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HP Slate 7 review:

Low price undone by absent features, dull screen

Menus, apps, and widgets zoom and slide around smoothly while navigating the interface, but things do stutter a bit now and then. Small apps like Angry Birds Rio take only a few seconds to load, but it can take larger games such as N.O.V.A. 3 an exceedingly long time to start a level. I also experienced one hard OS crash while attempting to switch Wi-Fi on and was forced to perform a hard reset.

The Slate 7's rubbery back adds to its durability and comfort. Josh Miller/CNET

The Slate 7's Mali-400MP4 quad-core GPU, delivers good gaming performance for a 7-inch tablet. Judging from its 3DMark score, the hardware seems to have some skill at rendering post-processing effects such as particles and high dynamic range, but fails to match the Nexus 7 at raw polygon pushing power. Check here for more information about how 3DMark works.

The real problem however is the lack of a gyroscope, which makes playing games like Riptide GP -- which can be controlled by tilting the screen -- more than a bit problematic. The main character lags behind my tilts, making it unplayable with this control scheme. Thankfully, there are alternative control schemes for the games, but none work as well as tilting. That is, when tilting works correctly.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Quad (4412) Mali T400MP4 (quad-core) 2GB Android 4.1.2
Google Nexus 7 1.2GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 ULP GeForce (12-core) 1GB Android 4.2.2
HP Slate 7 1.6GHz dual-core Rockchip RK3066 Mali T400MP4 (quad-core) 1GB Android 4.1.1
Kobo Arc 1.5GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 PowerVR SGX544 (single-core) 1GB Android 4.1.1

3DMark (Normal, 720p)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Graphics Test 1, 720p (GPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Graphics Test 2, 720p (GPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Physics Test, 720p (CPU) (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

You won't see great cameras on $170 tablet. Actually, it's doubtful good cameras are even possible, so it's no surprise that the Slate 7's front and rear cameras record washed-out images and video. The front VGA camera also drops plenty of frames while recording. If you're only looking for "a" camera on your tablet, HP gives you two. Neither is very good, but they get the job done in the most superficial way possible.

While I like its placement, the Slate 7's rear camera's quality did nothing for me. Josh Miller/CNET

I played a 720p MKV-encoded movie on both the Slate 7 and Nexus 7 through the Dice Player. The video was obviously sharper on the Nexus thanks to its higher resolution, but what was really troubling was the stuttering playback on the Slate. During fast action or simply when the camera panned around too quickly, the Slate would slow down or drop frames noticeably. The same video played smoothly on the Nexus 7.

The Slate 7's speakers belted out typically tinny tablet sound and even with the Beats Audio turned on, delivered only slightly less tininess while being a bit muffled. However, when listening to bass-heavy music through headphones or earbuds, sounds was noticeably improved with Beat Audio activated, giving extra thump and clarity to the low-frequency sound.

HP claims about five hours of video playback, which is low but seems about right from what I've experienced. Its battery life dropped about 20 percent after only an hour of playing a 720p video. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
HP Slate 7 6.6

Comparing every new 7-inch tablet to the Nexus 7, I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but the narrative remains the same: Google's $200 monster is an excellent tablet and unless the latest "great 7-inch hope" can match it in quality or heavily undercut it in price, making the right choice is a no-brainer.

The HP Slate 7 strips too much out to make its sub-$200 price and what's left isn't necessarily bad, it's just not exceptional in any way. The Nexus 7 offers a better screen, more storage, smoother performance, and a more streamlined OS. Yes, it costs more, but only $30 more. Not a bad quality premium. Unless a microSD slot is of the utmost importance to you, the Nexus 7 is -- once again -- the better choice.

What you'll pay

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