HP brings Android to laptops with SlateBook X2

HP also announces a 13.3-inch hybrid Split X2 with Windows 8

Hewlett-Packard has given the "Android treatment" to its latest laptop-tablet hybrid, which is called SlateBook X2 and has a detachable 10-inch screen that can independently function as a tablet.

The X2 is HP's second device with Android. Its first was the US$170 Slate 7 tablet that started shipping in late April. The SlateBook X2 includes the tablet and keyboard dock as a package, and the tablet cannot be bought separately.

HP on Wednesday also introduced the Split X2, a Windows 8 hybrid laptop with a 13.3-inch detachable screen that can be used as a tablet.

The SlateBook X2 is priced at $479.99 and the Split X2 starts at $799.99. The hybrids will become available in the U.S. in August. HP declined to comment on worldwide availability.

Buyers could potentially save money by buying just a tablet, but there is a growing interest in hybrid devices, said David Conrad, director of consumer product management at HP.

"I think there are tablets out there so that's fine," said Conrad, adding that a hybrid gives "customers so much more."

Android OS is mostly in smartphones and tablets, but HP's SlateBook X2 provides a middle ground between a laptop and a tablet.

"I think Android can work in the PC space. It's a new thing in some ways," Conrad said. "What we want to do is amplify some things you can do with it and think of it as a notebook too."

Android is good for email, gaming and connectivity, but HP has given SlateBook X2 what Conrad called the "Android treatment" for a hybrid feel. The concept is similar to Windows RT, a tablet OS that also has limited desktop functionality.

HP has made minor changes to the user interface, and added features like a file manager so users have better control of the file system. New software allows the creation of Microsoft Office-compatible documents and presentations. The keyboard dock has specific Android buttons, much like Windows laptops. HP is not offering its own cloud service yet, but users can buy movies, TV shows, apps and books from the Google Play store. HP is targeting students and Android device users with the SlateBook.

The hybrid's display has a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. The device can offer roughly 12 to 14 hours of battery life via two batteries, one of which is in the tablet, and the other in the keyboard dock. The dock has USB slots to attach peripherals or more storage.

The SlateBook X2 has a capable processor in Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 4 chip, which is based on ARM's latest Cortex-A15 processor design and runs at a clock speed of 1.9GHz. The chip has 72 graphics cores and can support a screen resolution up to 3200 x 2000 pixels.

HP is also including more features in the Split X2's keyboard dock to make the hybrid worthwhile to buy as a package. It has up to 128GB solid-state drive storage, and the keyboard base offers an additional 500GB of hard drive storage.

The Split X2 runs on third-generation Intel Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge. HP did not say when Intel's fourth-generation Core processors will be in Split X2. Intel will announce the new processors, code-named Haswell, in June.

The new hybrids are part of the X2 product line, including Envy X2, which also comes with a keyboard dock and a detachable screen.

Many users are looking to upgrade PCs and are also interested in hybrids, Conrad said.

"We see enough interest in it. The response we got to Envy X2 has been pretty positive, all things considered. It's been positive enough where we can expand the lineup," Conrad said.

Tablets are hot, but adding a keyboard and selling it in a PC-like package may not go down well with customers, said David Daoud, research director at IDC.

"I find the strategy risky because why would customers need to be forced to acquire a separate keyboard if it is not physically attached," Daoud said.

IDC is making conservative projections on hybrid shipments as there is no established market yet for these products, Daoud said. PC makers are trying out new designs to see what sticks.

"You're bound to see a lot of products, but many are not likely going to make it," Daoud said.

HP also doesn't have the brand-name recognition of a company like Apple. But buyers would be willing to pay a premium for a MacBook Air with a detachable screen.

"Think of a super-thin laptop like a MacBook [Air] that's also an iPad, people will buy it," Daoud said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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