Computers / Hands-on Review

HP Elite Slice: Minimal. Modular. Mighty.

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Designed as a compact computing solution, the HP Elite Slice might not seem to be much at first; however, this little system is here to change what you think a traditional desktop computer should look like. By itself, the Slice is a 6.5 x 6.5" soft-cornered square. It fits comfortably on an outstretched hand, and weighs roughly enough for you to know that it is packing some hardware. Furthermore, it’s also available in a customized version suited for meeting rooms and conference spaces—more on that in just a second.

HP Elite Slice Ultra-Small Form Factor Desktop Computer

The most unique aspect of the system though, would be its modular design. Unlike standard desktop computers, the Elite Slice is user-upgradeable using similar-sized units, which install easily onto the main unit via built-in clips and an HP Slice Connector. These stackable units allow you to pick and choose additional functionality, with options such as an Audio Module, an ODD (Optical Disk Drive) Module, and a VESA Mounting Module. Its front cover can also feature a Collaboration Cover or a Wireless Charging Cover.

HP Audio Module for Elite Slice Desktop PC

As a stand-alone unit, the Elite Slice can be configured in various ways, from an Intel® Core™ i3 processor to a Core i7, up to 32GB of DDR4 2133 MHz RAM, and up to a 512GB M.2 NVMe solid-state drive or a 500GB 7200 rpm SATA hard drive. Regardless of the configuration you choose, the Elite Slice has a single Gigabit Ethernet LAN jack, built-in 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity, a DisplayPort and HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack, and two USB 3.1 Type-C and two Type-A ports. Since this is a system suited for a business environment, it relies only on its integrated graphics for video output. While it may not be as powerful as a dedicated graphics card, it’s definitely enough for watching Full HD content smoothly on a 1920 x 1080 display.

As the name implies, the Audio Module provides you with rich and deep sound powered by Bang & Olufsen speakers, great for speakerphone or multimedia playback. It also features bidirectional HP noise cancellation and a dual-microphone array with a 5-meter range so you can easily communicate with coworkers and clients. When needed, you can use HP’s Audio Boost to adjust audio settings to fit your current application. By adding an ODD module, you can read and write optical media, such as CDs and DVDs, to quickly back up files and access content. It might seem unnecessary at first since most of us have moved onto flash drives, email attachments, and cloud sharing; however, there are still plenty of uses and scenarios where an optical drive can come in handy. Lastly, there’s a VESA mounting plate that enables you to mount the Elite Slice easily on a fixed location.

HP ODD Module for Elite Slice Desktop PC

The Collaboration Cover is ideal for conference and meeting rooms with its touch-enabled controls that include call, microphone mute, volume up and down, and hang-up functions. It’ll let you adjust audio settings quickly and easily without having to do it on-screen. Since the Elite Slice is a small system meant to be placed on your desk, using these touch controls will feel like second nature after years of smartphone use. For those of you with wireless-charging-enabled phones, the Wireless Charging Cover supports devices up to 6" diagonally, and provides you with simple set-and-forget charging, a feature especially important for modern-day professionals who always need their phone to be full and ready.

At a first glance, the Elite Slice is a stylish system. It’s small, sleek, and doesn’t have many gaudy designs or stickers. Its flat black top is emblazoned with the HP logo and right beneath the cover is what I think are heatsinks for heat dissipation. It's not very noticeable at first, depending on the angle from which you’re looking at it, but when you do notice it, it’s a nice touch that gives you a break from its otherwise full matte black enclosure. The Elite Slice doesn’t take up much room on the desk either. Depending on how many modules you get, it gets taller, but not to a point where it sticks out like a sore thumb.

After booting it up and completing the Windows 10 startup wizard, I was greeted by the familiar Windows 10 desktop. I noticed that the whole process took a while, which probably meant that I was provided a mid-range unit with a hard drive and not a solid-state drive. While this didn’t detract from my experience, users should know that solid-state drive configurations are available should you require the speed and performance. Speaking of performance, due to the wide variety of configurations, it’s hard to judge a system based on variables, therefore I can only say performance is satisfactory across the board. What you buy is what you’ll get.

What really matters most are the features the Elite Slice brings. One of the most noteworthy applications is Intel Unite. This feature is an easy-to-use solution that helps you connect more devices wirelessly such as displays, projectors, or interactive whiteboards. It also enables multi-client split screen, Lync status integration, an interactive participant list, remote view, and annotations. For example, you can wirelessly pair the Elite Slice to the 55" HP LD5511 Large Format Display for easy sharing in large group meetings, or the 23.8" HP EliteDisplay S240uj as an additional work monitor for a dual or even triple screen setup to further enhance your multitasking capabilities.

While I wasn’t able to test this feature, the Elite Slice has enhanced security and protection with HP Sure Start with Dynamic Protection, a self-healing BIOS that monitors and corrects BIOS corruption in real time. This will keep your system safe and secure from outside attacks so you’ll be able to work in peace. Meanwhile, HP Touchpoint Manager lets you manage data, security, and devices from a single cloud-based solution. For additional security, use the HP Master Keyed Cable Lock to further secure the system in place, or purchase a unit with an optional built-in fingerprint sensor. The Elite Slice also comes preinstalled with Windows 10 Pro, which has improved system and data protection compared to Windows 7.

Overall, the system was simple to set up and use, but also worth noting is that it did not include much bloatware. HP has a few pre-installed applications; however, most of them were for security and monitoring purposes. The speakers provided loud and clear audio playback, without sounding too hollow, and the microphone was able to pick up speech even in a noisy environment.

What I enjoyed the most was the modularity of the unit and the embedded touch controls for audio adjustments. It might not seem to be such a huge deal, but having them only a few inches away from my reach was both convenient and reassuring. As for its modular design, what's not to love? If you need something, you add it. If you don't, then great, because there's less clutter. By expanding vertically, it retains the same desktop footprint and due to its limited accessories, you won't have to worry about ending up with an actual tower-like PC.

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