HP's Elite Slice is a truly modular business PC

You can add or subtract features via modules with the HP Elite Slice.
You can add or subtract features via modules with the HP Elite Slice.PHOTO: HP

The HP Elite Slice is a modular computer that lets you add or subtract features via modules that can stack on top of each other, like Lego bricks.

In its most basic form, the Slice is a flat squarish box with rounded corners, like an Apple TV.

The power button is at the rear, along with a decent assortment of ports, including an Ethernet port, HDMI and DisplayPort. There are two full-size USB ports, which are immediately taken up by my mouse and keyboard.

The Slice also comes with two USB 3.1 Type-C ports that can be used to transfer data and power, in addition to connecting to a display.

In fact, you can do without the Slice's bundled power adaptor by connecting the computer to a compatible monitor, such as the HP EliteDisplay S240uj, via USB Type-C. The Slice will then draw power from the monitor via the USB Type-C cable, as well as output its video to the monitor through the same cable, thereby reducing cable clutter.

Inside the Slice, you'll find the components that make up a computer - including the CPU, system memory and internal storage.

My review unit has a fairly beefy configuration - an Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,699 (with Audio module and Collaboration cover)

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700T (2.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics 530

    STORAGE: 512GB SSD

    RAM: 16GB

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, DisplayPort, HDMI, SD card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, audio jack

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In the PCMark 8 Home benchmark that tests computing tasks like Web browsing and document editing, the Slice scored 3,320. Performance-wise, this score falls roughly between a laptop and a powerful desktop PC.

At the bottom of the Slice is a small connector that lets it connect to a module to gain an additional feature.

HP currently sells an optical disc drive (ODD) module for $99. There is also an Audio module ($159) with Bang & Olufsen speakers, dual microphones and noise cancellation feature.

In other words, you can add an optical drive or turn the Slice into a speakerphone or media player by snapping the right module.

Or you can have both by stacking them on top of each other. Removing a module is as easy as toggling a switch at the bottom.

This modular design means you can have a barebones version for office workers that do not need optical storage or multimedia features, while the sales team can get the speakerphone feature. An upcoming Vesa mount module lets you attach the Slice to the back of a monitor to reduce desk clutter.

The top of the Slice can also be customised. There are two options to pick from. One is the Collaboration cover that includes capacitive buttons for answering and making calls, along with volume controls.

Or you can opt for the Wireless Charging cover (available early next year) that lets you charge your mobile device when the phone is placed on top of it.

Unlike the add-on modules, which you can buy when needed, you have to pick a cover when ordering the Slice because it is attached to the computer at the factory.

The Slice's compact form factor - the basic unit weighs around 1kg - and its modular design make it suitable, with the right add-ons, as a hub for meeting rooms.

The Elite Slice for Meeting Rooms package includes the Audio module and the Collaboration cover. It comes with Skype for Business, so you can make a call by pressing the button on the Collaboration cover.

But the key component is Intel Unite, a technology to enable the sharing of files and computer screens during conferences.

To do so, users have to download the Intel Unite software and enter the PIN given by the Slice to be part of the meeting.

Intel Unite seems easy to use, but it requires an existing wireless network. Because of the wireless connection, there is also a certain amount of latency.

Vincent Chang

  • Verdict:If HP can keep releasing useful modules - like a Graphics Module for content creators - the Elite Slice looks like a promising piece of business technology.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'HP's Elite Slice is a truly modular business PC'. Print Edition | Subscribe