Video recording on the Slate 7 isn't good for much beyond grainy Skype chatting. In decently lit environments, the video we took -- with a resolution of 640 x 480 -- was fairly blocky, and the colors were excessively washed out. Admittedly, you probably don't want to be that person with the tablet camera in public (that person is obnoxious), but if you absolutely must, know that you'll be getting low-quality images with poor contrast and a lot of ISO noise. Might as well just use your phone.
Performance and battery life
||HP Slate 7
||Google Nexus 7
||Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
|SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms)
|GFXBench 2.5 Egypt Offscreen (fps)
|SunSpider: lower scores are better
The Slate 7's no-frills 1.6GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and 1GB of RAM put in a decent effort -- in theory. According to our benchmark tests, the Slate 7 scored within a reasonable distance from its current competitors, but the numbers don't paint the most accurate picture. Essentially, the specs look good on paper, but in real-world use, they have more inadequacies than rival devices.
Simple games ran fine (including the current bane of our existence, Candy Crush Saga), but titles like Temple Run 2 that asked more of the Slate 7 showed a slight lag. While browsing in Chrome, we also noticed several problems with performance, even with sites optimized for mobile use. The latency on non-mobile sites was bad enough to make browsing nearly impossible. When zooming in and out, tiling became an issue and it took a while for the Slate 7 to adjust. Likewise, we experienced a significant delay when scrolling up and down on Engadget's mobile site. Opening apps was a mostly speedy affair, but keeping them open was a tall order as several apps crashed repeatedly. Switching between apps on the launcher was fairly quick, but we noticed some stuttering as we scrolled through our options.
The Slate 7's battery life isn't exactly mind-blowing -- the tablet comes equipped with a 3,500mAh lithium polymer battery that's almost enough to survive an entire day of light usage. Starting from a full charge, we looped a 1,280 x 720 video continuously until the battery sputtered and died, wheezing out its last, pained breath. With the brightness set at 50 percent, the Slate 7 lasted seven hours and 36 minutes. With the same video looping at maximum brightness and sound, the tablet kept on trucking for four hours and 47 minutes. Indeed, HP claims about five hours of video playback, so our results match up nicely. Those numbers aren't terribly impressive, especially when you consider that the Nexus 7 clocked 9:49 on the same test.
In a slightly less scientific -- but perhaps more relevant –- test of everyday use, the Slate 7 chugged along adequately. After about three hours of continuously watching YouTube videos, playing games, web browsing and streaming music via Pandora, the Slate 7 had more than half of its battery life left. That being said, if you're heavily dependent on a tablet during your workday, you'll probably need to recharge at some point.
HP is facing some pretty stiff competition in the budget tablet market, and the Slate 7 doesn't quite stack up, even against the soon-to-be-outdated Nexus 7. With companies like ASUS, Samsung and Acer debuting their latest similarly sized offerings, HP's position is about to become even more precarious. Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 will hit stores on July 7th with a sticker price of $199, and the specs are pretty similar to the Slate 7 -- the tablet comes with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, a 1,024 x 600 display and eight gigs of storage (with up to 64GB of microSD expansion). But specs, as we've seen, don't always tell the whole story. Since the Slate 7 didn't quite live up to its potential, we'll have to see how the two devices compare on performance tests.
Boasting even better specs is the ASUS MeMo Pad HD 7, set for an August release. From the looks of it, you'll get more bang for your buck there. The 16GB version will retail in the US for $149, while emerging markets will see an 8GB model for $129. Considering that the MeMo Pad has a better display, more powerful processor and increased storage space when compared to the Slate 7, it looks to be the better buy. Similarly, Acer's Iconia A1 tablet -- armed with a quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek processor and 7.9-inch screen -- hits the Slate 7 where it hurts the most: the screen. The A1's humble, yet commendable 1,024 x 768 IPS display offers a much wider range of viewing angles than the Slate 7.
For a casual user, the Slate 7 might be a good enough tablet, but at this price, good enough just doesn't cut it. Simply put, the display is disappointing, even for a budget product, and the specs prove better in theory than in practice. It simply can't hold a candle to devices currently (or soon to be) on the market. If this tablet were $40 cheaper, our verdict might be more generous, but as it stands, it's overpriced for the quality you get. HP seems to have gotten the memo, as it's now offering a $30 instant rebate on both the 8GB and 16GB models (bringing the former down to $140 and the latter to $170). There are other budget tablets out there that are better, faster and stronger than the Slate 7, and you might be better served by looking elsewhere.
Edgar Alvarez, Daniel Orren and Zach Honig contributed to this report.