The Tragedy Of The HP Slate 21

There have been several large Android slates released — from Asus and Acer and Lenovo — but none of them seem as appealing as the HP Slate 21.

Unlike the others, it has a full HD — 1920 x 1080 — touchscreen, an up-to-date CPU (Tegra 4), and is meant to be a replacement for that nasty and ancient Windows box that causes people to rip out their hair for its slowness (OK, that last bit was me projecting onto everyone else; but still, I can’t be alone — this is why tablets are selling more than Windows). It’s a desktop replacement by itself, not some bizarre Android add-on to a Windows 8 box.

Photo from The Register

Unfortunately, HP seems to be keen to release products no one in their right mind would buy. They crippled that powerful Tegra 4 by shackling it to just 1GB of RAM and a stingy and unbelievable 8GBs of internal storage!

So I dismissed it after reading a devastating review at PC Mag that gave it one star out of five.

However, others have given it as high as 2.5 stars out of five, such as Tom’s Guide. And, very surprisingly, The Register didn’t condemn it either.

Neither pointed out the browser problems that PC Mag did, however.

A Commenter pointed out to me how close in price this is to the HP Slate 8 Pro. I didn’t think anything about that at the time but it apparently sank into my brain and then bubbled to the surface, so I had to go investigate.

What makes this something I must see in person is the screen size. If my estimates are correct, this should display a magazine page from Google Books at just about the same size as its printed edition. Issues of The American Magazine would probably look stunning on it.

One fellow has written about his experiences owning a Slate 21 at his blog.

HP Slate 21 – some tips

There’s no rooting method known yet — because HP re-wrote the bootloader(!) — but this is a preliminary step: Unlocking your HP Slate 21.

This XDA Developers thread is tracking rooting progress.

As this thread at XDA Developers reveals, at one time it was possible to force the Slate 21 to do portrait but HP pushed out an update that causes that method to fail and this is the sorry result:


Being able to force portrait correctly would make The American Magazine look spectacular at that size. I could read the smallest text without pinch-zoom. I really wouldn’t much care about the contortions I’d have to do re-orienting the unit, either. I’d find a way to make it work.

HP informs everyone there is no system recovery image for the Slate 21.

The stingy 1GB of RAM sabotages video streaming when using RTE Player.

HP Support forum, Slate 21 posts.

Adobe Flash Player is not supported but this method to install it should work.

Ugh, this revelation from the HP Support forum::

For example. I can’t save directly to my SD card. I’d have to save to the internal storage and then copy a file. Which is time consuming, and also makes it impossible to download larger files since you’re stuck on the internal storage. Same trick has to be done for USB.


Regarding saving directly to the card – it depends on your app that you’re using. The direct path to the SD Card is: /storage/sdcard1/ so any program that lets you select path, put the /storage/sdcard and the directory inside the card that you want to save inside.

And back again:

Most apps can see all the paths just fine. The problem however is that you can’t select the path within them. Even with going to the main folder. You won’t find the attached USB nor SD card. A few apps on the other hand are able to read from those locations like Box and such.

Using a wireless mouse.

The time is lost when the AC plug is pulled because there is no Real Time Clock and battery backup for it. This is just silly. What was HP thinking?

This HP Support thread mentions external USB hard drives and SD cards:

On your latest question about SD and USB storage, personally I have tried 64MB SD and 2TB USB drives with success. However, please note the drives must be formatted with FAT or NTFS. Generally 32+MB SD media is formatted with exFAT which is not supported on Slate 21, so you would need to use a PC and reformat.

An HP Support thread mentions Google Play reports the Kindle app is incompatible with the Slate 21, but it can be downloaded directly from Amazon.

Having covered all that, aside from increasing the RAM to 2GBs and storage to 32 or even 64GBs, what else should HP do if they decide to wake up and do a Slate 21 2.0?


Lenovo’s slate for “seniors” — the Lenovo Smart Desktop N308, currently sold only in China [Google Translate] — has a great idea:

It uses a 19.5-inch large LED touch screen with a resolution of 1600 * 900, with the latest quad-core A15 architecture Tegra4 1.GHz processor, 2G memory and 320G massive storage space

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

A hard drive!

Hear me out on this. The hard drive is not for apps. It’s for media. Photos, audio, video, eBooks — Google Books PDFs! It doesn’t matter that the hard drive would cause a mild delay in loading those things. As long as apps pop up instantly from internal solid state storage, people would tolerate a bit of delay for media. Watching a movie is not as time critical as, for example, sending a tweet or getting to a web page.

I think HP is on to something here. But the incomplete and timid way they’ve gone about it is self-defeating.

People have gotten used to the speed and simplicity of tablets. Giving that experience a larger screen to replace an ancient Windows machine seems like a market ripe for the taking.

But on their current course, HP won’t be doing that.

If Lenovo creates an update to their N308 with a full HD screen, they’ll take the market that HP pioneered the mindspace for.

And if Lenovo doesn’t do it — I have a deep suspicion that Samsung will. Samsung hasn’t plugged that hole in their lineup — yet. And since they’re apparently bribing incentivizing retailers to display their products prominently over all competitors, what’s one more thing to add to that mix?

What a tragedy for HP.

But a win for users.

I think we’ll see more action in the Android All-in-One space in 2014. Windows is vulnerable. Because most people are frankly sick of Windows. But many of them still want something with a large screen that sits at a desk. An Android All-in-One does that.


Filed under Android

34 responses to “The Tragedy Of The HP Slate 21

  1. E.T.

    Yes, Windows is definitely vulnerable. Chromebooks are another simpler desktop alternatives that will compete for people home desks.

    • mikecane

      And if the press is to be believed, Chromebooks have been doing well. I’m not a fan of them, though.

      • I think your not a fan of ChromeBooks because you haven’t really explored all of fantastic web apps that are currently available. With apps like MS Office, Photoshop (yes you read that correctly and it has all the functionality of it desktop cousin), Zoho, EverNote (the web app is much better than Android or iOS version, though I prefer MS OneNote now), Luci Chart, Pixrl, AudioTool (you have got to try this one out, simply amazing), Prezi, Hoot Suite, ClipConverter, IFTT, Pulse, Feedly, just to name a few but you shoukd try some so you get an idea of what I’m talkimg about, start with, Microsoft has it’s entire Office suite online and it’s really good also free. In fact these web apps have gotten so good that it was very simple to successfully migrate from a MacBook Pro to the new Google Pixel II without any issues or needing anything more.

        Then there is the added bonus of being able to install Android apps which only increases Chrome OS’s usefulness. I have apps like MS Office for Android which is works great when I don’t have access to the internet, Kodi (XBMC), a fantastic media center app, so much so that I got rid of my Apple TV, which to be honest wasn’t very hard as it didn’t have the ability to install apps so I couldn’t use it to do something simple like surf on my TV, etc. I even recently purchased a HP ChromeBox to replace my Apple TV, I can’t believe I waited this long, the Apple TV in comparison is just junk. Even if you don’t like the ChromeBox than I woukd recommend grabbing a MINIX Z64, it just absolutely blows away the Apple TV in every concievable way.

        Anyway I absolutely adore my Google Pixel II, not only is it a gorgeous machine, very fast with it’s i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM and the best display I’ve seen on a notebook yet but Chrome OS has redefined the way I use computers for the better. As a developer I’m now using Codenvy and couldn’t be happier. It’s so good that everyone in my team has moved over to a ChromeBook, we’re using HP’s new G3 14 with 1080P display, touchscreen, 4GB RAM, Nvidia K1 as our development machines. With Codenvy’s exelent code editor, build, test, deploy functionality and collaboration functionality it has made our lives 10x better vs. The old method of using Netbeans and never being in sync with our code. We can even work from home by using the shared development container Codenvy provides where as before we had to create a functioning work space on our local machines and than tried our best to merge in the code we had all done over the weekend, a real pain but with real time collaboration we can see each others work and communicate our problems a lot, lot, lot better.

        Regarding the HP Slate 21, I can’t really comment but both of my children have a HP Slate 17 and their fantastic machines. Though they have a much better CPU and more RAM, Celeron N2807 with 2GB of RAM. I have also successfully installed Android 5.1on it by following these instructions,

  2. M. Smith

    It is believe that HP is going to release a “Pro” version of the Slate 21. No specifics on hardware differences yet, but you would think (as you mentioned) that the pro version would come with more RAM (than 1GB) and more on board storage (than 8GB) and Android 4.3 (with hopefully 4.4 to be released soon). It would also be nice if the 21 Pro also incorporated video inputs so that consoles, etc. could be used with the device.

    According to the link below, there is reason to believe a Pro version of this AIO is already being benchmarked. The Pro version is nicknamed “Moon” while the regular Slate 21 was nicknamed “Mars.” Benchmarks for the “Moon” version have shown up within GFXBench recently.

    The Slate 21 retails for $370 so I would assume the Pro to be somewhere around $450 – $500 range. Considering the lukewarm reception of the Slate 21 so far, $500 seems to be way too much for an AIO Android experiment. Not to mention, it would seem that HP has also made it very difficult to root further reducing the interest level from many hackers/DIYers.

    Here’s what I think the Slate 21 fails on:
    – small HD
    – low RAM
    – Older OS that is buggy and difficult to root/hack
    – crappy integrated speakers
    – no Video in (HDMI, component, VGA… nothing)
    – VESA incompatible

    I’ve really tried to like this product considering the Slate 21 has a really nice touch screen and SOC for the price, but considering all of its short comings, I believe one could get a cheaper and more functional DIY AIO by purchasing a nice IPS 24″ monitor with 360 rotation and an Android TV stick/box (like the Tronsmart CX-919, ouya, etc) which are extremely dev friendly and are/will shortly have Android 4.4 released on them.

    A DIY setup like this would run about $250 and check off all the Slate 21 short-comings listed above. Throw in another $50 one could probably get a touchscreen to boot. Whats more, the TV stick could easily be swapped out for $60 – $80 as better, more powerful sticks become available making a DIY setup decently future proofed (at least more than the Slate 21 would be).


    • mikecane

      It’s funny you should mention a DIY solution. I asked on Twitter if such a setup would be superior to an AIO, but got no replies.

      If you’ve seen Brad Linder’s tests with a Tronsmart dongle at Liliputing, you’ll see that it’s not always a smooth pairing experience. And I’m really never in the mood to bugger with repeated connection attempts. I just want it to work.

      The real missed opportunity is for someone to do a ITX-like wee box with a wee Android board that can swapped out as cheap upgrades. But we’d need someone to do the corresponding touchscreen that also reclines (it must recline and also have a lying-flat option).

      It’s already been established with the iMac and others that the screen outlives the usefulness of the computing guts. So a separate touchscreen seems the best way to go.

      However, I’d still be interested in a Slate 21 Pro should HP get it done right. Or if anyone else does.

  3. M. Smith

    Totally agree. OTB, a DIY AIO is not for your average consumer and not for the faint at heart. All Android sticks coming out of China suffer from the same issues that their tablets have including:
    – no CS to speak of
    – sudden hardware swap outs during production runs making ROM/firmware upgrades a game of Russian Roulette
    – crappy release firmware and lackluster updates

    That being said, picking the right Android stick which has decent hardware specs and a good mod community and dedicating some time to learning the fine art of firmware/ROM updates will pay dividends in the end. I think the review you mentioned from Liliputing review the stock firmware for the stick (which wasn’t bad, but has been vastly improved by the community since).

    An decent OTB Android set top box solution would be Mad Katz’s M.O.J.O (albeit almost triple the cost of your average Android TV stick):

    The MOJO comes with a BT gaming controller and evidently is future proofed to allow for PC game streaming. The MOJO has the internals that the Slate 21 should have (Tegra 4 SoC, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of on board memory). It also has HDMI out, Ethernet and two USB ports (USB 2.0 and USB 3.0).

    I can see the value of an ITX build, but the price tag would sensible for a Windows based box. IMHO, these Android TV sticks are so inexpensive from a hardware perspective (and free from a software one) that it’s worth it to just upgrade the whole thing in 2-3 years for $60. The only benefit I can see to an ITX Android box solution would be a built-in HD, but since everyone is using the cloud and/or streaming their content via a personal network, large physical HDs and media (Blue-ray/CDROM) are going the way of the Do-Do.

    Current TV sticks have hardware more than capable of handling Android OS processes including.

    – 16GB of onboard storage
    – 2GB of onboard RAM
    – Built in Wifi/BT
    – Accessories available for Ethernet and HD connection

    Older builds are stable enough while newer builds have their share of bugs and “personality.”

    In terms of TS productivity, I have yet to understand how a TS would be more effective than a good keyboard and mouse for an office build, however, for a HTPC build which can be hung on one’s wall, I can see the benefits of having a TS for quick video/audio file access.

    I’m an owner of a CX-919 Android TV stick and think it’s more than capable of handling a AIO DIY solution. If I had to wait, I’m assuming that Ouya will soon be releasing a 2nd Gen model which includes a Tegra 4 SoC and 2GB of RAM for $99. The 2nd Gen model would be an excellent “Android brain” for a DIY AIO once the dev community gets a hold of it so that the Ouya firmware can be swapped out for standard Google Android OS.

    In terms of marrying yourself to a China TV stick, a huge concern is what happens if you get a lemon? Sending it back to China is a slow boat to insanity. The good news with the CX-919 model is that it’s available via Amazon for quick shipping and easy testing/returns should you get a dud.

    I’m just waiting for a good monitor sale (24″, IPS, HDMI/DVI/VGA inputs, audio in and outs and VESA capable for $120 – $150) and I will be ready to bring my Android AIO Frankenstein to life.


    • mikecane

      >>>large physical HDs and media (Blue-ray/CDROM) are going the way of the Do-Do.

      Not as long as people still have to rely on the Net because there’s no same day universal broadcasts of popular TV (casts glance at BBC’s Sherlock).

      I want a touchscreen. I hate mousing around.

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for putting my link with the instructions of how to unlock the Slate 21. The unlock procedure doesn’t seems to actually do anything much. since trying to boot any image using fastboot fails totally (it skips uploading the image, and yes, I tried with the -i parameter, and with -c parameter, nothing works).

  5. I got an HP Slate 21 a few days ago. It has some serious shortcomings:
    1) Basic Google apps will not run on it, such as Google Keep (Play Store: “Your device isn’t compatible”). My Slate 21 is running 4.2.2, JDQ39.
    2) The HP version of Android gets flakey when left on overnight. Chrome Beta and Firefox hang, the notification bar will “pull-down”, but no notifications can be selected, some apps crash (Chrome even crashed once). I leave my other Android devices on all the time, with them normally only rebooting every few months for a new release.
    3) There is a “yellow problem” with the screen (per other blogs), but it does not come across as a yellow tint on the one I bought. Instead, anything which is yellow becomes an overpowering yellow which looks weird.

    That said, I agree with Mike that it is a step in the right direction, albeit, more a stumble than a step: not enough memory, there must be an hdmi out for a second monitor (need that for work), it should come with a battery which lasts at least long enough to shut it down in case of power loss, no USB 3.0, and a hard drive or SSD is needed for this desktop system as standard rather than as an add-on (I put a 1TB drive, but it is connected to the USB 2.0 connector; a USB 3.0 is needed if an external drive is required). Here are some positives which might keep me from returning it:

    1) I paid $350 for it. Amazing for that price and comparable to a Windows 7 AIO computer I bought in 2010 for $1200.
    2) Lightening fast for the apps I use.
    3) The first Android device I’ve purchased which can run a very complex Excel spreadsheet. On Windows 7, loading that spreadsheet takes quite a long time, but on the Slate 21, it comes up very quickly and everything works beautifully under AndrOffice, the Libre/Open Office app for Android. AndrOffice could not open that spreadsheet with the Tegra 4 TF701, but it did open properly with Officesuite Pro on the TF701 (unfortunately, Officesuite does not yet have all of the functions needed by the spreadsheet, but AndrOffice does).

    I am looking for a Windows 7 replacement and not going to Windows 8 simply because it has crashed or hung in every demo I’ve attended. When a complete rewrite was needed, it seems instead that MS released Windows 8 as just as a new coating for Windows, and Windows was originally released as just a veneer slipped over MS DOS (remember having to type “win” to start it?). Like many people who have used MS DOS and Windows since the 1980’s, I am getting a little tired of bad releases, systems which update themselves right when you need to use them the most, viruses, and expensive apps (aka “software”). The designers of this HP System had the right idea for a Windows 7 replacement, but implementation was far from ideal.

    Finally, there should be a desktop version of Android. It is strange to get the message “Your tablet is ready” from a system like the Slate 21 which is anything but a tablet…it is an Android desktop system. A proper desktop version of Android would permit resizing of windows, just as is possible on the Mac and PC’s. The multi-tasking is good enough already on Android to use it for my business (some articles have referred to Android multi-tasking as “weak”-I run several apps simultaneously and things get done with Android, it just takes longer when there many tasks competing for CPU and memory).

  6. I’m sitting here writing this on a HP Slate21. I bought it on a whim but also as part of a testbed for home technology. Currently I have it controlling my audio around the home and use it to control XBMC with the fantastic app by Yatse.

    After around 2 weeks with it I find myself using it for all my email (with the hard keyboard and all prediction turned off), all my browsing, facebook etc… In fact the only thing I don’t use it for is creating business documents.

    Personally I will be buying more of these for my home, if you run something like Nuvo or Sonos audio systems, and/or XBMC in one or more locations this is absolutely ideal. I’m aiming at one for my lounge, one for my home cinema room and one wall mounted at the entrance.

  7. I bought a Slate 21 Pro direct from HP for US$375 + tax with free shipping. So far it is marvelous; I suspect the 2GB RAM makes all the difference. I previously ignored the original Slate 21 on the basis of specs.

    I am using it as my main workstation, running RDP to various cloud VMs I work on, a bunch of SSH connections, Gmail, Chrome with a stack of tabs, and various widgets and social media apps. I am surprised it doesn’t get bogged down. I find it better than a Chromebook as the apps are better.

    The killer feature for me is that it has an HDMI input and upstream USB socket, so the 21 Pro can also be used as a touchscreen monitor for something else. And when you switch ‘inputs’ between the build in Android and the external input, the two USB ports on the back switch also. So you can connect this to your Chromebook or Windows/Linux laptop as a touchscreen and when you switch back and forth and your keyboard and mouse swap also. Smart idea.

    I originally planned to switch back and forth with my Linux laptop or Chromebook, but it is working so well, I never leave Android mode.

    (The wired mouse and keyboard that comes with it is cheap rubbish. I use it will a wireless mouse and keyboard I already had.)

    My only worry so far is updates; I don’t trust HP to support and update the OS – their track record is abysmal. The Pro came with 4.3 (current version is 4.4) which is not old at all and will be fine for a while. But will I ever see 4.4 or 5.0 on this computer? I doubt it. Great concept though.

    • mikecane

      It’s a real shame that HP produced two marvelous products — the Slate 21 and Slate 8 — and just wasted the great opportunity of them!

    • Did you mean for me to see this?
      “HP was unable to find the page you wanted. Please view the information below to get support for your product.”

      They killed it?

  8. I am having great frustration using my HP Slate 21 touchscreen android, a great idea which lacks of real usability. In order to have this hardware behave like a computer, as it should be, I would like to install a full or customized version of Ubuntu, replacing (and not on a double boot) the silly lazy and Google-stuffed up android 4.2 that runs  now. I am very happy with some of the things that this machine can do. I can plug any external HHD (it mounts WDpassport 1TB in 2 secs), love the large touchscreen screen, design and price (cost me 220 EU).
    Would you be able provide some assistance?  A step by step tutorial on how to root, unlock, download and install the latest Ubuntu with touchscreen capability would be great.
    Thanks in advance

  9. CharleyP

    Looks like HP released KitKat for the Slate 21, the same day it discontinued it. Kitkat works pretty well on here too. Even has a two-apps on one screen feature.

  10. alex

    After updating my slate 21 s100-to 4.4.2 i have a big problems: hp oobe error, hp file manager error, dont see any external storages, two-apps on one screen dont working. WTF !!???? And cute support answers– we understand your unhappy with your update to 4.4.2 ,but we can not yet help you. Fenita la comedia…..

    • japs

      i totally agree with you…after updating gallery and file manager crashes and the external storages can’t be viewed… :'(

  11. Nav

    Latest update sucks

  12. smithmal

    Hey Mike, you should start a new post regarding the HP Slate 21 Pro. I think the new product fixed many of the issues that the original Slate 21 had from a hardware perspective. Plus people are getting this for dirt cheap (groupon now for $220) which basically means your purchasing this for the same price as a mid-level tablet.

  13. smithmal

    That was the HP Slate 21. HP is releasing an upgraded version called the HP Slate 21 Pro.

    Compared to the Slate 21, the Pro has:

    1. Double the storage
    2. Double the RAM
    3. Android 4.3 (4.4 is in development)
    4. Is VESA compatible

    And here’s the kicker… you can get it for $230 shipped right now on GroupOn.


  14. smithmal

    That I can’t argue with, however, from a overall functionality standpoint, there’s not that much difference between Jellybean vs. Lollipop. Apps run just as well on 4.3 as on 5.0.

  15. Mitch

    I bought one of the non-pro models just for listening to music in the kitchen via Google Play music… Worked great for about six or eight months.

    Once the 4.4.2 upgrade came out, however, the sound quality was permanently diminished in that the sound that came out of the audio jack was suddenly sub-par. Bass was nonexistent, the rest sounded like a tin can. I verified this with speakers and headphones, both of which work great on other devices. I sent the device in to HP and after keeping it for over a month, they sent it back to me without making any changes – and still the sound quality is crap.

    So, I’m back using my Nexus 7 in place of it, which kind of sucks. I don’t know what to do with the device now, as the only thing I was using it for is no longer operating as it should! I’m not going to make a fuss over a $200 computer with HP but it would be nice if I could continue to enjoy it as I had.

    I want to restore it to the original ROM that shipped with it, or bounce over to another ROM but it appears that HP doesn’t share that with anyone. It looks like you can grab the ROM for the pro, but not the k100.

  16. Richard

    I bought a Slate 21 Pro several months ago in order to have a both a large screen android machine ( my eyes are starting to go bad) and to use it as a touch screen monitor for a desktop win 8.1 machine. I have been happy with it for the most part. I have installed at least 100 apps from the play store with no problems. The screen is excellent for running android apps. For me it is very nice to read a kindle book on this machine in two page mode. The same applies to various news apps.

    I have around 700 kindle books on this machine and read here when physically in the office and on my nexus 10 otherwise ( soon to be replaced with the galaxy pro 12.2). This pleasant experience was downgraded about 2 weeks ago. I bought several books that day (many for $0.0) but for the first time I got an error message when I tried to read one. A popup box appeared stating that the item was invalid please remove and reload which I did, several times. Made no difference. It has gotten worse every day. Now about half of the books display this behavior. Does anyone know if an update on either the os or the kindle app is causing this problem? Perhaps a change in newly created kindle books. The only other problem I have had with this machine is that occaisionlly when I start using it in the morning I find it locked up. I had been in the habit of leaving the machine on indefinitely. Now I shut down at least once a week and have not had the problem again. So aside from this kindle book problem I have been happy with this machine. It is wonderfull for reading documents.

  17. please help me how to save my files to usb og sd card?since they update i cant save my files..

  18. There is a beta build of Android 5.0 Lollipop available now. The developer is also working on a build of Remix OS which is a multiwindow version of Android. I’m running the 5.0 build now.

  19. The touchscreen is defective because of defective ir tape,

    here is how I repaired mine :

    Visualplas will open a store on aliexpress soon to sell the IR Retroreflector kit to make your touchscreen great again :)

    Will post the link to the shop on the youtube video ASAP

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