Sub-$500 Windows Tablets: Dell Inspiron Duo 1090 vs HP Slate 500

On today’s market, you can find an iPad 2 and a bunch of Android tablets for under $500, but those based on Windows 7 OS usually carry higher price tags.

Fortunately, these prices drop. We have made a comparison of the two most serious Windows 7 multi-touch tablets with sub-$500 prices – the Dell Inspiron Duo 1090 and HP Slate 500. Windows 7 is not optimized for touch input like Android or iOS and the battery life with PC-use processors is generally shorter than on ARM-based slates, but if you want a cheap tablet and depend on Windows, this comparison can be handy.

The Dell Inspiron Duo 1090 has a 10.1″ 1366×768 multi-touch display, the Intel Atom N550 1.6GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium, all for $479.95. The list of other specs includes a 1.3MP web camera, two USB ports, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. What’s different on the Duo when compared to other convertibles is its display panel which swivels from within its frame horizontally, while others use a vertical rotational hinge.

A different option is the HP Slate 500, a business-oriented keyboard-less 8.9-incher which supports both digital pen and multi-touch. It packs a single-core Z-series Atom Z540 1.86GHz processor. The Atom Z CPUs are slower than their N-series counterparts, but are more power efficient. The display resolution is lower – 1024×600 (can be set to 1024×768), but one of the advantages of the Slate 500 is use of solid state drives instead of traditional HDDs. Furthermore, the Slate has a dedicated HD video decoder by Broadcom, enabling 1080p video playback, a rear-facing 3MP camera, front VGA-quality cam, a single USB, and a media card reader. The HP tablet is on sale at B&H for $500 and includes a 64GB SSD with Windows 7 Professional installed, 2GB RAM, the accompanying docking station, and a folio case, so with its features and accessories at the $500 price point it doesn’t appear to be a “waste of money” like it maybe was on its launch with an $800 price.

Check out the video overview of the Slate 500:

So which one is better, the Inspiron Duo or Slate 500? Above all, it’s a matter of taste, since the tablets have different form factors and functionalities.

Specs-wise, let’s check out a list of Pros for both:

Dell Inspiron Duo Pros

  • Larger display at 1366×768. Not only that its display provides a larger screen real estate in terms of size and resolution, but that particular resolution is important when it comes to potential upgrades to Windows 8. A you might already know, Windows 8 requires 1366×768 or greater in order to fully support the new Metro UI. Metro-style apps will run on 1024×768 screens, but 1366×768 is required for an important Windows 8 app feature known as “multitasking with snap”.
  • Physical keyboard and touchpad. The Duo has them both, providing you with ability to use it as a standard netbook, out of the box. For the HP Slate, you will have to separately buy a keyboard and mouse.
  • Faster processor. Without doubt, the Atom N550 dual-core is faster than the single-core Atom Z540, although the latter has a higher clock speed. In PassMark, the N550 achieves 568 points, whereas the Z540 scores only 349.
  • Larger storage capacity. It’s 320GB vs 64GB.

HP Slate 500 Pros

  • Pen input support. Although the N-Trid digitizer doesn’t work without issues, the pen input is present on the Slate.
  • A lot lighter and thinner. It measures 1.5lbs in weight and has 0.58-inch thinness versus 3.4lbs and 1.13″ on the Dell.
  • SSD. Although the 7,200rpm rotational speed on the Inspirion Duo’s HDD is greater than on standard 5,400rpm laptop hard drives, it can’t compare to an SSD in terms of performance.
  • Longer battery life – According to Tablet PC Review, the battery life on the Slate for everyday use is about five hours, while in Engadget’s review the Inspiron Duo had a run time of about three hours.
  • Docking station and video output. As we said, the docking station for the Slate 500 is included in the $500 price. The dock has HDMI output, while Inspiron Duo can not be connected to an external display, even via its docking station, which you can by separately for additional $100.

Other Windows 7 Tablet Alternatives for Under $500

For about $30 less than the price for the Inspiron Duo, the Asus Eee PC T101MT-EU37-BK has a faster Atom N570 CPU, but a lower 1024 x 600 resolution on its 10.1″ screen, only 1GB of RAM, a 250GB 5,400rpm HDD, and Starter Windows version, so the Inspiron Duo 1090 is obviously a better choice.

The only alternative with keyboard-less slate form factor we have found is the Archos 9 for $449.99, but it’s not a serious competitor to the HP Slate 500 due to used resistive single-touch screen technology.

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