The New Slate Keypad/Folio: the good, the bad and the ugly!

Discussion in 'HP Slate' started by Bronsky, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. Bronsky

    Bronsky Wait and Hope. Senior Member

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    You all know that I have been looking for a keypad/folio that would fit the Slate 500, much the same way as the IPad or Thinkpad Tablet keypad/folio. When HP announced that it was releasing one for the Slate 2, it was a “must order” for me. Now that I have had the chance to test it out, I am quite ambivalent. Even before I ordered it, I thought the price was rather high. After seeing it, I am on-the-fence as to whether or not to keep it. Here’s why:

    IT’S BIG (the ugly).

    It’s really BIG! When the box arrived from HP, I was surprised at how thick the box was.

    [​IMG]

    I was even more surprised at how much the folio filled the box after I opened it. Did I mention that it’s really BIG!

    [​IMG]

    It is the size of the old 3 ring date books that yuppies in the 1980's were so fond of carrying around and noting their executive assistant lunches and appointments to have their big-hair done. It is nearly twice as thick as the Slate in its original folio. It is almost twice as thick as my Acer 3820TG notebook.:rolleyes:

    [​IMG]

    It Types Great (the good)

    I was pleasantly surprised when I started to type on it. It is one of the best small keyboards I have ever used. It has a great typing feel and, even though the keys look small, my fingers do not slip off, nor wander onto other keys, like I have experienced on other “chicklet” style keyboards on 10" netbooks. Note, however, that I have small hands and my fingers fit well. I don't think those of you with crab-claws or lumber-jack hands would fare as well on this KB.

    [​IMG]

    The keys have great action. The typing experience reminds me of typing on a Lenovo Thinkpad E420, short throw but positive action. I can get decent typing speed as long as I am working with familiar key/letter placement (more on this later).

    Once the slate is put into its pocket, held in by a velcro enclosure, you can select two angles.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    One is perfect for a desktop or airplane tray table, while the other works well if you have to put the slate down on a coffee table or a surface below your sitting area. The second angle holds the display at the proper attitude to avoid any issues arising from low vertical viewing angles.

    [​IMG]

    The Keyboard is Truncated (the bad)

    After typing on the keyboard for a few minutes, I was impressed with the typing action and getting used to the feel, increasing my speed. I was forgetting how big the thing was an considering that it would make a great travel folio. It looks great deployed.

    [​IMG]

    It would present a very professional look deployed at a meeting or in a conference room, typing notes. I was thinking of what a great classroom notebook it would make if you typed-in your notes. Then it hit me when I needed to type a possessive case, “there’s no apostrophe?”. Well, after closer inspection, I found the apostrophe (“‘”), as well as the quotation marks (“), brackets, and question mark (?) were not in their usual places on a US keyboard. HP’s engineers did not have enough room to design proper sized keys and keep a full keyboard so they made some keys accessible by hitting the “fn” key. The "fn" keys are the ones in the boxes in the picture below.

    [​IMG]

    Every time I needed to get access to one of these special keys, I was stopped dead in my tracks. This is going to take quite a lot of getting used to. It is a shame too, since I was just starting to get over my initial revulsion to the overall size of the keypad folio. Have I mentioned how BIG it is?

    Other stuff:

    The keypad is powered by a USB cord that attaches to its power socket on the right. Once you turn it on (power switch at the top) it syncs seamlessly with the slate, even when the slate comes out of sleep, it is instantly ready to type. There is very little lag when typing. Less than I have experienced with my current keyboard, which is designed to be used with an Ipad.

    Even though it feels really big to me, it fits into my briefcase and the case can close normally.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In all, when I was finished testing the KB, I put my slate back into its original folio. That is the way I will probably use it most of the time. Given that, I am really wondering how much I will really use this accessory. On the other hand, it is perfect for typing on an airplane, in a hotel room or, better yet, at a bar. All things being equal, I would probably be inclined to keep the folio and use it strictly for travel. That was my thought before I encountered the truncated keyboard. I was really spooked by this and the difficulty I was having keeping any rhythm going while looking for a ? or other key that needed an “fn” press as well. I’m not sure I can get used to this or even want to. At $100, I have to really think twice about keeping it. I confirmed with my rep that I have the standard 30 days to return it, so I’ll be giving it a go for the next month to see if it is worth keeping. As for now, I would bet that I will be returning it before too long.
     
  2. ships10

    ships10 Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Thanks Bronsks....wow...that is BIG!!
    Nice review....nice to see you keep trying to keep it....lol.
    I am not sure if I am ready for those keyboard surprises....I mean, really , could the HP engineers not have known how important and frequently those keys are stroked?!
    I would feel totally paralysed and frozen to the teeth not to mention the aggravation of having to punch 2 keys to get to one.
    However, I do see you point...it maybe be useful in some circumstances.
    Question:....how were u able to upload those pics.?...mine won't do it beyond a certain file size.?
     
  3. Agent 9

    Agent 9 Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    @ ships10
    you have to use a external photo hosting site (it looks like Bronsky used Photobucket) I use Flickr, and others use Image Shack, those are the big three -and they are free (for the most part, I think all have a 'pro account' where you can have as many photos as you want and at any resolution), though you could use others...

    @Bronsky
    That thing looks pretty slick when in use, but it seems it would be awful for storage or transportation, what a shame about that and the keyboard
     
  4. vtgant

    vtgant Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Bronksy,

    Thanks for the review. I was waiting for your review before I considered pulling the trigger. It is no longer a consideration. I like how my current Slate setup rolls. I don't want to add additional bulk. I will stay with my compact foldable Think Outside keyboard.

    Relatedly, you stated "it is perfect for typing on an airplane." Does it also use the USB for connecting the Slate to the keyboard? The reason I am asking is because to my knowledge using bluetooth devices is banned on all the major airlines (at least the ones I fly and I fly almost weekly). I had purchased what I thought was a foldable usb keyboard only to discover that the usb was only used for charging it, not for wireless connecting.
     
  5. Bronsky

    Bronsky Wait and Hope. Senior Member

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    The connector is for charging only. The KB is wireless. My partner uses her IPad folio on flights all the time and is never bothered. Have you had issues? I think as long as your KB is in a folio, the attendants leave you alone.

    I'm fairly sure I'll be sending my unit back. It's just too damn bulky and undercuts the whole rationale for owning something as compact as the slate.

    Update: I'm already having a bit of a change-of-heart about returning this folio. I think the folio, deployed in a setting like a courtroom, looks far more professional than a dock and keyboard combination. I will also have the opportunity to try it out on a plane next week, so I'll let everyone know how comfortable it is on a tray table and wether or not the attendants have any issues with its use aboard.

    I think I am in a bit of a different situation than a normal consumer, as I use the slate as a primary professional device. If I only use the keyboard folio once in my practice, it basically pays for itself.
     
  6. 2jz gze

    2jz gze Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Bronksy,

    Thanks for the review! Wow, I am surprised on how thick that is. I'd rather just carry my laptop around.

    Have you ever considered the PDAir Folio case? I just got it and it looks and feels awesome. I even rigged a strap to keep the case closed. I use this with a fold out keyboard and I have to admit that it looks really clean. Plus its not thick as your folio.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is the BT Keyboard that I use:
    eBay - New & used electronics, cars, apparel, collectibles, sporting goods & more at low prices
     
  7. 2jz gze

    2jz gze Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I should clarify: when I said I added a strap to keep the case closed, this is what I mean:

    Without strap:
    [​IMG]

    Without strap, the cover falls:
    [​IMG]

    With the strap I made, it does not fall:
    [​IMG]

    I do not know why they did not implement this...=)
     
  8. Hattori Hanzo

    Hattori Hanzo Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Pardon my sarcasm, but at least you get something for the money :D

    But indeed, without even having an HP Slate, I get why you guys love the form factor and why this folio is kind of a let down with its size.

    Good luck for the after market!
     
  9. dgoodisi

    dgoodisi Scribbler - Standard Member

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    This is reinforcing my decision to wait until the new ARM based Windows 8 tablets come out.

    My ideal has changed after seeing what the Transformer Prime looks like.

    A Transformer Prime with a Wacom display running Windows 8? hmmmm
     
  10. Bronsky

    Bronsky Wait and Hope. Senior Member

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    So far, the Slate has given me a year of flawless performance. It's design flaws are frustrating but overall, I still think it is the most functional small fanless slate on the market, including the slate 2. I completely agree with you and will be keeping it until a much thinner, more powerful W8 tablet comes along.

    I did discover that I really like using touch with a keyboard. It's become intuitive for me after owning the slate for a year.

    Yes ... I gave it a lot of consideration. I really want the keyboard attached to the folio but would just like a thinner package. I have been using the keyboard for the past couple of days and am starting to get used to the key layout. I am finding it more natural and my overall writing speed is increasing. I really like the feel of the keyboard action, HP has that exactly right.

    I am seriously considering taking HP's folio to a leather craftsman and see what he can do to make something a bit thinner and more attractive, using the folio's existing keyboard.
     
  11. sjaywu

    sjaywu Pen Pal - Newbie

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    After agonizing about the decision with bronsky's fantastic review, I finally pushed the button and got one. Well, CDW says they'll have some in stock Jan. 5, and it'll ship shortly after that. I've decided to commit to this slate for the next 3-4 years at least.
     
  12. angelix

    angelix Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I got one too!

    waiting for it to be delivered as we speak.

    I have a small question, do you need to keep it connected to the usb at all the time? or does it have an internal rechargeable battery?

    EDIT: Just read the HP website... yes, the battery is rechargeable.
     
  13. Bronsky

    Bronsky Wait and Hope. Senior Member

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    It's an internal rechargeable battery. You don't need to keep the charger attached. Actually, the battery lasts quite long.

    I used the folio this week while traveling and must say that it is perfect for flying. Even when the passenger in front of you pushes the seat back, you can continue to work with no problem. Oh, and the attendants did not bother me at all about the KB being bluetooth.
     
  14. 2disbetter

    2disbetter Function over Form

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    Bronsky, thanks for the review. It was very helpful. I would be using the keyboard heavily for programming which uses a lot of special keys, making this not so ideal for me as well.

    I'll admit though that I don't have much problem with the girth of the case. It only adds size in one dimension. Still I'll look at it a little more and make a decision then.

    2d
     
  15. sjaywu

    sjaywu Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Filled with disappointment at HP "business as usual." My order for this slipped to February 19! I ordered it on December 15, and there are no indications it'll actually be available at that point either, cause I was told January 5th not a few days earlier. The sales people just can't get it right.
     
  16. Bronsky

    Bronsky Wait and Hope. Senior Member

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    @sjaywu - sorry to hear that you're having such a long delay getting your folio. I wonder what the problem is?

    I have been using mine now for a few weeks and I thought I'd update my thoughts. First, I still think the folio is too thick. I have a side-by-side with an IPad folio and I think that HP simply over-designed this thing a bit. The way that the IPad display is anchored when in keyboard mode is a more elegant solution than HP's velcro assisted method. The velcro under the display frame is unnecessary and adds a lot of bulk. I do, however, like the way the HP keyboard is anchored, more than I like the magnetic anchor on the IPad.
    Here it is next to the Ipad. HP's engineers could have made it a bit thinner ... at least as thin as the IPad folio.
    [​IMG]
    The folio is significantly thicker even though the Slate is nearly as thin as the IPad. However, overall, the HP is still smaller and easier to stow or tote along than the IPad in its folio.
    [​IMG]
    Next to each other, you can see that the Slate display holds its own with the IPad.
    [​IMG]
    You can also see thst the IPad keys are much more crowded, even though the Slate is smaller. HP clearly tried to make plenty of typing room and accomplished that goal with the placement of punctuation keys on the FN key. I am getting more used to it and appreciate the extra typing room. It is clearly superior to typing on the IPad.

    One thing that is easy to notice is how dull the white letters and numbers are on the HP keyboard compared to the IPad KB. This is an easy fix for HP.

    I have heard a lot of complaints about the HP display but, IMO, the only place where the IPad display clearly excels is at more extreme viewing angles.
    [​IMG]

    In all, I find that I am using the folio more, as I get used to it. I'm glad I bought it and will be keeping it. Still, overall use is approximately 10%. The rest of the time, I use the tablet in its original case.

    BTW, the comparison pictures are of my Partner's IPad. It's interesting to have both devices in use in the same practice so we have the opportunity to compare them on a daily basis. The windows device is the better solution IMO and we'll see if my partner eventually comes around.
     
  17. Davey123

    Davey123 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I ordered mine November 16 and I am still waiting also. If I do not hear anything by the end of next week, I will, unfortunately, be canceling my order:mad:
     
  18. Boomer

    Boomer Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Just got a new Keyboard Folio for my Blackberry Playbook for Christmas. I believe the manufacturer is Hip Street.
    The keyboard part is just held on by magnets. I removed it from the Blackberry folio and guess what? It fits perfectly into the original folio that comes with the Slate, pen and all, it is very thin. It came from Walmart for about $70. (Blackberry Playbook Tablet Portfolio Case with Bluetooth Keyboard - Walmart.com.

    If you want to hold it onto the existing folio, you may just need velcro it in and remove it whenever you want to use it.

    1 review gives it very low battery life. I have not used it enough to confirm this.
    It seems to work quite well with the slate.
     
  19. Steve S

    Steve S Scribbler - Standard Member Super Moderator

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    <<...It fits perfectly into the original folio that comes with the Slate, pen and all, it is very thin...>>

    Boomer: I would just like to confirm; you're saying that the keyboard fits the back of the front flap of the Slate 500 folio case, and that you can close the flap...?
     
  20. Boomer

    Boomer Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Steve:
    Correct. You can then wrap the existing band around both and the keyboard remains nicely in place. It is only about 4mm thick. I tried to add pictures, hope it works.

    Boomer
     

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