Really, most of the non-stock apps here are from HP itself, including Printer Control, ePrint, HP File Manager, HP Media Player and HP Camera, which we'll return to in just a moment. In the meantime, the media player allows for playback of music, photos and videos, with an option to stream content to a Miracast-certified display. You can also capture photos or video from within the Media Player app, in the event watching someone else's work inspires you to make something of your own. (OK, maybe that's a stretch.) At any rate, you'll find shortcuts on the home screen for HP's camera, media player and file manager, but you can remove all of them with a long-press, the same way you'd get rid of any other shortcut.
Like most other consumer electronics, the SlateBook x2 comes with a one-year warranty, including 24/7 phone support.
Performance and battery life
The SlateBook x2 is only the second tablet we've tested with a Tegra 4 processor inside, but we're already well convinced of the chip's immense performance potential. As you can see in the table above, Tegra 4 helps both the x2 and the Toshiba Excite Write sail past the Xperia Tablet Z (and its quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset) in benchmark tests. But the SlateBook beats the Write in every test (sometimes by a big margin), despite the fact that they have the same Tegra 4 chip and 2GB of RAM.
We're still not sure that means the SlateBook is exceptional for a Tegra 4 tablet -- we already had some misgivings about the Write's uneven performance -- but in a way, it doesn't matter: the x2 is fast and reliable. Transitions are smooth and apps are quick to open. We also had no problem juggling between Gmail, several open tabs in Chrome and other miscellaneous apps, including Facebook, Twitter and a third-party media player.
As for gaming, it was smooth sailing in Fractal Combat, where we were able to fly our plane upside down and then flip it over again, all without any stuttering. If there's one downside to the performance, it's that the rear casing on the tablet can get warm (not hot, but warm) without much provocation. That'll be a moot point if you're using it in laptop mode, though you might notice your fingers getting a bit toasty if you're cradling the device in your hands. Again, though, it never gets pants-scorchingly hot, so you shouldn't have to adjust your usage habits much, if at all.
HP claims that with the dock attached, the tablet can last up to 12.5 hours. That's a best-case scenario, of course -- one we weren't able to replicate. In our admittedly taxing rundown test, which involves looping a video off local storage with WiFi on and the brightness fixed at 50 percent, the tablet itself lasted just six hours and 34 minutes -- that's almost five hours less than the current iPad, and three hours less than ASUS' Transformer Pad Infinity. Even the Nexus 10, which we faulted for so-so battery life, lasted about an hour longer in the same test.
Unfortunately, considering how heavy the dock is (1.46 pounds), it doesn't boost battery life nearly the way we expected it to. With the dock attached, we got an extra two hours and 15 minutes of runtime, bringing the total to eight hours and 49 minutes. All told, that's a respectable showing for a 10-inch tablet, but remember, there are models like the iPad and Transformer Pad Infinity that can deliver equal or better results without the aid of a dock.
On the plus side, we do appreciate the optional battery life widget HP included, which shows you the remaining juice for both the tablet and the base. Not exactly a consolation for such subpar runtime, but at least you get a sense of how quickly you're losing steam.
Like we said, ASUS doesn't have all that much competition in the dockable Android tablet category. The Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 we reviewed a year ago has been discontinued, and nothing similar has taken its place. Acer has some dockable tablets, but they all run Windows 8; the closest thing we can recommend is the forthcoming Iconia A3, and even that's not a fair match, as it's a lower-price product with inferior specs (1,280 x 800 screen, et cetera).
The most direct competitor, perhaps (aside from anything made by ASUS), is the Toshiba Excite Pro, a 10-inch tablet with a sharper 2,560 x 1,600, 300-ppi screen and the same Tegra 4 chip used in the SlateBook x2. At $500, it's priced similarly, and it comes with 32GB of internal storage, not 16 (either way, you get a microSD slot). The obvious trade-off, so far as we can tell, is that the keyboard is sold separately for $42, and even then, it's not a proper keyboard dock, but a wireless keyboard. At any rate, we haven't tested it, so unfortunately we can't vouch for its performance or battery life. But, we did review the Excite Write (the same tablet, just with a pen digitizer) and we encountered some performance glitches. Hopefully, though, that's the sort of thing Toshiba can address with a firmware update across the entire Excite line.
If you do insist on waiting for ASUS to refresh the current offerings, it's already announced the new Transformer Pad Infinity, which also has a Tegra 4 chip and 2,560 x 1,600 screen. It's also capable of 4K output, according to ASUS, though that's mostly a gimmick at this point, if we're being honest. Excited? So are we, but the company hasn't actually announced US pricing or availability yet, so we can't even say for sure how long you might be waiting for this. (Not longer than the incoming holiday season, we hope.)
Rounding out the list are a couple top-shelf tablets you've probably heard of, though neither was designed to be used with a keyboard dock (not a first-party one, anyway). These include the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, a thin, waterproof tablet that starts at $500. Then, of course, there's the iPad ($499 and up), not that that's a helpful recommendation for anyone already sold on Android.
This probably goes without saying, but the HP SlateBook x2 is only a smart buy if you intend to make good use out of the keyboard. It's important to remember that the dock isn't a fun extra here: it comes in the box, and it defines the way you're supposed to use the product. If you do expect to spend lots of time on email and note-taking, this is the most comfortable keyboard dock on any Android tablet, and it helps improve the battery life too.
As a standalone tablet, though, the x2 offers skimpy battery life and awkwardly placed volume and power buttons that can be hard to find by feel -- even if you've been using it for a while. The best thing we can say about the tablet itself is that its Tegra 4 chip yields fast, stable performance. Even then, Tegra 4 will probably power lots of devices released in the coming months, so it's not like HP can really claim credit for that. Basically, then, if the keyboard is just an accessory for you, you'd be better off spending $500 or so on a tablet with longer battery life and a more stunning screen. It's not like you've got any shortage of options.