- Review Date: 8/23/2013
- Bottom line: HP makes a strong attempt at a proper convertible with the SlateBook x2, a screaming-fast, Tegra 4-powered Android tablet, but it's not without flaws.
- Pros: Very fast quad-core processor. Sharp screen resolution. Comfy keyboard. Useful convertible design. Two memory card slots.
- Cons: Dim display. Short battery life. Not exceptionally lightweight. Buggy.
Can't decide between a lightweight tablet and a notebook computer? HP attempts to give you both with the SlateBook x2 ($479.99 direct), an Android-powered convertible tablet with an exceptionally comfy keyboard given its small size and weight. Featuring a 10.1-inch, 1080p HD display and Nvidia's latest, screaming-fast 1.8GHz Tegra 4 processor, the SlateBook x2 also has some flaws that prevent it from being a must-have. Our Editors' Choice large-screen tablet remains the fourth-generation Apple iPad, thanks to its much wider app selection and cleaner design, but the SlateBook x2 is still worth a close look.
Design, Keyboard, and Touchpad
When assembled, the SlateBook x2 looks an awful lot like a netbook. It measures 10.16 by 7.63 by 0.81 inches (HWD) with the keyboard attached, and 10.16 by 7.17 by 0.38 inches by itself. It weighs 1.32 pounds, or 2.77 pounds with the keyboard attached; without the keyboard, it's heavier than the Sony Xperia Tablet Z and a bit lighter than the fourth-generation iPad. With the keyboard, it's heavier than some 11.6-inch laptops; it's not bad, but it's certainly no lightweight.
The SlateBook x2 is dark gray on the front, and slightly lighter gray on the back. The rounded edges make the tablet look slimmer than it is and comfortable to hold without the keyboard. It feels well-built and doesn't flex, but it's not quite as svelte or slick-looking as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700.
The recessed power button on the right and volume buttons on the left are oddly placed; eventually you learn where they are, but they're a bit awkward to press. Ports include a combo audio jack, a USB 2.0 port, a memory card slot, and an HDMI output. The latter is full HDMI, so it doesn't require an adapter, which is very convenient.
The 10.1-inch, 1,920-by-1,200-pixel IPS display is LED-backlit, but it's not a stunner; it's pretty dim at maximum brightness, and viewing angles are just average. The resolution, while high, is still off the pace of the Google Nexus 10 and the Toshiba Excite Write.
The SlateBook is a Wi-Fi-only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and it also integrates Bluetooth 4.0. What makes it special, though, is that it's a convertible tablet, and that's where the SlateBook x2 shines. Press the center-mounted release button at the top edge of the keyboard, and you can unhook the tablet, leaving the keyboard behind. The tablet and keyboard both contain batteries. Snap the tablet back in, and it clicks into place securely. It works pretty well, although the center-mounted switch feels a bit chintzy and tough to press.
The keyboard is 91-percent sized; the island-style Chiclet keys have 1.5mm travel, which feels very good while typing. The keyboard also contains dedicated keys for Home, Menu, and task switching. The center-mounted touchpad is quite wide, if not particularly deep, and supports multi-touch gestures. The SlateBook x2's magnetic hinge moves smoothly and holds its place well.
There's no way to buy the SlateBook x2 without the keyboard, the way you can configure a Microsoft Surface RT or an Asus Transformer Pad; HP only sells the SlateBook x2 with the two items packaged together.
Display, Hardware, and Apps
The 1.8GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 is a next-generation CPU; there's also 2GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM on board. Just as we found with the Toshiba Excite Write, the first tablet we tested with the Tegra 4, the processor is blazing fast. In this case the SlateBook x2 even beat the Excite Write on GL Benchmark 2.0 ES Taiji, notching almost 60 frames per second to the Excite Write's 40 (most likely thanks to the SlateBook x2's lower screen resolution). Since it's an Nvidia tablet, you get access to TegraZone, which is a good way to find optimized games, although it just takes you to Google Play to buy or download each one. Asphalt 7: Heat and Real Boxing played smoothly and looked sharp, with only occasional stutters, although Asphalt 7 crashed out once. The Nvidia-optimized Riptide GP2 looked superb, with plenty of 3D detail in the water and surrounding backdrops. Suffice to say that if there's an Android game you want to play, this is the tablet you want to do it on.
The SlateBook x2 runs Android 4.2.2 out of the box, and it's barely skinned, so an Android 4.3 update shouldn't be too difficult (although HP hasn't set a date yet). A two-fingered swipe switches between Android home screens. This being an HP tablet, there are a few preloaded apps; for example, you can print from just about any app, and there's a new file manager and media player, both of which look basic but work well—especially the file manager, which makes copying and pasting files between internal memory and a memory card a cinch.
You also get Kingston Office, which lets you create and edit Microsoft-compatible Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It's pretty full-featured, with lots of editing options. Coming from a regular laptop, it's a little tough to get used to the way Android does things; there's some cognitive dissonance between having a full keyboard and trackpad, and yet controlling the tablet like an Android device. But the keyboard is definitely a big help for writing.
HP doesn't add any redundant media stores in addition to Google Play, which I find refreshing in comparison to Sony and Samsung tablets. The Android tablet app situation has certainly improved in general, especially since Google is finally beginning to give it the separate space it deserves in the Play Store. That said, there are still only a couple of thousand dedicated apps, versus almost 400,000 iPad-specific apps; whole categories like music creation and drawing apps pale in comparison to what's available on the iPad, and there isn't enough original IP in the game selection yet.
HP claims 12.5 hours of battery life with the keyboard attached. Doing our usual endurance test with the tablet only, battery life was on the short side at exactly five hours—over an hour less than the Excite Write and two hours less than the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
You get 16GB of onboard storage, with 15.1GB free for your apps and media, plus a microSD card slot that accepts 64GB cards. My SanDisk 64GB card worked fine, and there's another full-sized SD card slot in the keyboard for even more storage expansion. MPEG4 and H.264 movies played smoothly in full screen mode, but DivX and Xvid files wouldn't play in either the stock video player or HP Media Player. Audio tracks sounded clear through Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth earphones, and all test files played including FLAC and WAV.
The built-in stereo speakers face the front and support DTS+ for pseudo-surround enhancement. They get pretty loud, but they sound excessively bright, and the extreme lack of bass means you'll still only use it in emergencies, or when watching TV shows or videos where the actual sound quality isn't important.
There's no IR emitter, so you can't use the SlateBook x2 as a remote control for your TV. But Android 4.2's Miracast feature lets you project the screen wirelessly to a compatible TV receiver, and there's that full HDMI port for easily connecting the SlateBook x2 to a free HDTV input.
The 2-megapixel rear-facing camera records smooth but exceedingly dark and grainy videos at 1080p and 28 to 29 frames per second, depending on whether image stabilization is enabled. The front-facing camera records 720p video which actually looked a bit better, but still not great. There's also an integrated mic for video chats. Standalone snapshots from both cameras looked blurry and lacked detail.
Unfortunately, I also ran into some bugs. A few times, I'd leave the tablet and keyboard connected and plugged in, but would later find the tablet frozen with the screen off. There was no way to bring it back aside from a hard reboot, and only then by detaching the keyboard and plugging the tablet back into the charger directly. And it was fully charged each time. My Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth earphones kept losing and reestablishing a connection, which sent an annoying tone through the earpieces every 10 seconds or so. Hopefully a firmware update will resolve these problems.
As you may have noticed, there's plenty of competition in the Android tablet space. The SlateBook x2 lacks the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1's pen support, and it's not the sweet deal the much smaller, lightweight Google Nexus 7 is. The Apple iPad remains our Editors' Choice thanks to its app selection, and you can always add Logitech's excellent Ultrathin keyboard, although that combo costs more than the SlateBook x2. But if you want a 10-inch tablet that doubles as a keyboarded productivity machine out of the box, and fast performance is a priority, the SlateBook x2 presents a compelling—if somewhat flawed—option.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.