Technology Review: HP Slate 500


Last month, my boss inquired what we might buy with the little bit of money remaining from the current fiscal year. Usually, I have ideas. On this day, not so much. My Sphere of Influence (SoI) was pretty tight, and no particular goodies were needed. I stood there stumped.

Like any good boss, he had ideas. “How about we get an iPad, and an HP Slate? Let’s see if one or both will work for us.”

Cool, I said. That’s the kind of thinking I like. I’ll handle the purchasing, and maybe we can get some interesting toys by the end of the month. I ordered, and we received a new iPad and a new HP Slate 500.

I’ve already reviewed the iPad in a previous blog entry. A good device for individual use; not very good for an enterprise or corporate environment.

We’ve had the HP Slate 500 for a week or so longer than the iPad. My university is somewhat impressed with the Slate. For good reasons, too.

hp slate 500The HP Slate 500 is about the same dimensions as the iPad, though thicker. Thicker because the Slate has a USB and HDMI port, plus a connector for a small docking/charging station. Innate support for USB and HDMI built-in, no additional cost peripherals. You might miss the DVD drive. The iPad doesn’t have one either, nor does any other competing device. Plug an external DVD drive to the USB port, though, or perform software installs over the ether (Wifi.) Or, use the secure digital (SD) slot, or network cable, since the Slate 500 has a traditional network port.

The HP Slate starts right-up. The Slate uses a 64GB solid state drive (SSD); therefore no moving parts. With a touchscreen and stylus for writing notes, the Slate is ready for use within a second or two. The Intel Atom 1.86 processor with 2GB of RAM appeared very capable of running our productivity apps and browsing the internet.

For Enterprise/Corporate environments, perhaps the nicest advantage is the OS, Windows 7 Professional. Organizations interested in user-level security now have a familiar environment for pinning down user accounts, domain accounts, domain membership – all of the security tools available via Windows 7 products. Checking out tablets, or locking down apps or user files, can be performed by IT with the same regard as checking out a laptop.

Since one is running Windows 7 Professional, all of your applications should run well. We loaded Microsoft Office 2010 for our office suite. Excel and Word ran without a hitch. Nice being able to work in a native Windows environment without having to find suitable apps, or sacrifice certain abilities. Seems like a no-brainer for people that want to be productive on the road. Use Remote Desktop to connect to your remote site, for example, without having to purchase a separate app.

With Windows comes Flash and Java support. The frustration of finding a cool web site only to be limited due to a lack of Flash or Java support is absent. Showing Flash-powered weather web sites to people concerned about severe weather was a distinct advantage.

As a development environment, being a Windows-based OS means work can begin immediately. The contrast I want to make vis-à-vis Apple is that the Apple Dev Program requires learning Objective-C and enrolling into their Dev Program for the SDK. No need for that with Microsoft.

Some reviewers have noted the small size of the Slate, too small, they say. The keyboard is too small, the viewing area is too small. The unit itself is too small. Yes, the unit could be a little larger, true. I was not particularly upset by the size. I have medium-sized hands and I was able to type emails and documents on the screen, with the mistakes being due to my own typing skills. When I think of sitting beside some jackass with a large laptop, mouse and papers sliding all over the place on an flight from Nashville to San Diego, the Slate seems pretty nice.

At about 1-1/2lbs, the Slate easily fits in a backpack or briefcase. Show up to a meeting with a fully-functional Windows 7-powered HP Slate, plug in the data projector using the HDMI port, and launch your Powerpoint presentation and affiliated web site and impress the group. Blam!

At about $100 more than the iPad, the HP Slate comes ready to do so much right out of the box. Wifi and Bluetooth-ready, moving from hotspot to hotspot can keep you in touch with school, work, or home. I don’t see where the Slate is 3G-capable. Might not matter; you could tether the Slate to an existing iPad or Droid if Wifi is not available. The only other drawback might be the somewhat short 5-hr battery life. Remember that the Slate is doing a lot, and capable of doing a lot, so expecting 8-10hrs is not particularly reasonable.

I don’t see how the HP Slate is not a winner for HP. I’ve never been a big fan of mass-consumer HP products. I have to admit that the Slate is changing my mind. The Slate is really the future of computing, regardless of the sleek sexy iPad. The Slate represents full-function computing, not a pared-down, incomplete experience based on mostly compatible apps or non-support of standard Internet technology. Furthermore, HP has positioned the Slate to be compliant for upcoming standards, like HTML 5.

Like I said earlier, I can see people being amused and amazed by the iPad. Its not that I don’t like the Apple iPad; I used it for nearly a month. For personal use, the iPad might be fine. However the limitations of use from lack of Flash and Java support, the need to buy Office-compatibility apps, and the lack of user security are serious drawbacks.

Before investing in wide-spread adoption of the iPad for Enterprise or Corporate environments, check out the HP Slate 500.

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