is one area in which I found the Slate 7 HD to lag a little. When compared with the likes of the Kindle Fire HDX or the Nexus 7 it was clear that the HP was less fluid.
Moving between apps eventually started to take its toll when the Slate 7 HD was performing other tasks. Whilst running a download in the background, I found the Slate 7 HD to be a little stuttery navigating between the Chrome browser and the home page, as well as when moving around the app drawer and opening other apps.
HP has opted to provide a basic Google experience. Whilst in some eyes this is more suitable, as it shows the Android OS as it was intended, I found it made the Slate 7 HD feel too much like a less premium version of its Nexus 7 counterpart.
One of the most irritating things I found was that HP logo on the bezel. Although the problem began to lessen after long periods of use, I still found ourselves instinctively hitting it with the aim of returning home.
HP's Slate 7 HD scored 680 on multi-core in my Geekbench test, meaning it lagged behind the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, as well as the Nexus 7 and even the Nook HD+.
Pure figures don't really mean a lot, though, and the HP Slate 7 HD was more than adequate for basic web browsing. It did struggle when I threw heavy lifting its way, and I'd hesitate to recommend the Slate 7 HD for anything more than casual gaming.
Downloading files was also something that took an age. Despite having already downloaded 18% of Apshalt 8 Airborne, the Slate 7 HD read that it will take a further 24 minutes to download the file.
HP has thrown in a few extras to try and help sweeten the deal. It comes with its ePrint and SureSupply apps, in order to help you easily connect and manage printers.
The Kingsoft Office app also hints at the use of the Slate 7 HD as a mobile work space, but the smaller screen made it a little more difficult to use for anything more than basic emailing.
In all, the Slate 7 HD is fine for light usage. Browsing the web, watching movies or playing one of the many millions of Flappy Bird clones all make for a smooth experience, but when serious gaming or downloading files come in the Slate HD 7 begins to suffer.
Battery life and connectivity
Exact battery power for the HP Slate 7 HD isn't included, with the HP site offering up the information that it is a 15 WHr battery.
Before I even get to usage, one of the biggest problems I found with the battery is the length of time that it takes to charge. After three hours of charging, the Slate 7 HD was still languishing on 29%. This certainly isn't a tablet that you can top up quickly before popping in your bag.
Throughout daily usage, though, the battery seemed to fair well. A standard day of web browsing whilst sat at home and an hour of Skype calling still left the HP Slate 7 HD with enough battery to be used the next day.
This can be attributed to the lower power of the cores not producing significant drain. It also meant of course that I had no desire to play battery intensive games, due to the poorer performance.
When running the 90-minute HD video battery test, I found that the battery dropped by 28%. This means that the Slate 7 HD will be able to cope with around six hours of HD video. That's by no means an impressive figure, but enough to last you a typical day.
Compare that to the 20% drop noted on the Nexus 7 and the ability to get nine or 10 hours of video usage out of the Kindle Fire HDX and you can start to build up a better picture. The HP Slate HD 7 is sufficient, but is by no means the best available.
Just like the rest of the Slate 7 HD, the battery life produces a pretty average performance. It's ideal for taking out for the daily commute to work and for light web browsing while sat in front of the TV, but as with every other aspect, throw some heavy lifting its way and the Slate 7 HD starts to suffer.
One of the more important parts of the Slate 7 HD's specs sheet is its connectivity. Whilst it is true that there is a cheaper version of the Slate 7 HD, with only 8GB of internal and no 3G connection, we can see no reason why you would opt for it.
Alongside this free 3G data connection comes Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and it is also Miracast compatible for sharing your screen with a larger display. This makes it ideal for showing off in presentations.
The Slate 7 HD also comes GPS enabled, which coupled with the 3G data pass means that the HP tablet can make a decent substitute for a satnav.
Although mounting a 7-inch tablet to your windscreen or dashboard isn't exactly the best idea.
The HP Slate 7 HD has held up well enough so far, even if it hasn't managed to set the world alight. In terms of essential offerings, the same can be said, with some of the many bugbears about Android 4.2 Jelly Bean still making an appearance.
Both the native Browser and Chrome apps come installed, providing almost identical experiences when browsing the mobile web.
One of Chrome's key new features is the ability to compress web pages, and that helps it stand out when combined with the free 250MB of data per month that comes supplied with the more expensive Slate 7 HD.
Full web pages were loaded on both browsers rather than sticking with the mobile sites, which is a big plus as it makes the most of the whole screen. Unfortunately, text reflow is missing from both browsers.
One of the biggest issues I have with including both browsers is that it takes up needless space. Thankfully space doesn't appear to be an issue on the Slate 7 HD, with more than 12 of the 16GBs available left to store on a wide range of apps and movies.
You also have the option of extending this by a further with a microSD card up to 32GB in size should you find that you still don't have enough.
The Slate 7 HD also works well to contact others. While it doesn't come with the ability to make phone calls that some tablet phone hybrids have, the added data pass means that emailing can be done whilst out and about.
To do this, HP offers up the standard Gmail and Email apps. Both apps come feature-packed, with the Gmail app offering just about every feature that you can find on the desktop, and the Email app able to handle multiple accounts from multiple providers in a near-aggregated inbox.
Typing out messages is a little more difficult. I found that typing when in portrait can be quite hard because the 7-inch screen is just too wide for traditional texting-style typing. In landscape I felt that it just wasn't wide enough to type accurately and quickly, which is extremely frustrating.
Elsewhere are the music player and video playing apps. Actually, they're not there. I found this particularly peculiar given that the Slate 7 HD seems geared up as a media hub.
This meant that in order to play any media you had to locate it via the HP file manager, via the Google Play apps or through a third-party offering.
This was somewhat disappointing, as we felt that HP could have really distinguished itself from the rest with a top-notch media hub. The likes of the Samsung music player on the Galaxy Tab 3 and the Kindle Fire HDs are much better and show some thought on the behalf of the manufacturer.
Two cameras have been fitted to the HP Slate 7 HD, a 2MP front camera in order to cater for those Oscar-style selfies and for Skype-style video calls, and a 5MP rear sensor to help you film those all-important moments.
This is an area that I can't see being all that important, given that many mobile phones now come with far superior snappers, but it might come in handy to record a party while you're at home.
The camera's positioning was pretty frustrating. Holding the Slate 7 HD in order to take pictures that didn't include at least some portion of my digits felt unnatural.
In terms of the app, the HP Slate HD 7 offers nothing more than the Nexus 7, coming with the same stripped-down app with very few features on offer.
Some may think this is a blessing, as it means the focus is on shooting the photo, but a little more would have been nice.
One problem I found with the camera app is that it decided it wanted to freeze and stop taking photos. Despite rebooting the app, the camera still refused to play ball until I had completely shut down and restarted the Slate 7 HD.
Thankfully, during my time, this was a problem I encountered only once, so I'm chalking it up as a one-off.
The biggest downside to the camera on the Slate 7 HD is how poor it is. It's on a par with the original Nexus 7, meaning that unless you have the right lighting your photos will be washed out.
Low lighting leads to some really poor shots, and taking the camera outside to shoot in bright daylight is nigh-on impossible, as the screen becomes a massive mirror - that's not the forward facing camera, that's your reflection.
In a world that is currently dominated by Samsung tablets, the Nexus range and Apple's iPads, it is nice to see another decent contender hit the market in the form of the HP Slate 7 HD.
Packing an HD resolution and two years' worth of 3G data into an affordable price tag gives the Slate 7 HD something to shout about.
Of course, the 'free' 3G data is enticing. Often, this can cost the earth so to see it bundled in free with a tablet is a very refreshing approach and one that I'd like to see come as standard with more tablets.
Whilst not enough to cover streaming of movies or Spotify, it is more than enough to cover basic web browsing and the odd email on the morning commute.
The inclusion of Beats Audio is another area that gives the HP Slate 7 HD something to shout about. It adds another dimension when listening to movies and music through headphones, and helps make the external speakers loud.
A 2MP front facing camera was also a good call from HP, recognising the importance of the forward facing sensor on a tablet. I'd have preferred it if the bigger 5MP sensor was on the front, but the 2MP provides a clear picture that is ideal for video calls with the included Skype app.
Despite coming in with a low price tag, the HP Slate 7 HD still feels underpowered. Day to day use might be fine, as is web browsing, but as soon as you throw a large download its way or try to play a graphically intensive game the whole tablet feels stuttery.
The design also leaves a lot to be desired. Screen size is becoming less important on modern tablets, with a lot of the focus now being on just how much of the front of the device is taken up by the screen.
We feel that HP has got the ratio wrong on the 7 HD with too much black bezel, making the screen feel smaller and the whole tablet feel cheaper.
Finally, the positioning of the external speakers and buttons is also really poor. I found it hard to hit the rear-placed buttons, often having to turn the Slate 7 HD over in order to find the buttons that sit flush to the back case, and the external speaker on the bottom is really disorientating when you're holding it.
In all, the HP Slate 7 HD is a bit of a mixed tablet. The inclusion of free data will undoubtedly prove a massive draw in this data-oriented world, and it is something that's really hard to ignore, especially if you spend a lot of time on the morning commute.
Unfortunately, that's about where the praise stops for the Slate 7 HD, as it struggles to compete with even some of the cheapest tablets of the market.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX, even Tesco's Hudl, all prove that you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
If a cheap 3G connection is all-important then you can't go wrong with HP's offering, although for anyone who spends a lot of their time at home or at work connected to a Wi-Fi connection it would be wise to look elsewhere.