Ready for action

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jun 6 2014, 02:08am hrs
These are not exactly the best of times for Hewlett-Packard. Last week, it announced plans to cut as many as 16,000 more jobs in a major ramp-up of CEO Meg Whitmans years-long effort to turn around the PC maker and relieve pressure on its profit margins. The Silicon Valley company is trying to reduce its reliance on PCs and move toward computing equipment and networking gear for enterprises, part of Whitmans effort to curtail revenue declines and return the firm to growth. It is also moving aggressively into the fast evolving mobile devices space comprising ultrabooks, tablets and convertibles.

But one thing is for sure, the American tech major is not struggling with innovation. For evidence, it has come up with two new devicesthe HP Pavilion x360 laptop and HP Slate VoiceTabwhich will appeal to anyone who wants performance and style. Recently, both the devices were sent to us for a product review. Here are some of my impressions:

HP Pavilion 11 x360

Folding notebooks are all the rage now. HP too has joined the bandwagon with its 11-inch Pavilion x360 whose screen can rotate 360 degrees. Basically, the HP Pavilion 11-N016TU x360 is a convertible hybrid laptop that flips its touch screen around. Thanks to a budget-friendly, quad-core Intel Pentium processor and its use of a hard drive instead of a pricier solid-state drive (SSD), the Pavilion x360 is a lot less expensive than most other convertible hybrid laptops I have seen in recent months. Despite its budget price, the system is more than competent, and is a good starting point for the Windows 8 beginner.

Straight out of the box, the Pavilion x360 will grab your attention with its all-red chassis and shiny, chrome-coloured HP logo on the lid. The laptop flips its screen around its spinal cord (centre hinge's axis), so you can basically use the system in four modes. First, notebook mode is the standard clamshell-laptop orientation. Second, stand mode puts the keyboard face down on the table, therefore you can use the screen to watch videos with the rest of laptop body out of the way. Third, tablet mode lets you use the Pavilion x360 as a slate tablet. Fourth, the tent mode flips the laptop over so the central hinge is facing the sky; this makes the touchscreen more stable for extended touch sessions. Trust me, it will be a treat to play an intensive game on this machine.

As with most HP notebooks, the x360 has an island-style keyboard, and has three USB ports, Ethernet, DisplayPort, and an SD Card reader. It weighs 1.4 kg and measures 0.86 x 12 x 8.5 inches (H x W x D), so it will fit in most commuter bags or student backpacks. The exterior is soft-touch plastic, and the keyboard deck has a brushed-silver metal finish. The chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable to use too.

The Pavilion x360 features the same Beats Audio technology as the rest of HPs consumer laptop line, up to 8 GB of RAM, and a 500 GB hybrid hard drive. As mentioned before, there are three USB ports, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Its multi-gesture touchpad responds to commands quickly.

Overall, the Pavilion is a good-looking, well-built device that works as well as any other hinged hybrid in both of its modes.

HP Slate VoiceTab

The HP Slate VoiceTab is a slim and light tablet with voice calling capability, powered by a quad-core processor running on Android 4.2.2 (Jellybean) operating system and offers 3G connectivity with dual SIM convenience. It has a 7 inch high definition IPS display and comes with power-packed entertainment features such as dual front firing stereo speakers, front and rear HD cameras. The VoiceTab has 16 GB built in storage expandable to 32 GB via microSD card. Whats more, it is a fairly low cost phone-tablet hybrid with a price tag of R16,990.

Once in the hand, the Slate 7 VoiceTab feels robust despite its plastic body. It is fairly light and reasonably compact for a 7-inch tablet. It has a removable backplate, which hides a microSD slot and dual SIM slotsone micro and one full-size. These SIM slots let the HP Slate 7 Voicetab act like a big phone. To be honest, to make or receive a call from such a big device will seem a bit awkward, therefore I will suggest to those who do want to make calls from this machine, to go in for the Bluetooth headset.

The Slate 7 VoiceTab comes with a range of exciting and useful applications pre-installed, including:

HP Connected Music for downloading and streaming music, HP Box Storage with free 25 GB cloud storage for documents and files, HP ePrint application to print wirelessly with a HP ePrint enabled printer, HP Connected Photo for managing and storing your photographs, Kingsoft Office to open Office files such as Word and Excel, Skype and WeChat for instant messaging, among others.

The Slate 7 VoiceTab is a neat-looking, fast and easy to use tablet with voice calling facility. Overall, a solid product at a competitive price.