Hands on: $479 HP SlateBook x2 Tegra 4-powered Android tablet hybrid

If the HP SlateBook x2 lives up to its potential, people may finally forget about the TouchPad for good.

Not too long ago HP released the Slate 7 Android tablet, a product that represents a baby step back into the world of mobile OS tablets after the very public death of the HP TouchPad. The Slate 7 isn’t all that distinctive except that it’s rather striking in red and it costs just $170. A decent first effort, but a company has to do more than just make a low-cost tablet to get skin in the Android game. How about a 10-inch Tegra 4-powered Android hybrid for less than $500? Yep, that HP SlateBook x2 that leaked a few weeks ago is real, and it only costs $479.

We got a little bit of hands-on time with it and came away impressed. If the SlateBook lives up to its potential, people may finally forget about the TouchPad for good.

HP Slatebook x2

As you might guess from the name, the SlateBook x2 is a cousin of the HP Envy x2 Windows 8 hybrid we reviewed not long ago. The Android tablet has a similar design and aesthetic, keyboard, and wide touchpad. Now customers get a choice of two colors: black and silver. The display is smaller – 10.1-inches instead of 11.6 – with a full HD resolution. The screen is impressively crisp with bright colors and wide viewing angles. Just as with the Envy x2, the only ports on the tablet itself are a microSD slot and a headphone jack. If you want USB, full SD, and HDMI out, you’ll need the dock.

HP doesn’t deviate far from the Envy x2 with the dock design either. There’s less room for keys since the overall unit is smaller, but it doesn’t feel cramped. HP’s netbooks often had good keyboards back when those were popular, and that heritage shows here. The flat keys offer decent travel and feedback, and there’s plenty of space between them. We particularly like the inclusion of Android-specific keys. The top row ditches F1 to F12, opting for control buttons instead. Home, Back, Menu, and Search are all accessible from here, so you won’t need to touch the screen unless you want to. The touchpad is wide and responsive and capable of gestures to make navigating Android easier. Both the dock and the tablet have batteries, and you can at least double the longevity when they’re connected.

HP Slatebook x2 dock

Even with a battery inside, the dock doesn’t add that much weight, and the whole thing is light and comfortable to hold and carry. The units we saw are pre-production, so the final weight and build quality may be different. Still, the build felt solid and the hinge that connects the tablet and dock is pretty sturdy.

The SlateBook will be one of the first devices to ship with the new Nvidia Tegra 4 processor. From what we’ve seen of Tegra 4, users can expect amazing graphics and gaming performance. What little we saw of the operating system came across as smooth and speedy, which is no surprise. The SlateBook will ship with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and there’s no hint of a skin so far. That indicates that updates to any new versions of Android announced this week at Google I/O might not follow too far behind, though HP hasn’t commented on that. Company reps did say that the SlateBook will come pre-loaded with productivity apps, including Splashtop Remote, allowing users to bring Windows to the Android environment.

Overall, the SlateBook looks like a more than capable Android hybrid with a great screen, speedy performance, a good design, and pretty much everything you’d want in this type of device for a good price. As always, judgment is reserved for when we get the device in for a full review. It’s safe to say we’re very much looking forward to testing it fully.

HP Slatebook x2 - Detached

The HP SlateBook x2 will ship sometime this summer, likely right around back to school buying season. At $479 for both the tablet and dock as a package with 16GB of internal storage (32 and 64GB also available), this would make an excellent gift for a college or high school student to supplement their full-fledged computer.

(Update 5/16/2013: Our original post listed the internal storage as 64GB for the base price of $479, which was incorrect. The base price includes 16GB of memory; 64GB is available at a higher price.)

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