Review: A tablet for note-takers

October 9, 2015 | Last updated on October 9, 2015
3 min read
Double exposure of businessman using the tablet with cityscape and financial graph which have earth and world map on computer blurred background
© Thananit Suntiviriyanon / 123Rf Stock Photo

HP Pro Slate tablets are designed for business users who cling to paper notes, even as their partners, staff and clients push them into this century. Reviewing* them, I found they allow the tech-reluctant advisor to have the best of both worlds—or, at least, the “pretty good” of both worlds.

The tablets, which come in 12” or 8” versions, run on the Android operating system. They are sleek and responsive, and I like the screens. (I own another 8” tablet, and found the larger 12” one to be cumbersome except when it was flat on a desk.) But none of that will matter to the target users. Instead, they’ll probably care most about the tablet’s Duet Pen. This pen has a stylus end that allows the user to write on the screen. When used in conjunction with the HP Notes app (exclusive to these devices, so far), it records notes clearly and, more importantly, can turn those handwritten notes into type. The translation works well and is the most appealing aspect of these tablets.

But there’s more. You can flip the pen from stylus end to pen end. Then, when you put the Notes app on its paper setting, the writing you put on any nearby paper pad shows up on the screen. Even a jaded, techno-blasé reprobate like me finds this cool. Once your writing’s on the screen, it can be turned into a PDF, saved and shared. Thus, tech-phobic advisors get to keep using paper, and their administration and compliance colleagues get electronic copies of the notes. A win-win.

Some quibbles

The biggest limitation is that, when writing paper notes, character recognition drops dramatically. When I tried it, my messy handwriting was next to unreadable by the app. It only worked when I wrote slowly using careful block printing (which is unnatural).

Other issues:

  • The pen needs to be recharged periodically. It doesn’t have a battery level indicator, so you may run out of power unexpectedly during a client meeting. Fortunately, the pen seemed to last at least several whole days.
  • The paper needs to be positioned a particular way for the Notes app to work, so it’s worth getting the extra notepad case, called a Paper Folio, to stop the pad from moving (even for the extra cost). The Folio costs $79 and $102 for the 8” and 12” tablets, respectively.
  • You can’t flip between paper and screen notes in the same Note document. You need to close one and select a different pen option (and physically flip the pen tip to stylus).
  • The tablets’ prices are relatively high in comparison to other tablets, including iPads and some Windows 8 tablets, especially when you factor in the notepad case. The HP Pro Slate 8 starts at $519, while the HP Pro Slate 12 starts at $649.
  • The Android operating system has a small learning curve if you’ve never used it.


I’m a fan of tablet computing in client meetings. But would I use one of these two tablets? If I were desperate for paper notes, yes. And, if you like technology but don’t yet own a tablet, the HP Pro Slates are worth considering. The Notes app alone makes them contenders.

If you already own a tablet, however, then you can download Microsoft Office’s OneNote app for free to capture your on-screen writing and convert it to editable text. It’s an app that’s similar to, and more widely available than, HP Notes. The Pro Slate’s paper conversion feature is interesting, but can be duplicated for most purposes by using an app like CamScanner or Office Lens on any paper source.

*Kevin Cork was loaned a tablet for review purposes, and received no compensation from the manufacturer for this review.

by Kevin Cork, CFP, president of and a best-selling author