Why did I order the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC?

imageI’ve already told you that I ordered the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC. What I haven’t told you is why. Is it because I just can’t resist the siren song of the latest greatest gadget? Well, partly. But I have other rationalizations reasons why I prefer the Slate 500 to the iPad or Android tablets like the coming Galaxy Tab, at least in the business world at which the Slate 500 is targeted.


Active Digitizer

This is the main reason. The Slate 500 has an active digitizer. The iPad doesn’t. Nor will the Galaxy Tab and other upcoming Android tablets.

Inking on an active digitizer, at least a good one, is like inking on paper. Yes, you also can ink on the iPad. But the inking is imprecise and slow compared to an active digitizer.

Inking is important to me. Not when I’m stall sofa surfing. But when I’m wearing a business suit.

For example, I’m in a courtroom standing before a Judge. She is setting dates for deadlines and future hearings. I need to write this information down. Not type, write. I’ve tried to do this on an iPad. It’s OK, as long as I don’t have to write a lot (and the Judge doesn’t talk too fast). But it would be a lot easier on an active digitizer.

Multi-Tasking

This is another important reason. While sofa-surfing, going back and forth between applications is an inconvenience. In a business situation, it can be a headache.

Back to my courtroom example. I’m writing notes in one application. The Judge asks if certain dates are doable. I usually have only several seconds to answer. In that context, closing the notes application, navigating to an opening my calendar application, and then checking the calendar is more than a PITA. It would be faster if I could spot the calendar application on the taskbar, and display this already open (in memory) app.

With iOS4 coming next month to the iPad, it will have multi-tasking … but only sort of. By contrast, Android already has its own multi-tasking which is not bad. Still, on the Android it takes two steps; a long press on the Home button and then touch the other app’s icon. By contrast, Windows involves only one step — just touch the other app’s icon on the task bar. So, in multi-tasking, the Slate 500 would have a large advantage over the iPad, less so over an Android.

Native Apps

My desktops run Windows 7. So do my laptops. Consequently, in my office(s), I run Windows applications. I can’t run Windows apps on an iPad or an Android. Obviously this won’t be a problem on the Slate 500.

There are iOS and Android applications that will enable you to view, and sometimes change, documents created in a Windows application. Documents To Go for Microsoft Office applications comes to mind. If formatting is not advanced, such applications can do a passable job. Unfortunately, legal pleadings have tricky formatting. Then there is reviewing documents with Track Changes. Suffice it to say my experience and success is mixed in viewing and changing in iOS and Android documents created in a Windows app.

Additionally, there are some specialty Windows apps that just don’t have an iOS or Android corollary, probably because the market is too small to justify the expense of developing one. For example, in the legal world, I use TextMap to store and view depositions.

File Management

I’m hardly unique in organizing my folders and files in a way that is logical (to me anyway). This is basically a no-go on the iOS, though very doable on an Android.

Fears

A Windows 7 tablet isn’t all gravy. I do have concerns. Basically performance. By performance, I mean both speed and fluidity. The iPad is a super-star in these departments. Android, not bad.

Windows is a heavy OS. Will the Slate 500’s Intel Atom Z540 processor be enough, even with 2GB of RAM? Back to my courtroom example, the ability to multi-task won’t do me much good if I’m staring at an hourglass for 20 seconds.

Ideally, I’d prefer a Core i7 processor. But the only one of those available currently is the Motion J3500. The J3500 is a beast both in weight (3.6 pounds vs. Slate 500’s 1.5 pounds) and price (realistically at least $2,500 vs. Slate 500’s $799).

There’s also the issue of responsiveness to touch. Much has been written about Windows basically being a desktop OS that expects a keyboard and a mouse and a larger display. Contrast this to iOS which is optimized for smaller, touch devices. (I think the jury may be out on Android tablets until future OS versions such as 3.0).

That said, I have used Windows tablets of similar size to the Slate 500’s 8.9” that have been reasonably responsive to touch. No way to predict until I actually use the Slate 500.

Battery life is also a question mark. The iPad is advertised at 10 hours. My experience usually is even better than that. I don’t expect 10 hours from a Windows tablet. But I’d like to do better than the usual 3 hours. Per HP, battery life is “up to 5+ hours.” We’ll see if that is at 1% brightness with all radios turned off.

Finally, there’s screen size. The iPad is at 9.7”, the Tab at 7”. The Slate 500 is at 8.9”. Is this a happy medium best of both worlds? Or a tweener worst of both worlds?

The estimated ship date is November 12. So I should have more to say soon.

26 Responses to “Why did I order the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC?”

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  3. steve says:

    I like your rationale and believe it to be a valid argument.
    I will not be opting for a Win7-driven tablet because it is not an optimal OS for such a device.
    Battery and recovery from sleep will be you main enemies.

  4. A.J. says:

    Thanks for putting into words many of my own arguments for ordering it as well. (Now I’ve just gotta wait those grueling 3 weeks).

    Active Digitizer made it a no brainer: and the technology is from WACOM, no less!!
    For my Art projects and OneNote alone, I had to get it. (And I reject the pathetic myth from Apple that you need a mac to be creative. That’s just so lame. Those people are entirely ridiculous and infuriating).

    But aside from the digitizer, the promise of True Productivity is what’s got me so excited. Yes, I own an iPad, Steve Jobs got $800 from me. But try as I might, I just can’t do much with it.
    I don’t live in a Closed system, and I need a device that doesn’t exist in a box. Here’s just one example: I subscribe to Lynda.com and I try to watch their training videos every chance I get. But while the iPad can view many of them, for others you’re just S-O-L.
    (To be fair, I have 2 Android devices, and they have trouble too. But at least those devices allow me to better interact with my work & personal worlds).

    BTW, here’s another icing on the cake for at the HP Slate 500. It’s just a rumor, but I’ve heard mention that when that when WebOS finally arrives, we may be able to dual boot it onto the Slate.
    Now, I’m not holding my breath, but that just sounds like a cool possibilty.

    In closing, I know that being an early adopter isn’t always wise (and they’ll probably have a future version with Oak Trail b4 long). but this is the Slate/Tablet that many of us have been waiting for — since HP first revolutionized the market back with the (still beloved) TC 1100.

  5. I had the TC1000, then the TC1100 and will certainly be getting this one as soon as it arrives here in Australia. I also have a Motion J3500 (my powerhouse tablet and daily PC) and an iPad, but I completely agree with your thoughts here.

    That said, windows is nowhere near as bad on Tablets as the media would have you beleive, especially on a tablet with a flat bezel like the HP slate 500. Getting into the corners with touch (where 90% of the problems are) is not a problem with a screen like this.

    The reality is that the iPad has better battery life sure, but of all, it is the device that I’m least likely to pick up. Functionality outweighs battery life and form factor every time. Think you’ll be happy with your choice!

    • Roger J says:

      Brett: from one colonial (Saffer working in the Middle East) to another, agree 100% with your comments.

      My current tablet is a Toshiba Portege M700 UK 2008 vintage now running Windows 7 Ultimate, but too heavy and unwieldy for frequent and/or prolonged use.

      I want to get to the stage where an HP Slate type of device is my main one away from the desk at office or apartment, synchronising with both locations after meetings, travel etc.

      Until the news of this HP 500 launch broke, only the upcoming Fujitsu T580 has interested me, the iPad, not.

  6. dstrauss says:

    This is an excellent anaylsis of the “whys” for the Slate 500 that I have on order as well. As for the comments on speed and recovery from sleep mode – I have an early Dell Mini 9, with a much weaker processor, which I have used with Windows 7 after upgrading to 2gb ram and a 64gb SSD – it was just as responsive as my HP 2730p tablet, AND, sleep recovery was just as fast as a MacBook.

    The Slate 500 will become my electronic “yellow pad” with OneNote. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I was amazed at how well two HP 2730p’s could share the same OneNote notebooks in real time (that’s how desperate I was getting). One was my main notetaking platform, the other basically my desktop. I could write and search notes across both units without a hitch. It has been the first successful step I’ve made in the paperless office chase yet.

    The only Achilles heel I see is battery life – I’m afraid 3 hours may be tops with everything running. Around the office this won’t be a problem because I can just dock it between mobile runs; in the courtroom, it could get dicey. I’m willing to take the risk, however, as the upsides of an active digitizer and full Windows software and file browsing just make it too much of a slam dunk for me. I may kick myself next spring if Pinetrail processors give a significant boost to processing power and battery life, but my bet it it will be incremental at first. What HP (and other Win7 tablets) will need to do is come closer to the iPad size and stuff all the extra space with battery materials, just like uncle Steve did.

    • Steve F says:

      I am very curious about how you have used One Note on 2 different machines. I have a 2710p and have all my notebooks on my C: drive. I am an attorney and could have all of the notebooks on a network drive. My interest is to use the slate as as my notepad out of the office and my 2710p as my “desktop” machine.

  7. James says:

    I was all set to order one and then I read a review that said the unit does not have palm rejection. That means to write on the screen you will need to keep your hand elevated which makes writing more than a few words difficult. I have 4 different Fuji tablest which I use constantly in my law practice with Onenote. If they have now or get palm rejection, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    • Byron says:

      This device doesn’t need palm rejection as the pen is active, whenever it comes into proximity of the screen touch is automatically disabled.

  8. Chad says:

    I know i am not alone here but i am glad to finally see something marketed as a tablet with an active digitizer even if it is n trig. It should be called a tablet without smooth inking.. I love my x200 tablet but need something just a bit more mobile and just a bit more functional than my iPad. I hope that i can get rid of the iPad and replace it with a ‘real’ tablet… But i am conceded about the processor horsepower…

  9. Marauderz says:

    Only people who actually WORK on a Tablet PC will understand the advantages of having an Active Digitizer.

    And it pains me so much that I m not able to get a HP Slate 500 outside of US….

    Anyway, if you dont already know about this, here are my steps for optimizing a Windows 7 enviroment for touch usage.

    • animatio says:

      this is exactly what has to be done in every windows since 98 btw! on the other hand it is completely not understandable why neither microsoft nor the vendors do provide tablets with a specially adopted profile for windows. the system is able to be configured like this. stupidity? arrogance?

  10. Konstantin says:

    There is another reason to choose the HP Slate that is essential, at least for me: the possibility to write equations in Word. As far as I know only Windows supports OLE (you cannot write equations using Documents To Go or SoftMaker Office).

  11. mikey says:

    I was wainting for such a smal and light device with WIN 7 AND active digitizer for decades!!! Cannot understand why nobody made something like this before. I live in germany and would give my last shirt for having one here. Anybody interested who lives in germany in that device??? I have contacted dynamism for that, maybe if we could get a bigger number of orders, they wil deliver to germany. MAN thats such a pain i cannot have it here!!!

  12. [...] a long-time reader of UMPCPortal has written a blog post on the Slate 500. He’s ordered it and explains why here. Previous post [...]

  13. [...] some of those concerns–highlighting the pros and cons–are detailed on my friend’s genghiskhent [...]

  14. dstrauss says:

    Anyone else going nuts waiting for the Slate 500 to be shipped? After announcing they were not going to provide review units for the press, I go t a little concerned, but given the salivating passion for the iPad by most of those writers, anything else will see a C- without justification.

  15. dstrauss says:

    Well, the wait ended on 12/2 when HP finally delivered the Slate 500 (ordered 10/22 9:30am). First surprise was packaging – shipped in a carton containing 4 empty boxes plus my SLT500 – I guess they just never anticipated individual purchases (and others online had the same experience).

    First impressions are great. Small, light, great screen (but not IPS – off axis viewing suffers), and surprisingly snappy performance. I am running it with MS Security Essentials and MS Office (including 2010 versions of Outlook and OneNote), and trying to be careful not to load any unnecessary background processes. By snappy, I would say it is as good as my ThinkPad X61s was.

    The inking experience is good, but not as good as my HP 2730p. I think the reason, however, is not intrinsic but my need to re-learn how to write on the slick glossy surface of the SLT500, whereas my 2730p is slightly textured. However, that smooth surface is an absolute necessity for a good touch experience.

    That leads to a good point; the interface is Windows 7 and not as “slick and responsive” as the iPad (which I sold while waiting for my SLT500). By that I mean that scrolling, panning, and “pinch-to-zoom” are not as smooth and continuous. At times, particularly scrolling and zoom. it moves in “steps” which I think is a Win7 thing and not necessarily the hardware. HOWEVER, I bought this as an ultraportable Windows machine with great note taking capabilites, and that’s exactly what it does with OneNote. In fact, if you are not going to invest in OneNote, I’d seriously re-consider your decision to go with the SLT500.

    I struggled with the iPad to make it work in the corporate Exchange environment, and that was a waste of time. With no file system, the iPad is clunky – working with MS Office documetns, even in Pages or Docs to Go, is a repeat of sharing documents between Word and Wordperfect. There is no easy way to deal with email attachments, nor can you easily browse network shares. My SLT500 handles all of that with speed and efficiency. Since we use MS Exchange, I can connect it and my main notebook to the same email account and they are in synch at all times, and by sharing my OneNote notebooks on our server, they are synched as well (kind of like Exchange cached mode – any offline notes you make are synched when you reconnect to teh network).

    Sorry to drone on, but I just wanted everyone to know that I beleive the wait is worth it.

  16. dstrauss says:

    Forgot one little tidbit – it is a good media machine as well (sorry iPad fans). I was even able to use Media Center to stream videos from my MS Home Server across our home wireless network without any skipped or dropped frames and HD quality. I was very surprised by that.

  17. RStall says:

    Thanks for the very informative comments about the Slate 500. This will help greatly in making a purchasing decision. I also appreciated the very detailed information from Marauderz on how to configure Windows 7 to make it much more touch friendly and thereby answer much of the criticism that is otherwise directed at Windows 7 for tablets. I currently have an older Toshiba Tablet PC with just an active digitizer and running Windows XP. I wonder how much of Marauderz advice might work on Windows XP, although it is arguably not necessary without having touch control since an active digitizer pen can be used with great precision.

  18. AL says:

    Does OneNote work well on this? I want to use this for mainly college note-taking and I would love to be able to use OneNote to take such notes, then sync it to my laptop. Anyone have experience with it?

  19. dstrauss says:

    Yes – OneNote works great on the Slate 500. I prefer OneNote 2010 because if your Slate and main computer (or notebook) on on the same network, they can share the notes “live” so you are up to date on both machines within minutes. You can also do the same thing on the cloud (Windows LiveMesh) to keep multiple computers synchronized with your Notes.