Hewlett-Packard's first Android tablet, the Slate 7 was a cheap and wholly awful device so when I heard the next one was 21-inch affair my reaction was one of incredulity mixed with foreboding. In short I expected a bad idea poorly executed. I'm happy to report I was utterly wrong on both accounts. The HP Slate 21 is a rather good idea very well executed. The only carryover from the 7 is the impressively low price. Granted £350 isn't exactly pocket change, but you do get quite a bit of kit for your hard earned.
The Slate 21 is basically a 21-inch Android tablet. With a screen that size the thing was never going to be small or light, and it isn't. It weighs 4.85Kg and measures up at 531 x 354 x 67mm, or to put it another way, it's the same size and weight as a 21-inch telly. Of course HP's pitch isn't that you carry the Slate 21 around - the idea is that you move it from room to room at home as a family tablet-cum-media centre-cum-occasional-use-computer.
Made from gloss white plastic it's a smart and well made old Hector and should instantly look right at home in any lounge or bedroom. With three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and full sized SD card slot it's well connected while on the wireless side you get Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi. Running the show is Android 4.2.2 which is close to as up-to-date as you can get. There's only 8GB of internal storage, but the SD card slot renders that an irrelevant fact.
The screen is the Slate 21's strong-point, a 1920 x 1980 IPS affair it's bright, sharp colourful and good to look at most viewing angles. The last fact is important as HP sees the 21 a device the family will huddle around and that will be used primarily with the robust 3-position kickstand fixed to the back. Narrow viewing angles would have put the kibosh on both those uses.
The touch-screen is an optical rather than captivate affair with three cameras keeping track of where and how you tap, stroke or fondle it. It works well and unless you knew differently you'd not guess it wasn't a captivate system as per an iPad or Nexus tablet.
Below the screen sit a pair of DTS Sound+ enhanced speakers which produce an impressive sound with plenty of volume on tap. Above is an HP TrueVision webcam capable of recording video at 720p and a mic for Skyping. Skype? Yup, the Slate 21 supports the full Google Android ecosystem so whatever you want to do with it there is probably an app for it.
Thanks to a quad-core 1.66GHz Tegra 4 chipset with 1GB of RAM the 21 is a very powerful machine. HD movies, games, the user interface, all run with a creamy fluidity that makes the Slate 21 a genuine pleasure to use. Thanks to all those USB ports you can also attach stick drives, a mouse and keyboard so you can easily press it into the same jobs normally reserved for a traditional Windows PC.
What you can't do is use the Slate 21 away from the mains because there is no battery. Some may quibble about that but it has kept the size, weight and price down. Yes you need to turn it off when you move it around the house but it boots up in seconds so that really isn't a massive hardship.
Verdict: If you're after something for general about the house web access, light computing duties, social networking, media consumption and occasional gaming the Slate 21 has a lot going for it. It's powerful, affordable, smart, comes with all the usual Android goodies and has a great screen / speaker combo. It may be an answer to a question you've not asked, but it's an impressive answer nonetheless.
Info: HP UK's Slate 21 page.