Has iPad met its Match? Maybe Not (yet)

Review: HP Slate 500 Hits the Market

Although the iPad has a strong foothold in the tablet market, its shortcomings are well-documented. Simple things such as the lack of a USB port, inability to play Flash movies, less-than-desirable Microsoft Office file handling, and a general sense of incompatibility in an otherwise PC-dominant world, may be what other tablets need to get into the game.

I have an iPad, and I really enjoy it. However, I’m not a fanatic – you won’t find me standing in line for hours on a cold, rainy day, hoping to get into the Apple Store before they run out of their limited supply of the next iPad. It’s a great tool/toy for everything you can use it for.

I also realize that for anything I need to do on my iPad, I might have to spend another $9.99 to get yet another app. I’ll bet there are plenty of folks with more money invested in apps than they have in actual software. And, at its best, an app is generally only a very task-specific piece of software – as opposed to a total solution. When compared as a percentage of cost vs. capability, I would expect that the money, time spent researching and cobbling together several apps that can be used to accomplish most of what one software application can, and then factoring in the time spent for organization, customization and mastery of each individual app, it could far outweigh the cost of PC-based (or Mac) software.

I received an email this morning, offering the new HP Slate 500 for $799. Order today, ships today. Okay, so what’s the difference between this and the iPad, or how does it compare to a Netbook, and will it run “real” software?

The first thing that impressed me is the fact that it is running on Windows 7. This means that as long as there are enough memory, drive space and processing power, I can run my actual software applications, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, QuickBooks, etc. Since the Slate has a Solid State Hard Drive (and a standby button), boot-up times will be much better than on a typical PC. Even though the iPad has the “instant-on” feature which I love, an operating system that allows me to use my normal software: Advantage – Slate

Flash video is one of most common formats on the web today. iPad still won’t handle it. Advantage - Slate

The next good news I discovered is the Slate has a USB port. Why on Earth does the second iteration of the iPad still not have a USB port? That one tiny interface can really open many new horizons. The Slate also features an SD card port. Advantage - Slate

The battery life appears to be around 4.5 hours (estimated 2 or 3 hours less than the iPad). My laptop (in low power mode) can get me nearly home on a coast-to-coast flight already. I would expect a tablet to handle that, and then some. Advantage – iPad.

Both devices are around the same size, and the same weight.

The Slate does not have a cooling fan, which saves power. According to reviews, however, the unit gets very hot, making it uncomfortable to hold, and even to the point of making the case smell as if it is melting. Lawsuit filed against Apple for iPad overheating in direct sunlight notwithstanding, Advantage – iPad.

Both the iPad 2 and Slate feature front (for videoconferencing) and rear (for recording) cameras. The first version of the iPad has no camera.

HP includes a docking station for the Slate, which adds a great deal of connectivity. This allows you to use Windows dual-screen mode. It also includes a stylus and cover. Advantage - Slate

If you will be doing presentations, the iPad has an adapter available to connect to VGA or HDMI. Although the Slate dock features an HDMI port, it would be another piece of hardware to carry. However, a little research turned up a nice solution, which will allow you to connect to a monitor via your USB port: DisplayLink. HP also sells a DisplayLink device for $99, which gives you all you need in a portable hub. Advantage - iPad (since you only need a cable, not a portable hub - unless you have a USB input port on your projector).

Wireless connectivity is similar, in that both the iPad and Slate feature Bluetooth and WiFi. Slate does not offer a 3G Broadband option, so although you can easily use a wireless hub or tether your phone, Advantage – iPad.

The touchpad and keypad interface of the iPad is superior to that of Windows 7. Although it works, users felt that both the touchpad and stylus features of the Slate could use improvement. Advantage – iPad.

The display of the iPad is said to be sharper and clearer than the Slate. I would expect both to improve significantly, once HD displays are added to both. Advantage – iPad.

If you are hopelessly linked to the Windows platform, and want the next cool thing, the Slate is worth looking at. If you prefer something that has been tested and proven, the iPad still rules. There are also a number of Android tablets beginning to hit the market, but they will start with a disadvantage in both the operating system of the Slate, and the large market share and app collection of the iPad.

So, for now, I’m going to hang with my iPad and laptop. I think tablets such as the Slate will make headway over the next year or two, but there are still some things that need to be ironed out before they get the attention of the marketplace. I read just the other day that Microsoft had really missed the boat on the tablet game. With a little help from HP and other tablet manufactures, and with some added attention to the Windows touchpad interface, they may be on their way shortly.

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

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