Cell phones are great for a lot of things, but they're really not designed for conference calls. And those are what most people dialing in from home these days use. Or they're on a laptop with a headset that can't quite filter out the barking dog and crying kid in the background. HP's Elite Slice mini desktop offers a fresh take on the problem; it's designed to be a conference room or worker-bee system, but it moonlights as an intriguing option for home-based workers.
Two things boost it above the crowd: a chic, stackable design, and options that equip it for double-duty as a conference phone.
The basic Slice is smaller than a. Optional add-on choices include the Collaboration Cover, which gives it conference call touch controls and a more powerful noise-cancelling microphone, and an Audio Module with Bang and Olufsen speakers that get louder than any conference phone I've ever had to listen to. In the absence of calling, the module upgrades the system's sound quality from ick to to decent. Other available modules include an optical drive (ODD) and a VESA-compatible mounting plate. The modules connect to the the Slice using internal USB-C, and it's easy to snap them on and off. An alternative version of the chassis has a fingerprint sensor.
If you have minimal computing needs, such as running email and an application or two at most, then the base configuration should be fine. Sadly, you can't customize the turnkey meeting-room model, which already comes with the two conference options, to bring it up to spec as a more serviceable PC. At the very least, I would avoid the traditional hard disk drive configurations; even with the 7,200 RPM drive in our evaluation system, the system boots painfully slowly, and I think it holds back the performance in general. (We didn't have recent performance results for comparable systems, but our test system performed more or less like a midrange business laptop.)
HP Elite Slice
|Price as reviewed||$949|
|PC CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-6500T|
|PC Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 2133MHz|
|Graphics||128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 530|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)|
Stripped down to the least-powerful configuration (Core i3, 500GB spinning disk drive, 4GB of memory and Windows Home), HP offers it for as low as roughly $640; the cheapest ready-to-ship version is $700. Maxed out (Core i7, 2 512GB SSDs, 32GB memory and all the Cover options) it can approach $1,900. One of the advantages of configuring an enterprise-targeted system is the choice of operating systems: you can downgrade to Windows 7 ($20 at Amazon) Professional (32- or 64-bit) or even opt for FreeDOS to run legacy software from the year gimel. Or just for the heck of it.
There's also a Qi wireless Charging Cover that was announced in September 2016 but still hasn't shipped. Like the Collaboration Cover, it has to be specified as part of the initial configuration; you can't add it afterwards.
If you plan to use the Slice as a serious computer plus phone, my suggested configuration runs almost $1,300 for the base desktop (with a quad-core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD) plus the Collaboration Cover and Audio Module which turns it into a decent conference phone.
Oddly, the Meeting Room model in the UK has much better configuration than the US version. It costs more at £1,014, but comes with 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. The base Slice has the same specs for £992, and there's a better Slice option with a Core i7-6700T for £1,133. However, since you can't custom configure the systems, if you want the Collaboration Cover you have to buy the meeting-room model.
The Meeting Room model isn't available yet in Australia, though it looks like it will be, and though you can't custom configure, there are a lot more granular options in Australia than in the UK. They don't differ much, ranging in price from AU$990 for the same base Slice configuration as our test system, to AU$1,290 for a Core i7-6700T with 8GB memory and a 240GB SSD.