November 19, 2010, 2:32 PM — Even though the HP Zeen Android tablet is not available as a stand-alone tablet, the comparison seems inevitable. After all, one has to wonder what exactly this tablet is, being that ships with the HP Photosmart eStation C510 inkjet multifunction printer. If it's being billed as a detachable tablet, how does it compare with the cream of today's Android-slate crop, the Samsung Galaxy Tab?
Inevitable, perhaps, and admittedly not fair: HP isn't marketing the Zeen on its own, selling it instead as the on-screen-navigation complement to the C510 printer. So before you ask, no, you haven't missed the memo on HP's jumping into the Android-tablet fray.
That's what the planned HP Slate will do, whenever it ships--and it will be a tablet with Windows, not Android.
Regardless of HP's intent, however, it's worth considering the Zeen alongside the tablet competition. And after we did our comparison, the Zeen's role became clear.
Zeen Up Close
On the surface, the Zeen certainly resembles a tablet. Aside from a slightly wider bezel around its capactive touch screen and its touch buttons running along the border in landscape orientation (as opposed to portrait), the Zeen looks just like any of the Android tablets on my desk right now.
It's when you pick up the Zeen and look closer that the differences appear. Since it's made to be sold with a printer, it largely lacks the design aesthetics you might expect from a stand-alone tablet. It's neither sleek nor sexy; rather, the Zeen has a bulky protrusion on its back, in part to accommodate the ports and slots (a printer docking port, mini-USB, an SD Card slot that's supposed to support SDHC but didn't recognize my SDHC card). And it weighs 1.5 pounds, the same as the 9.7-inch iPad, even though it has only a 7-inch screen.
When I powered up the Zeen, its position as an outlier in the tablet world became even more obvious.
For starters, although you can hold the unit in portrait mode (and the screen will reorient as needed), it's designed to be used in landscape mode. The home, back, and menu buttons all run along the top right, while at bottom sits the docking port for the printer. The tablet is necessary to use the printer--without it, you won't get very far.