A t first glance this appears to be a rather overpriced Android tablet, albeit of a rather high quality. However, the inclusion of a strange device that looks like a pen and microphone bred to create a mutant pencil reveals the magic that makes this such a unique device. It’s built to turn your hand-written notes into digitised text, and the way it does so is nothing short of incredible.
The pen includes a special speaker that broadcasts an ultrasonic sound. It’s so high that humans can’t hear it (though we’re not sure if your pooch will be so lucky). As the user writes on the notepad that is on the right side of the included leather folio, this sound is detected by four microphones that are built into the tablet, with one on each corner. Clever software then interprets the variation in volume to automatically translate the handwritten notes on the paper into writing captured by the HP Notes application, which can then be translated to computer text using character recognition.
Watching it in action is almost magical; as you write on the paper notepad, your hand writing appears simultaneously on the tablet screen. Playing music doesn’t seem to affect the microphone’s ability to capture the sound, but writing with the pad standing at an angle does screw with the accuracy. It’s also not so great at capturing old-school handwriting that uses a continuous stroke. After using the tech for about twenty minutes the novelty started to wear off, and we began to question whether this is anything more than a gimmick. Why wouldn’t the user simply write on the screen with the stylus instead? Also, we found that when converting our hand-written notes into computer text resulted in big chunks of text going missing entirely, or being misread. If you’re a half decent typist, it’s much quicker to use a keyboard than write, though older users will probably appreciate the ability to write instead. The issues we experienced could be a result of our poor handwriting, but having perfect writing skills is arguably harder than being a half decent typist. Overall we don’t think we’d bother using this tablet’s key feature in the real world, preferring instead to simply write directly on the screen. Maybe that’s just us though?
As mentioned, this is an Android tablet, severely limiting the programs that can be installed, especially in an Enterprise environment where Windows and Office still dominates. The 12.3 inch screen packs in a resolution of 1600 x 1200, which means pixel structure is just visible. It’s not horrible to look at, but it lacks the crisp resolution of competing tablets, such as Apple’s stunning Retina display. It’s also a little dim for our liking, with washed out colours that look worse under harsh daylight. It’s also surrounded by a rather thick border, which takes up a large chunk of the overall device’s face. We’re not sure why HP couldn’t have included a screen that stretches all the way to the edges of the device, as seen on most other tablets. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor does the heavy lifting, and it’s comprised of four Krait 400 CPUs running at up to 2.3 GHz, along with a single Adreno 330 GPU running at 450 MHz. Performance is blazing fast, with apps snapping open and shut almost instantly, helped by the 2GB of LPDDR3 SDRAM. Long term storage is taken care of by a 32GB eMMC drive, but this can be extended courtesy of the MicroSD slot.
While the key feature of the HP Pro Slate 12 is initially very impressive, we can’t help but feel that very few people will bother to use it once the novelty wears off. However, if you’re an old school note taker who vastly prefers writing on paper with a pen, instead of writing directly onto the screen with a stylus, then this could be just the device you’re looking for.