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August 26, 2011

HP TouchPad Review

The HP TouchPad is the very first webOS tablet ever built, and probably the last and only one — after HP recently announced it will abandon all devices running on the platform. Check out our full review of the HP TouchPad after the jump.

The TouchPad reminds us of the very first iPad and the black iPhone 3G — sleek, shiny, a bit bulky and definitely an eye-candy with a lot of potential and following (up until it’s demise).

The HP TouchPad had a pretty respectable lineage — coming from Palm and a product of a flexible webOS platform, HP surely got a bargain when they bought the company over a year ago.

At 9.7″, the HP TouchPad go head-to-head against the iPad — although it’s got this glossy finish both at front and back that’s very attractive to fingerprints and grease. It’s a bit chunky too and heavy to hold with one hand (technically heavier than the iPad 1) with a curved back that slightly tapers towards the sides.

The power button and 3.5mm port is on top, the volume rocker is on the right side, two speakers are oddly lined up on the left side (upper left and lower left corner). The bottom right side also has this slot — not sure if it’s for an SD card or a SIM card — but when it pops out, there’s no circuitry there except for some bar codes and serial number.

It’s a bit weird though that they’d put that slot just to hide the serial codes — perhaps, it was for a 3G/4G model that didn’t push thru? (as it turns out, this is an aesthetic approach to hiding those serial numbers)

At the bottom end, the micro-USB port serves as power and data port which makes it more universally usable compared to other proprietary 9-pin USB port on other tablets.

Up in the front, the webcam is on top (for Skype video) and at the bottom is the singular, physical Home button (looks like a biometric scanner) that’s somewhat backlit.

The screen is bright and crisp with strikingly vivid colors, thanks to that IPS display. The glass extends towards the end with curved corners. The black bezel is just as thick as the iPad2.

HP webOS 3.0 is a pretty capable platform, both on paper and actual performance, although it still needs some more refinements. It’s an okay OS for a first-generation tablet. We encountered some apps crashing and moments of un-responsiveness but these are issues we felt can be fixed in future firmware/software updates. In terms of platform stability, I’d say the experience is closer to Honeycomb rather than iOS.

If you’ve used or tried a Palm Pre before, you’re already familiar with the webOS UI — a single homescreen with windows that scroll horizontally (it’s card-based UI with stacks). Each instance of an app will have a “paused” state when not in active window so you can switch between them anytime, just like in Android or iOS. To exit an application, just press down on a window and flick them upwards (same as the BlackBerry Playbook).

A taskbar is always present at the bottom corner of the UI which supports up to 5 icons (shortcuts) with the browser, email, photo/video, calendar and messaging as the default icons. At the far right is the App launcher.

Here’s a quick familiarization tour we uploaded on YouTube:

The screen is responsive and fairly accurate although we encountered moments where the touch interface is a bit confused or un-cooperative. The gyroscope (for orientation) is also sometimes wonky. When touching the screen, a small ripple effect gives you a visual cue that an object or area is selected but we felt that kind of feedback is more appropriate for smaller screens like the Pre.

The virtual keyboard is laid out pretty nicely and provide audio feedback when tapping each of the widely-spaced keys. The layout and configuration is the closest (among other OSes we tried) to a regular physical keyboard which makes it very comfortable and easy to use.

There’s a universal search that shows results from all media, contacts, apps and content.

Performance of the TouchPad ranges from spotty to fairly good — it runs apps pretty well and has no problems with full HD videos as well as games. However, we generally noticed that loading of apps seems to take a while — up to 10 seconds in some apps (from fresh boot and tend to take longer with multiple windows/apps running). I was expecting some blazing fast load times considering this tablet is running a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.

HP TouchPad
9.7″ IPS display @ 768×1024 pixels
1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core APQ8060 processor
Qualcomm Adreno 220 core
1GB memory
16GB and 32GB internal storage
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
aGPS
1.3MP front-facing camera
SMS and MMS support
Flash support
microUSB
6300mAh battery
HP webOS 3.0

Apps are sparse, just over 6,000 and can run the ones made for the mobile devices (the HP App Catalog lists only 1,587 TouchPad apps as of today). The basic ones are there though, like Facebook, FourSquare and LinkedIn. However, Twitter and DropBox are conspicuously absent.

Web browsing is smooth and pages load pretty fast. The native browser supports Javascript and Flash out of the box (but you can specifically disabled each one from the settings so you have more control on how the browser behaves).

The native email client is interesting since it offers some sort of One Inbox for everything and displays in 3 panels. It can be confusing at first but you’d easily get the hang of it.

One of the most impressive feature of this tablet is the stereo speakers which is powered by Beats by Dr. Dre. It’s got the nicest and loudest speakers I’ve ever heard on any tablet.

Battery life is decent and I get over 7 hours on video playback and longer on web browsing over WiFi.

The HP TouchPad originally sold for $499 for the 16GB model back in July. Then HP dropped the price by $100 early August (this is when we bought this review unit from Amazon for $399).

By August 20, 2011, HP announced it will discontinue production of all webOS devices, including the TouchPad. It then declared a fire sale on all tablets — $99 for the 16GB and $149 for the 32GB. People went crazy and bought all stocks within the day making the HP TouchPad an overnight sensation and the most popular device on Amazon that week.

HP promised they will still support webOS and provide warranty to all webOS devices but will no longer develop the product line. The webOS tablet was short-lived — 49 days in the market to be exact.

The TouchPad could have been a competitive tablet had it been released earlier. It’s actually a good device for first-gen webOS tablet. It’s not super-polished but it had a good start. Too bad HP had to dump it that fast.

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35 Responses to “HP TouchPad Review”

  1. Cyril says:

    how much is this HP touchpad?

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