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.
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.
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.
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.
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.