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HP SlateBook x2 review: A fine tablet not quite worth its asking price

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The Good The HP SlateBook x2 tablet includes a physical keyboard hub, dual batteries, full USB and HDMI ports, and two storage expansion slots.

The Bad The screen has a constant yellowish tint, apps take their time to load, the keyboard is cramped, and the tablet's ridges are distracting when you attempt to hold it in one hand. The price feels high given what you get overall, and there's no GPS hardware.

The Bottom Line Though it boasts plenty of ports and a physical keyboard, the SlateBooks x2's offerings don't quite match its $480 price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

The HP SlateBook x2 is a "woulda, coulda, shoulda" Android tablet that doesn't quite justify its $480 price tag.

No, it's not a bad tablet. There are plenty of connectivity ports, the screen resolution is high -- if not impressively so -- and while in gaming performance it can't match the $300 Nvidia Shield, Hewlett-Packard's Tegra 4-fueled device still manages impressive frame rates on most benchmarks.

But the display and keyboard are problematic. The screen suffers from a garish yellow tint that looks...well, let's just say it puts me in mind of a restroom, and leave it at that. The included detachable keyboard, meanwhile, appears at first to be a major added value; however, despite its extra-wide touch pad and multitouch features, it feels cramped in the face of more innovative tablet typing options.

All told, the SlateBook x2 just doesn't feel like what you'd expect in a near-$500 tablet in 2013. It's fine, but I'd recommend waiting for a beefy price drop before shelling out for it.

The HP SlateBook x2 is meant to be used in tandem with its included keyboard dock. Unfortunately, with the two connected, if feels like you're using a Netbook circa 2010 -- a Netbook that runs Android. Asus has found success with this concept over the last couple of years, but since Microsoft introduced a much more comfortable way to type on a tablet -- as long as you're not using your lap -- this kind of cramped keyboard design has felt inadequate to me.

The tablet and keyboard were made for one another. No, really. Josh Miller/CNET

Tablet-typing approaches are only slowly evolving, but HP seems to have based the x2's keyboard design on a model that worked two years ago, but is starting to feel antiquated. So, attempting to return to what now feels like a scrunched typing area leads to immediate frustration, especially if you have larger-than-average hands like mine. You can still type functionally on it, but it feels cramped and never quite ideal. The keys are a bit too small and for me the Backspace button is about an inch too low -- as evidenced by my continued habit of overshooting it. I do however quite like the extra-wide multitouch touch-pad HP includes and, as expected, shortcuts for home, back, recent apps, and search are featured as well.

HP SlateBook x2 Google Nexus 10 Microsoft Surface RT Asus Transformer Tab Infinity TF700 (2012)
Weight in pounds 1 1.33 1.5 1.32
Width in inches (landscape) 10.1 10.4 10.8 10.4
Height in inches 7.2 6.9 6.8 7.1
Depth in inches 0.81 0.35 0.37 0.33
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.9 0.8 0.8

The left edge of the keyboard houses a headphone jack and a full USB 2.0 port and along the right edge are a full-size SD card slot, full HDMI, and a proprietary power port. There's no Micro-USB port for charging or transferring files. The x2 instead uses a small but awkward power brick to charge its batteries -- one in the keyboard and one in the tablet. As a much-appreciated concession however to the lack of Micro-USB, both batteries charge impressively quickly.

After detaching the tablet from the keyboard, the first thing I noticed were the missing volume and power buttons. They're not actually missing, but simply located in a weird HP-style place on the back. While it's strange to have two of the most frequently pressed buttons hidden from view, when holding the tablet in landscape your fingers are quickly drawn to them, even if you can't actually see them until you turn the tablet around.

The SlateBook x2's double-wide multitouch touch pad. Josh Miller/CNET

In keeping with the weirdness, HP decided to make the ports on the actual tablet inaccessible while it's plugged into the keyboard. Both the microSD slot and headphone jack are located on the bottom connection edge of the tablet and are completely hidden when the slate is attached to the keyboard, preventing access until the two parts are separated.

The tablet's dual speakers also are located on the bottom bezel and emit sound directly into the back of the keyboard. It doesn't appear to affect sound quality too much (we'll talk about overall sound quality in a bit), but still, a curious choice. Also, the lower bezel is home to several scratchy ridges that make the tablet flat-out uncomfortable to hold from the bottom.

The power button sits on the tablet's back, but is surprisingly easy to find. Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet is slightly lighter than most 10-inchers, but a bit thicker than the Nexus 10. Despite the smooth back, it never felt as if it were in danger of slipping from my fingers.

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