HP Slate 7 hits US for $169. How does it stack up against Google’s $199 Nexus 7?

Months after it was introduced, HP’s Slate 7 is available in the U.S. for $169.99. That’s not a bad price for a 7-inch Android(s goog) tablet with a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor, but to keep costs down HP(s hpq) had to cut a corner here and there. And that makes it a difficult choice to choose the Slate 7 over Google’s own Nexus 7, even though the latter costs $30 more.

Nexus 7, tabletsHP is shipping the Slate 7 with Android 4.1. That’s close to current, but of course Google’s own product ships with the latest version: Android 4.2. It’s also very likely to get software updates faster. Both tablets include 1 GB of memory. HP’s Slate 7 has 8 GB of internal storage capacity with support for an additional 32 GB of micro SD expansion. The Nexus 7 with 16 GB of storage doesn’t have a micro SD card slot.

Both tablets have front-facing video cameras for chatting, but here the Slate 7 one-ups the Nexus: HP added a 3 megapixel camera to the rear of the tablet. HP also included support for Beats Audio sound. ┬áThere’s not much difference in the size and weight of the two tablets, which is not surprising given that both have 7-inch screens. The Nexus 7 wins out here, however, using a 1280 x 800 display. HP opted for a 1024 x 600 screen, which is the same low resolution on the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab I bought in 2010.

Unless you really need a rear camera or micro SD card slot on your 7-inch tablet — or just have to have Beats Audio support — I’d probably spend the extra $30 on the Nexus 7 if you can swing the money. And if you’re in the market for a small slate right now, I’d even consider waiting a few short weeks. Google’s I/O Developer event takes place in mid-May and it was at last year’s event that Google introduced its Nexus 7. A refresh could be in the works, meaning either more tablet for your dollar or last year’s model at a lower price could be coming.

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It’s certainly good to see HP get into the mobile market with a new tablet, especially since the HP TouchPad was a billion-dollar bust. The company needs to step it up though when it comes to hardware. It’s 2013, not 2010 and people are starting to expect higher-resolution displays in their laptops and their tablets to help improve the experience.