Business PCs are fairly straightforward in their offerings – turn them on, tend to email and some documents, or click around in a few custom apps every not and then. They don’t need to be flashy or super-powerful in any way (at least for normal office use), and at the end of the day just need to get things done with the minimal amount of fuss. HP incidentally has been furnishing business users with a variety of PCs, but their latest offering tries to be more than just a standard PC. Say hello to the HP Elite Slice.
Build quality & design
The name itself makes it sound like some sort of high-tech bit of kitchen equipment, but the Elite Slice is HP’s answer to a business PC that can also double as a much-needed addition to conference rooms and boardrooms.
At it’s core, the Elite Slice is a compact PC that’s a tad smaller than say the Apple Mac Mini. A sleek and slightly curved square box, it features mostly slight matte black plastic surface, with a sort of raised top that helps air to circulate. At the back you’ll find most of the device’s connectivity, including power, Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, and two USB ports. There’s also a USB-C port at the back and to the side, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s worth noting that the rear USB-C port can be used to drive both power and video to the Elite Slice when connected to a compatible monitor – and of course, HP just happens to sell such a monitor. For the rest of us common folk, you’ll have to make do with using the regular power brick that comes with the unit. You also get a pretty standard wireless keyboard and mouse, however for reasons unknown these require a wireless dongle to work, eating up one of your precious USB ports right from the start. Why these things don’t run on Bluetooth is beyond me, but that’s a whole other conversation. I really would have liked a USB port on the front or side for quick device connectivity, but sadly it just isn’t so – time to break out the trusty USB hub.
The model that I received for review was the Elite Slice for Meeting Rooms, which has a special cover on the top that allows quick controls to make or receive calls (in supported apps) as well as microphone and volume controls. An additional model features a wireless charging option, but sadly you have specify this before you order your unit as it can’t be added on later.
The Elite Slice also has a rather quirky way of adding to its abilities in the form of expansion modules – essentially these are the ‘slices’ that you can snap on to add or remove features as you wish. HP sent us two, one that adds on an optical drive and another that adds a speaker system that’s powered by Bang & Olufsen. Yes, it is very weird to see B&O tacked on for a business PC, but I’ll save that observation for later.
The expansion modules simply and cleanly stack on top of each other, interfacing via a hidden USB-C connector at the bottom of the Elite Slice. They come apart quite easily with a small unlock button at the back, and a single Kensington lock secures all the modules in place. There’s also an optional VESA module that you can get if you’d like to mount the Elite Slice behind your monitor, but that’s where things stop. There aren’t any other expansion modules available just yet, so it would be nice to see what HP can dream up in the future. Perhaps a storage module might be something worth looking into, or even a future GPU module that could be used for tasks that the internal graphics chip just can’t keep up with. I honestly don’t know how many businesses would use the optical drive expansion module, but if HP has made one then surely there’s a market for it.
The Elite Slice will most likely be pre-configured by a company’s IT department before being sent across from HP. Our review model came with 8GB of RAM, an Intel i5 processor, and 256GB of storage, along with the two expansion models. Other models are available from 4GB of RAM and an i3 processor, but I doubt that would be able to pull off anything more than casual web browsing. Windows 10 Pro is the OS of choice here, and comes ready to configure once you’ve set up the Elite Slice.
As a normal office desktop PC, the Elite Slice did pretty much what I needed it to do. Our web-based CMS was hardly a taxing challenge for it, and even doing a few basic edits in Adobe Photoshop were pulled off with ease. Of course, this is a slightly beefed up version we’re toying around with – I suspect that the 4GB models may have a bit of a challenge dealing with heavier things like Microsoft Dynamics or something similar. But if you’ve got a virtualized infrastructure such as Citrix in place, you should be good to go.
The Elite Slice for Meeting Rooms is so called because HP wants it to be front and center of your meeting spaces. With the audio expansion module attached, the Elite Slice was able to pump out much louder audio, but you’re not going to be using this to listen to inspirational piano music at work. Instead, this audio module is perfect for doing business calls via Skype, which integrates perfectly into the touch controls located at the top of the device. These let you quickly answer a Skype call and control the volume, but sadly this doesn’t work with other VOIP or telephony apps – not just yet, anyway. Still, putting this in a conference room would be a smart move, as the Elite Slice’s microphone is very good at picking up audio, no matter which direction it’s coming from. So a table full of executives all taking part in a conference call would not be a hassle whatsoever.
HP’s other plan for the Elite Slice is to make it easier for people to walk into a meeting room or boardroom, fire up their laptop or appropriate device, and start presenting without having to worry about finding the right cables to connect everything up. This is done intelligently via Intel’s Unite software, which when launched puts the Elite Slice into a special configuration for presentations. Users simply fire up the Unite app on their device, enter the code for the Elite Slice they want to pair to, and they’re off. In theory this is a great idea, and for the first ten minutes I was actually able to get this to work. But after that, the Unite software just refused to even start, stating that it was suddenly incompatible with the hardware it was running on. I chalked it down to software bugs and moved on, as it’s hardly HP’s fault.
So here’s the question you’ve been dying to ask – does the HP Elite Slice deserve a space in your office? Well yes and no. As a conferencing solution, it absolutely does what it was designed to do, making conference calls and presentations much more manageable for offices. As a desktop PC it looks nice, but priced at AED 3,300 (including the modules) it’s a bit of a steep purchase for office use. Yes, the Elite Slice is a stylish business PC, but honestly who really is worried about what their office PC looks like when it’s almost always shoved under your desk or in a corner. The Elite Slice was built for the boardroom, and that’s where it truly will shine.