The first tablet with Nvidia's new flagship Tegra 4 processor on board comes from an unexpected quarter: HP. Yep, HP's low-end Slate 7 isn't the company's only foray into Android. The HP SlateBook x2 takes solid aim at the high end of the Android tablet market with an excellent keyboard dock and more horsepower than we've seen in any tablet so far. I had the chance to spend some hands-on time with a prototype SlateBook x2 at a recent HP event in New York.
The SlateBook x2 will only be sold with its keyboard dock – it's being positioned as a convertible, Android-powered tablet/laptop. HP didn't have a full spec sheet for the thing, so stick with me on the slightly sketchy details. The top half is a 10in Android 4.2.2 tablet with a 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD IPS LCD screen. It's clad in white or grey plastic, with the power and volume buttons on the back of the panel – an unusual choice, but an HP signature. There's a microSD card slot as well as a headphone jack, but I didn't see any slot for a SIM card. The tablet has 2-megapixel cameras on the front and back.
The tablet itself is, well, a tablet. It had the look and feel of a decently premium device. It has dual front-ported speakers and a little ridge along the bottom, but it seemed thicker and a little clunkier than the sleek, metal Asus Transformer Infinity.
The tablet snaps into the keyboard dock with a satisfying and secure click. The keyboard is unusually good for one of these docks, clearly borrowing from HP's laptop expertise. While it's a 92 per cent-sized "netbook" keyboard, the keys have 1.5mm of travel, which gives them a top-notch tactile experience.
The keyboard also has dedicated home, menu and multitasking buttons as well as some great hardware gestures – a two-fingered swipe can flip between Android home screens, which is really useful.
The keyboard has a secondary battery, full-sized HDMI port, USB port, and SD card slot. That means you can put two 64GB SD cards into the x2, which comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models. So if you wish, you can pack a total of 192GB of storage into this baby. The tablet and keyboard together weigh 1.35kg.
HP's default software build sails very close to stock Android, although HP throws in some mostly unremarkable pre-loaded apps into the mix. There's a printing app, a custom media player, and a file manager.
Otherwise, specs were really hard to come by during this demo. I didn't have Internet access, and there was nothing on the tablet that could remotely stress the 1.8GHz Tegra 4 processor, which has four ARM Cortex-A15 cores and a 72-core GPU. The only thing HP would say about the battery life was that it's "all-day."
Nobody else has yet announced a tablet with this generation of ARM-based processor, which includes the Tegra 4, Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (which has appeared in Galaxy S4 phones outside the UK), Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 800 and rumoured chips from LG, Huawei, and others.
The model I tried out was clearly a prototype, as neither the touchscreen nor the trackpad seemed finished. The touchscreen had calibration issues and a strange matte-looking layer that rendered it dimmer than it should be. The trackpad didn't differentiate its navigation area from its button area, to the extent that when you tried to click a button, the pointer would also wobble.
It's hard to assess the product’s potential given this fact, but HP's big challenge with this tablet is the same battle that all Android convertible tablets face. It's even starker, though, when it's on a table next to the HP Envy x2 (see the image above), a very similar if slightly larger product running a full version of Windows 8. At $480 (£315) in the US, the SlateBook x2 is pitched $170 (£110) less than the Envy x2 and is on par with other high-end Android tablets. Maybe HP will be smarter to compare this to tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Note range rather than full-fledged Windows laptops running apps like Microsoft Office.
The SlateBook x2 is expected to come out in August over in the States, with the UK launch date and pricing still unconfirmed.