The HP TouchPad has been a long time coming. It was first officially announced back in February, and we even got to play around with it a bit at MWC. Well the TouchPad is finally out on the market, and it’s arrived at a time when the market is already flooded with way too many tablets, so the big question is – can it compete?
The HP TouchPad sports a pretty attractive design. Its glossy curved backside is pretty slick, but the device also measures 9.45″ inches wide by 7.48″ high by 0.54″ and weighing 1.6lbs it’s also too thick and heavy in comparison to the likes of the iPad 2 and latest Samsung Galaxy Tabs. The overall, build quality of the TouchPad is solid, but the device is too heavy for our own personal tastes. Also, the backside is a fingerprint magnet. That said, we’ve noticed a funny discrepancy in opinion here regarding its form-factor. The females in our office who have picked it up have right away said that it’s too heavy for them, while the males didn’t seem to care and instead have commented on the device’s solid build quality. Anyway, form-factor aside, the display on the HP Touchpad is a somewhat standard 9.7-inch diagonal, LED-backlit display with a mediocre 1024 x 768 resolution. This display is comparable to the iPad’s own display and is a solid, if not spectacular display, with good color reproduction and viewing angles.
Under the hood the TouchPad is running on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core APQ8060 which isn’t the latest or greatest for a tablet, but it provides the tablet with plenty of pep and generally smooth performance. The system also comes with Beats Audio which provides an enhanced audio experience when listening to music with headphones plugged in. That said, the system’s built-in set of two speakers are moderately powerful – and they certainly can get a lot louder than the like’s of the iPad’s speaker system.
The TouchPad also sports a front-facing webcam and microphone for video calling. It’s the only tablet so far to really think about setting you up with proper voice communication tools out of the box. In that respect, the TouchPad can make calls using Skype, or you can connect an HP WebOS phone to it to make and receive phone calls through the TouchPad over bluetooth. When making calls, callers sounded clear over a Skype call. The loud speaker on the TouchPad sounds nice, loud and clear during calls, however callers said that we sounded far away when speaking to them through the TouchPad’s mic. Overall, when it comes to video calling, the TouchPad’s integration with Skype is quite seamless and easy to use.
The TouchPad’s front facing camera that is used for video calling is actually a 1.3mp camera. It is disappointing that they did not include a rear-facing camera too for some more serious picture taking. Also, there is no dedicated camera app, so the front-facing camera is relegated to just making video calls.
As for as the operating system running on the TouchPad is concerned, we’re quite smitten with the WebOS. The operating system really does a nice job of translating itself from a smartphone OS to a tablet OS, where it can really shine. Overall, WebOS on the TouchPad is polished, easy to use, and manages to multitask like a charm. As a matter of fact, we’d take the WebOS user interface over Android Honeycomb any day.
Out of the box, the setup process for the TouchPad is easy. When you turn on the device you’ll also be prompted with the option to restore the device using backups from other WebOS phones, like the HP Veer – if you have a WebOS account.
When it comes to social media, WebOS shines with tight Facebook integration. Once you have downloaded the Facebook app, you can sync your Calendar, Contacts and even photos with the TouchPad. As a matter of fact, Facebook Photo integration with Facebook is really nice. The TouchPad Photos & Videos apps syncs up with Your Facebook albums so that you can easily flip through all your Facebook photos. However, we do have a bit of a gripe with the standalone Facebook app and that is, that it separates certain tasks like composing a message into a sub card, which seems a bit disjointed.
WebOS also does an excellent job of messaging integration. Out of the box you can connect with AIM, Google Chat, Skype, and Yahoo instant messenger. This tight messaging and Facebook integration feels more seamless and intuitive than iOS and Honeycomb’s offerings. WebOS also does a great job of handling notifications which show up in the top right corner, or on the lock screen when the device isn’t in use. Finally, WebOS does a great job with Google accounts integration too, so much so that you can even sync your Google docs documents with the device.
The Web Browser on the TouchPad provides a solid web browsing experience too with support for Flash and pinch to zoom. Web sites render nicely and tend to render quickly tool. We only wish that the browser interface used tabs instead of cards.
But most of all, the TouchPad really shines when it comes to multitasking. The WebOS card system makes multitasking efficient, and even fun. That said, we did notice an occasional, but minimal lag when switching between apps.
Speaking of apps, the TouchPad comes bundled with a healthy selection of apps including Quickoffice, Web, Email, Calendar, Messaging, Memos, Adobe Reader, Maps, Contacts, Phone & Video Calls, Music, Photos and Videos, Amazon Kindle, and YouTube – which is actually just a shortcut. And unfortunately, no games are included. Regarding QuickOffice, this app can sync with Box.net, Dropbox, Google, MobileMe docs – so that you can view your Office documents in the cloud, right from your TouchPad. HP Movie Store is coming soon which should extend the device’s entertainment possibilities by allowing users to download movies onto their TouchPad.
Of-course, you can download more apps for the TouchPad from HP’s App Catalog. The App catalog’s user interface is very easy to navigate and it will let you download apps in the background as you continue to browse for other apps. Some of the neater available apps include – Facebook Tablet, Groupon, Box.net for TouchPad with 50GB free, Angry Birds HD, Yelp, USA Today, Epicurious, iHeartRadio, WordPress, and WeatherBug. Overall, it’s not a bad selection of available apps for now, but many of the major players aren’t there yet.
There is a lot too like about the TouchPad, and most of it is due to the fact that WebOS holds so much promise. Unfortunately, from a hardware standpoint, the TouchPad is way too heavy for our taste – it feels like a beast compared to the iPad 2. Had the TouchPad come out last year, it would have given the first gen iPad a real good fight. That said, it does offer a nice design and solid build quality, but overall, the hardware feels like a last gen device compared to the likes of the latest Galaxy Tabs and so on. It’s also a real shame that a rear-facing camera wasn’t included on the TouchPad.
Regardless we are quite taken with the WebOS and how well it performs on the TouchPad. WebOS provides a beautiful U.I. for a tablet with seamless multitasking capabilities and a great overall user experience. The system’s tight Facebook, Google Doc and messaging integration, as well as its neat notification system have also wowed us. We’d even go as far as saying that we’d take the WebOS in a Galaxy Tab body over Honeycomb, because if you ask us, It’s just simpler and more intuitive. That said, we hope the rumors of HP possibly licensing WebOS to manufacturers like Samsung are true, we just hope they don’t wait too long to make it happen. However, like any tablet trying to compete with the iPad, HP’s App Catalog for the TouchPad needs more apps – not so much in quantity, but quality.
The HP TouchPad retails for $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model and $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only model. AT&T has also just announced a HP TouchPad 4G that will run on AT&T’s network. This model will pack in 32GB of storage, unimproved 1.5GHz processor and GPS. In addition, HP is offering the super neat HP Touchstone Charging Dock for $79.99 which is able to charge the TouchPad on contact, while also doubling as a stand for the device.
The Good: WebOS is slick, polished and easy to use, excellent messaging and social media integration, great multi-tasker, solid construction
The Bad: Heavy and bulky, no rear-facing camera, very limited app selection