For a tablet priced at $169, the Slate 7 feels decently well-made, and pleasant to hold. A stainless steel frame lends the whole thing some much-needed rigidity, while the matte, soft-touch finish on the back gives the fingers a comfortable resting place. It'll be sold in silver and red, though we're partial to the Beats Red (that obvious Beats Audio branding aside). And yep, this does have Beats in tow, like almost every HP laptop and Ultrabook already on the market. We didn't get to sample that here at Mobile World Congress, but you know how we feel about Beats anyway. In any case, we like the design. We think we like the Nexus 7 a little more -- it feels more substantial, and the screen is sharper -- but it's close.
To answer a question most of you probably have about the display, it's not an IPS panel. Instead, it makes use of FFS technology, which HP claims will create a good viewing experience in low-light conditions as well as harshly lit ones. Alas, it's really, really bright on the show floor here, but we can say that the screen holds up well underneath these fluorescent lights. We'd say if you were to put the tablet on a table with the screen face up, you'd still be able to follow along with a movie. All that said, the screen looks a tad washed-out. That's not to say the colors lose their potency when you view the display at off angles; it's just that the tones aren't that vibrant to begin with.
Finishing our tour around the device, you'll find a micro-USB port at the bottom for charging, along with those twin speakers. On the right side is your all-important volume rocker, while the top edge is home to a headphone jack, power / lock button and a microSD slot -- something the Nexus 7 is missing. The buttons are made of chrome and seem easy to press, so kudos to HP for using premium materials where it can.
As for performance, Android lags slightly on that dual-core CPU, but we wouldn't say it's any worse than what you'll experience on other budget tablets. We'd have to live with this thing for a few days to really say for sure. In the meantime, we'd like to say thank you to HP for using stock Android -- the world really doesn't need another custom skin, don'tcha think? We'll obviously be reviewing this when it comes out in April but for now, we'd say the Slate 7 has a shot at this low price, though it's going to have some handsome company down in the bargain-basement price range.
Michael Gorman contributed to this report.