HP to ship Slate7 consumer tablet for $169 in April

New Hewlett-Packard tablet runs Android 4.1 and weighs 13 ounces

BARCELONA -- Hewlett Packard Sunday unveiled the HP Slate7, a 7-in. tablet that will go on sale in April in the U.S. starting at the bargain price of $169.

Many Android tablets today sell new for $200 and above, making the HP Android 4.1 device a potential deal for consumers. The low-end $169 model offers 8 GB of internal storage and a microSD slot for expansion--a feature not generally available on other tablets.

By comparison, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD with 16 GB of internal storage sells for $199 without a microSD expansion slot.

At 13 ounces, the Slate7 felt heavy during a brief hands-on experience at a preview event to Mobile World Congress. (The Kindle Fire HD is actually a tad heavier, at 13.9 ounces.)

The response to my touch on the Slate7's display and the fast loading of pages and apps was surprisingly quick. Slate7 runs an ARM Dual Core Cortex A9 1.6 GHz processor.

Slate7 gets five hours of battery life.It has a 3-megapixel camera in the rear and a VGA camera in the front for video chat.

The 1024 x 600 display is crystal clear indoors, though I didn't have a chance to check it in outdoor light. In a new blog post, HP claims it does well outdoors as well.

HP's ePrint application is installed on the device, allowing users to print directly from many applications. The micro USB port is included for file transfers.

HP is showing strength in tablets, having introduced in October the Windows 8-based HP ElitePad that's designed mainly for enterprises and government.

ElitePad comes with 32 GB of internal storage for $649 and 64 GB of internal storage for $699. Both have a 10.1-in. screen.

HP officials at MWC said sales have gone well for the ElitePad, but offered no details.

HP also introduced the HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 on Feb. 4, a clamshell-style laptop.

Tablets are the responsibility of a new HP Mobility Global Business Unit, which was formed last September when HP hired Alberto Torres, a former Nokia executive in charge of the Meego platform and now senior vice president of the HP unit.

The HP Slate7, which includes Beats Audio for premium sound, will come in gray or red on the back.

HP advertises the Slate7 as a "great starting point if you're looking for something small in size that'll offer ample performance with an affordable starting price."

The 7-in. display make for a design that is easy to stuff in a pocket -- a size that is catching on with other manufacturers.

Overall, the device is .42 x 7.75 x 4.5 inches.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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