Can I play Plants vs Zombies on it one more time? – JD, 6
Over the last few weeks, the kids, Mark and I have been trying out the HP Slate21 All-in-One. It’s the company’s first All-in-One PC and it’s very different from anything I’ve ever used before.
It has a 21.5 inch screen and runs on the Android Jelly Bean operating system, so runs apps from the Android Marketplace. It’s not a laptop / portable tablet so there’s no battery – instead it runs off the mains and has an integral stand feature so it can be used flat or at different angles.
It’s not the fastest device you’ll ever use, but speed and performance is brought up to a satisfying level with a Tegra 4 quad-core NVIDIA processor.
USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity means you can use a keyboard and mouse if you wish, but it’s ultimately designed to work as a touchscreen so you won’t get the level of productivity you’re used to with a standard desktop (for example, you can’t use keyboard shortcuts to cut and paste, you can’t quickly select text with the mouse etc).
So let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Or rather, let’s look at what it’s NOT, and then you’ll see where it comes into its own…
I’d say the HP Slate21 All-in-One isn’t suitable for home-office productivity uses such as writing long emails or editing documents. It’s also not really a ‘grown up’ social networking device as although apps like Twitter and Facebook do run perfectly fine on it, they run as the mobile, cut down apps, stretching awkwardly across the full width of the 21.5 inch screen so that it just doesn’t feel natural at all. The onscreen keyboard is also impractical for speedy typing as it covers half of the screen, meaning it’s absolutely HUGE!
For any sort of activity that requires a lot of typing or switching between apps, I’d say stick to your phone or handheld tablet.
However, what the slate IS great at is being an affordable family entertainment, productivity and learning device.
Organise your family calendar, play games crowded round the screen, stream TV, watch films. This is where having a huge 21.5 inch touch screen comes into its own. I watched the kids play ‘Plants vs Zombies’ with their Nan at the weekend and it was so clear that the big screen made all the difference – it turned what can be quite an antisocial activity into a group one very effectively.
This was also borne out when trying educational apps together, and I can see a lot of long term value in using it to support parent-child learning time since the size and the ability to stand it up made it much easier to share the activity and interact together at the same time.
The optical touchscreen with true pinch and zoom functionality is very adequately sensitive and accurate, which is so important where kids are concerned because poorly responsive devices can be really frustrating for little fingers with emerging dexterity. The screen also stays clear with true colour from pretty much any angle, which makes it great for family viewing.
The clarity of the display is good, but the pixel resolution isn’t all that amazing. When using iPlayer, the preview images were very pixellated. Once you have a programme playing though, the display is of a reasonable quality – not sharp, but not pixellated and there was no drag or ghosting during our tests using iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix.
The sound quality is pretty good – it has DTS sound technology – and the in-built speakers are able to get up to a very decent volume, easily loud enough to make playing a movie at one end of the room and watching from the other possible (assuming you don’t live in a mansion with giant rooms).
We found it could be used as a player in a number of ways. During a morning of craft, we had it set up playing music at the end of the table. One evening, JD and I browsed dinosaur videos on YouTube together at the kitchen table. While cooking, I set it up on the countertop and watched YouTube cooking videos. And while blogging on my main computer, I had it playing iPlayer so I could catch up on my favourite shows. The only thing to bear in mind is that it’s heavier than a laptop and needs to be plugged into the mains, so moving it around the house takes a little more planning that you might be used to with a typical tablet device.
The HP TrueVision HD Webcam is low quality compared with what you might be used to on your phone, but for a low cost desktop device it’s pretty average. In bright light, it works well, but in low light it’s poor, struggling to keep up with even the slightest movement. Still, as long as you’re in good light, the Slate copes efficiently when Skype-ing with family, and it is great to have a large image rather than a tiny one when Skyp-ing as a group.
We have an HP printer, which adds another useful dimension to the Slate, as you can create documents on it and send them wirelessly to the printer, which it automatically located on the network. This was great once we downloaded a drawing map as Miss J was able to create a piece of art and then bring it into the real world without any fuss.
Overall, we really enjoyed using the Slate – particularly for Skype-ing and gaming – and were very sorry to have to pack it away to be sent back. The kids have already asked about getting one next Christmas.
The HP Slate21 All-in-One is available now from the HP Store and UK retail partners, with a starting price of £369.
Disclosure: we were loaned the HP Slate21 for review. No payment was received for this post. All posts are 100% honest.