Taking HP Slate 500 Tablet for a Test Drive

Review: It's understandable why HP is positioning its new tablet PC for a different market from the iPad: It's not going to compete well in the consumer arena.

eWEEK had an opportunity Oct. 21 to test the new HP Slate 500 tablet, and, as one might imagine, it's similar-but not at all the same experience-to an Apple iPad.

It's completely understandable why Hewlett-Packard is positioning its 6-by-9-inch device for a different market from that of the iPad: It's not going to compete well there at all.

In the six months since the iPad has been available, it has owned the consumer tablet market with more than 5 million sold-more than 300,000 on the first day alone, 1 million in the first month-and 2.5 million are expected to sell per month in the short term. Demand shows no signs of letting up.

Now, HP isn't predicting how many of the new Slate 500s it will sell, at a price of $799, but the world's largest IT company clearly has a steep road to climb to get into the touch-screen tablet race. Dell, with its Streak tablet, faces the same challenge.

Click here to see images of the Slate 500 tablet.

As in any comparison of products, there are tradeoffs. With the iPad, you get Apple's elegant user experience of outstanding touch control and magically moving icons and images, among other smooth features. But you don't get anything near a full menu of business-type features, and you don't get a camera-yet, anyway.

With a Slate 500, you get more horsepower (1.86GHz Intel Atom Z540 processor, 2GB RAM), more storage (64GB NAND flash), more immediately usable business applications, two cameras, a Webcam port and a series of other practical goodies. But the ease of use and elegance of application performance aren't as special as an iPad's.

This is as one might expect; Apple has built its business for more than 30 years on knowing exactly how to cater to its users, and no other computer maker has been able to get near it on that level.

Slate 500: Artistically, still not close to iPad

Operationally, the Slate 500 has a lot of things going for it. It runs Windows just like a PC, and you can use any browser you like (Firefox and IE fans, rejoice!) With the iPad, you're stuck with whatever Safari allows and, as most people know, it is very finicky about what applications and plug-ins you can download and use.

And there's the little matter of Adobe Flash. Yes, it runs on Windows, and thus it will run on the Slate 500. Can't say that for the iPad. How many Flash presentations fall by the wayside on the iPad because Apple has a bone to pick with Adobe? It's time Apple just got over it and added that functionality.

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HP's 6-by-9-inch Slate 500 has much more horsepower and business functionality than an iPad, but the touch control isn't as accurate. However, it's also designed for a different user segment. (eWEEK Photo by Chris Preimesberger)

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...