This week was the debut of the much-anticipated HP Slate, a device that’s likely to be the best tablet PC running Windows 7.
Many people are very excited about this launch, most of them because they think there’s finally a tablet computer on the market that’s capable of getting real work done. Generally speaking, this group has dismissed Apple’s rival iPad tablet as being much too limited for anything useful. (I feel comfortable making this generalization because there are people in my company who feel this same way.)
Speaking as someone who has gone on several business trips carrying an iPad instead of a laptop, I have to disagree with this basic premise. The iPad is more than a toy, and is quite capable of standing up to the HP Slate in a head-to-head competition.
When deciding between these two, you have to ask yourself, do you absolutely need the full power of Windows or can you get by with the slightly lesser capabilities of the iOS? Keep in mind when making this decision, the Windows-based tablet offers slower performance, a higher price, and shorter battery life, while the iPad has very quick performance, an affordable price, and long battery life.
When talking about tablets, the screen is obviously very important, as these devices are basically just screens with cases around them.
The HP Slate has an 8.9-inch, 1024 x 600 display, while the iPad has a larger, higher-resolution one: 9.7-inch and 1024 x 768. Both support multi-touch. Early reviews of HP’s screen indicate that it’s not a responsive as Apple’s.
- HP Slate: 9.2 x 5.9 inches, 0.6 inches, and 1.5 pounds
- Apple iPad: 9.6 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches and 1.5 pounds
Obviously, neither of these devices has a built-in keyboard, but if you wish you can connect an external one. The iPad has to use Bluetooth for this, but the Slate has a USB slot.
Otherwise you are using the on-screen keyboard. The iPad’s is surprisingly useful, but early reviewers have not been kind to the Slate’s, saying that it’s small enough that it requires a stylus to accurately hit keys.
The HP Slate runs Windows 7 on a 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z540 processor. This device has been out for such a short time there’s aren’t any in-depth reviews yet, so exactly what it’s performance will be like hasn’t been established. That said, the Atom Z series was developed to emphasize battery life over performance, so it’s safe to safe to say that the Slate won’t be blazing fast.
The iPad, on the other hand, is blazing fast. It uses a stripped-down operating system that can run well on significantly slower processors than it has. Apps open virtually instantaneously, the device awakens from sleep in a heartbeat — everything is quick, quick, quick.
At this point, the iPad has a significant performance disadvantage: most apps can’t run in the background. But Apple’s going to change this next month with the release of iOS 4.2. This will also add support for wireless printing.
Apple’s tablet has an outstanding web browser which handles the basic task of rendering web pages as well as any Windows browser. True, it lacks support for Adobe Flash, but web sites are increasingly turning to HTML5 for streaming video — YouTube and DailyMotion, for example.
The iPad has decent email software. You can easily check your personal or work email through either a dedicated app or through a Web interface. Still, it’s weak when it comes to attaching multiple files as attachments.
Social networking gets more popular every day, and the iPad can update any service I can think of.
Because the HP Slate runs Windows 7, it allows you to run whatever browser you want, as well as use any email app your heart desires. I’m looking forward to a comparison between the browsing speeds of the Slate and the iPad. I suspect they’ll be close.
While we’re on the topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that while both devices offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, some versions of the iPad include support for 3G cellular-wireless networking, something that’s not an option for the Slate. Still, Slate users are able to hook up a wireless broadband card — not possible with its rival.
Getting Work Done
For you business users, there are a range of quite capable Microsoft Office suites available for Apple’s tablet, allowing you to work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. These generally cost $30 or less.
Slate users obviously have the option of getting Microsoft Office, but keep in mind this software isn’t bundled with HP’s device, so you’re going to be out at least $100.
If you need a Windows device to run a propriety application your company has developed, obviously you’re going to have to get HP’s device. But that’s a special circumstance.
When on a trip, many people spend much of my time in transit reading. For this, the iPad is a better option than an actual paper book. I can bring along two or three books with no hassle, and even buy more in a few minutes if I run out.
Of course, the same is true of the HP Slate, but not a laptop. I read a book on a laptop once. Once.
Should you want to watch a movie when on the go the iPad is a good option. Storage capacity depends on which model you have, but even the smallest is sufficient for carry along 2 or 3 full-length movies. That’s probably enough for all but the most serious movie junkie. True, you have to go through the hassle of converting these ahead of time, but you’ll have to do that with the HP device, too.
The Slate’s USB port and SD slot allow you to easily carry around additional movies, but the smaller, lower-resolution screen means they won’t look as good.
If you’re a gamer, there are more titles available in the App Store than I think any one person could ever play in their lifetime. This is an area where the HP Slate and iPad probably come out even, but keep in mind, many PC games have been designed for use with a keyboard and mouse.
The HP Slate includes and VGA webcam on its front and a 3 megapixel camera on it back for stills and video.
Apple’s tablet, on the other hand, includes neither. The front-facing camera is the only one of these I think is a serious lack, as using FaceTime would be nice.
Based on my long experience with laptops, I’m willing to bet money that HP’s promise that its tablet can go 5+ hours on a single charge is fiction. It’s more likely to be somewhere south of 4 hours in real-world conditions.
On the other hand, one of the real strengths of the iPad is its battery life. In my daily use, I find that Apple’s assertion that this device has 8 hours of battery life is possibly a bit low. If I’m just reading an ebook, it can go over 12 hours.
If you want details, HP’s device has a 30 WHr battery, while the iPad has a 25 WHr one.
The iPad starts at $500 for the version with 16 GB of storage — that’s the most popular option. If you want a 64 GB version with 3G, you have to put down $830.
The HP Slate costs $800. For that price you get 64 GB of storage and no 3G. You do get a cradle, though.
My intent with this wasn’t to convince everyone to get an iPad. I’m well aware that the HP Slate is a better option for some people.
What I set out do is make people realize that Apple’s tablet is far more than just a toy or an over-sided iPod — it’s a good option for those who want a very useful, portable, and affordable computer when they are on the go.
It certainly stands up well against the first Windows 7-powered tablet — something that HP seems to be aware of, as it’s not going to put the Slate in retail stores next to the iPad.