The wait seemed like forever for the HP TouchPad to make it way to the market. Announced back in February of this year we waited patiently for the WebOS based tablet to jump into the ring and fight among the rest of the Android and iOS tablets in the market. Was the long wait worth it?
Hardware & Design
The HP Touchpad is a portrait style tablet with a 9.7 inch screen and all black plastic finish which is definitely fingerprint heavy so keep your microfiber cloth handy. The display is good but in direct light will wash out but had good viewing angles. There is some dullness to it but I think that’s more on the OS that the display. They take a minimalist approach with buttons with just a volume button on top, volume button on the right side and home button on the front that lights up when there is a new notification. Only port on the device is a micro USB port for charging and syncing but you will need to use the included wall charger to always charge because it will tell you other adapters are not powerful enough to charge it. The left side had the dual speakers which will be on either the top or bottom in when you hold in landscape mode. There is an extra slot that you would think be expandable storage but instead it’s where your serial information will pop out which is just a waste of a good slot. The speakers come with Beats Audio technology. The sound is excellent and the best I have heard from a tablet hands down. The only two tablets that I can think of that come close but are still far behind is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 speakers and the ones on the Blackberry Playbook.
There isn’t a rear facing camera which is disappointing but there is a 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera for video chat and that’s about it’s all good for in terms of quality. It’s a thick and hefty tablet with most of the weight in the center of the tablet. Internally there is a 1.2 Ghz processor, 16 GB of storage (32 GB option available), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Touch To Share which only works with the Pre 3 which isn’t available yet. The design is nice but feels like a “last year” design.
Software & Usability
WebOS 3.0 is the latest version of the software and the TouchPad is the first to use it. It takes awhile for it to boot and setup is somewhat long which we did in our first impressions post. When you first look at it you appreciate the elegance and design of WebOS it’s definitely one of the better looking platforms. The lock screen doesn’t have much information on it but it will let you know if you have new updates via notifications but you can’t interact with them on the lock screen. When you unlock it you get the home screen which is the only desktop you get as there is no multiple desktops. There isn’t much room for customizations other than changing your wallpaper and the bottom shortcut bar. At top you have a bar which will show all of your notifications and give you quick access to controls such as Bluetooth, wi-fi, clock, VPN and screen lock. Below that is the just type bar which is your search bar for anything on the device, on the web, a message or a Facebook status update. The bottom bar has an arrow which when you tap on will bring up the app menu. You can also access this by using gestures although there isn’t much space available on the tablet to use them you can swipe all the way up to bring up the app menu and this will also bright you out of an app to the main menu.
The app choices is not much now for the Touchpad. You don’t get a lot pre-installed and what’s available in the HP App Catalog is slim and few apps are tablet optimized as the store ha mainly apps for the phone versions of WebOS. When you install though you get an emulated Pre with the app running inside of it and it uses no tablet functionality. The browser works as it should and has flash support and tis quick to load up sites and play flash content fine. I tested the multi-touch here and it works as advertised but it could be just a tad bit smoother but it’s not a major issue. The email app stores all of your email accounts in one place and uses a new 3 panel view that let’s you adjust how you view your e-mails. This panel view is also used the messaging client and 3rd party apps like Spaz HD twitter takes advantage of it as well. There is no direct video player as its done all through the Gallery. 720p content plays fine and smooth but 1080p is jittery and chopping in some places while playing it. The Music player works but has some bugs where it will skip through songs or not respond to commands. If you come out of the main music player a mini player does show up in the notification section and lock screen. Audio out of this device sound great with the Beats Audio.
Now you see that I’ve got all these apps open but how do you manage them? Well this is the best part of WebOS is the multitasking. It uses a card system that lets you scroll between all the apps and you can stack apps on top of each other for better organization and will just a flick up you can close the application out. It’s the best multitasking I’ve seen in any of the mobile OSes out there it just feels native and how it should work. Touch-To-Share is available on the TouchPad but only the Palm Pre3 will work with it. There is functionality with the Veer via Bluetooth for phone calls and text messaging but non of the cool stuff that they showed back in February.
Battery life is correct with that HP says with it getting about 8 hours of battery life. If used heavy you can a day out of it with moderate usage you can pull a day and a half before plugging it into charge. Just be sure to use the charger that it came with or it will tell you that there isn’t enough power coming into to charge and you have to use their charger.
WebOS itself is good and comes with great potential but the current build in the TouchPad has its bugs and sluggish performance. I had moments where it wouldn’t respond to any commands. Music would just skip all around and still play even if I closed the app. The black notification box would stay on-screen but show no information. All signs that an update is on the way.
For as long as this took to come out I have mixed feeling about it. I am happy that a WebOS tablet is possible but the OS itself doesn’t feel like its been fully tablet optimized. It comes off as if HP took extra time to make it fit into a tablet instead of designing it around it. The design just feels dated compared to tablets of now. Its hard now to recommend the Touchpad with so many more tablets out there albeit with their flaws but hitting their cues where they should. I feel the Touchpad is a 1st generation tablet in a 2nd generation going on 3rd gen tablet world.