HP TouchPad Review: Has the wait been worth it?

pp2

The world’s first webOS tablet has officially landed and it’s definitely a sight to behold. WebOS is one of the best looking, if not the best looking mobile operating systems out there today and we’re excited to see it now running on a larger screen. The spec-list on the HP TouchPad runs long and the tablet is beautifully designed, but how does it run? In this review, we’ll see if it can go head-to-head with devices like the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the super-popular iPad 2.

Read on for the full review!

The Good
  • Web OS is still one of the most beautiful mobile operating systems around.
  • Instantly sharing content from the Pre 3 to the TouchPad is a beautiful idea
  • The 1.2GHz dual-core processor is one of the fastest found in a tablet.
The Bad
  • At 1.65 pounds, the TouchPad isn't something you're going to want to hold with one hand for extended periods of time
  • Software isn't ready for prime time due to some bugs that still need to be work out.
  • The TouchPad attracts fingerprints too much and HP should have considered a matte finish for the back of the tablet.

Hardware

Upon first glance you wouldn't think the TouchPad is anything special but you'd be mistaken. The TouchPad is a high quality device but there are some design choices that HP made that some people may not be in love with. (We'll get into that later)

The face of the tablet is about as simple as it gets. You'll only find the large 9.7 inch display covered in Gorilla Glass, home button, front-facing camera, and ambient light sensor here. The top of the tablet is where you'll find the power/lock button and the 3.5 mm headphone jack, and the right spine houses only the volume rocker. The only other thing you'll find on the tablet as far as ports go is the microUSB port for charging on the bottom.

The back of the device is all done up in a shiny black plastic, which feels pretty cheap in the hand. With the exception of the FCC text on the bottom, the only thing on the back of the tablet is the HP logo.

Shipping with Qualcomm's 1.2GHz dual-core APQ8060 processor, the TouchPad is definitely up to snuff to the competition with it comes to the CPU department and bests most. The 9.7 inch IPS display provides a solid viewing experience with great viewing angles. Unfortunately, the display itself is simply too dim. Initially we thought this was because of the auto-dim feature for the tablet but it never got any brighter after the feature was turned off.

Weighing in at 1.65 pounds, the TouchPad is heavier than most tablets around, even heavier than the Motorola Xoom. With tablets like the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 on the market, the weight of the TouchPad may be a big turn off to some people. This is definitely a tablet you'll want to have propped up after a while of holding it.

You'll find the standard specs you'd expect to see on a decent tablet today: WiFi, Bluetooth, gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, etc. The only feature outside of the OS itself that allows the TouchPad to stand out is the Touch to Share feature that allows you to share content (web pages, email, phone calls) from the Pre 3 to the tablet just by touching the handset to it. This is an awesome feature but the fact that it only works with one handset in the world (right now) is a bit ridiculous. Maybe if HP had come up with more interesting WebOS handsets, this feature would be killer.

 

 

Design

The idea here is simplicity and the TouchPad screams just that. The overall design resembles the Palm Pre with its oblong shape  rounded edges. With virtually no buttons to speak of, the TouchPad may look plain to some but we can imagine HP wanted the tablet to look as clean as possible.

The back of the TouchPad is covered in a shiny black finish that looks great, but will attract fingerprints. The finish looks pretty great if you're into that sort of thing, but we could imagine that if you dropped or scratched the back of the TouchPad the contrast would make the blemish that much more apparent.

The fact that the entire TouchPad is a significant fingerprint magnet is something that should be noted. From the display to its shiny backside, this thing attracts smudges and fingerprints like no one's business. Honestly, after using the tablet for a day without cleaning it off once, it almost looks gross with all of the oils and fingerprints left. Actually cleaning the backside of the tablet doesn't get much better, as it looks like you're just pushing all of the fingerprints around rather than cleaning it.

We get what HP was trying to do here: Keep the design of the TouchPad as simple as possible and pair that design with the elegance of WebOS. For the most part, HP hit the nail on the head, as the TouchPad is gorgeous to look at. Actually touching the TouchPad is the problem. Still, this slick tablet is one of beauty and there's no way we can deny that.

Build Quality

I won't be holding back here: The TouchPad feels cheap.

The plastic backing makes it feel like a toy - a heavy one. A matte finish would helped alleviate this but I guess I can see why HP chose the shiny finish. Still, it reminds me of an old iPhone and I do keep wondering if it will suffer the same fate of a heavily used iPhone 3GS and have the backing crack over time.

The TouchPad should be able to endure normal wear and tear with little trouble. However, normal use will result in little, micro-scratches on the back of the device that won't necessarily be noticeable immediately but apparent upon inspection. If the tablet takes a tumble of any sort we would image it to stick out like a sore thumb.

HP obviously was looking to be different with its tablet and it does just that. Unfortunately, it should have looked into some of the materials that the competition is using.

Software

Oh, WebOS, where have you been? HP took its sweet ass time to bring us the TouchPad and devices like the Veer are something most people wouldn't look at twice. While the Pre 3 comes with a larger display, we're hoping that HP will take off the keyboard and give WebOS a slab device with a large display (4 inches+). Why? Because WebOS is beautiful.

If you've ever played around with a WebOS device, you'll likely feel right at home with the TouchPad. Shipping with WebOS 3.0, the signature card multitasking UI looks stunning on a large display, and it certainly helps in the productivity department. The gesture bar is no longer as functional as you'd find on WebOS phones but HP may have thought the sacrifice was acceptable due to the larger display. Maybe.

Anytime you launch an application a new card will be opened. Sometimes, depending on the application you're opening, said application will open with a blink of an eye. Unfortunately, a lot of applications will take a long time to open; just enough time to question whether if the tablet itself has frozen or not.

Lag within the OS is found throughout, but it really depends on a handful of things. Even if you don't have multiple applications open, some applications will lag significantly,  but for the most part most lag is likely due to the many things the tablet is doing at once. Even with the snappy Qualcomm processor, you may not believe the device sports the CPU that it does.

Application selection could be better with the tablet, and of course, that will only get better over time. Still, it's still nowhere near even Android's small selection, or the iPad's 100,000+ tablet applications. Pre-installed applications are what you'd expect to see from a tablet. Like Android's fragments, the TouchPad has specific parts of the application that work independently and help utilize the extra screen real estate.

As you can see in the hands-on video, the TouchPad will randomly reboot at times. We found that it wasn't due to heavy usage but just normal tasks that would send the tablet into a tissy and just reboot. Considering this was a retail version, we're not going to cut HP any slack for this: the software on the TouchPad is not completely stable and isn't ready for prime time yet.

Overall, WebOS is a great mobile OS but the best word I can use to describe it is, "cute." I say this because the only distinguishing feature for the OS is the Card UI, which is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but after digging into WebOS beyond the cards there's little else that makes it special. The UI is the novelty and while WebOS provides one of the best ways to multitask on a tablet today, it's lack of applications and surplus of software bugs leave a lot to be desired.

 

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The TouchPad's web browser is a simple and streamlined experience and you'll have trouble getting lost in it. Multiple open windows are displayed in card stacks and you can easily dismiss each page just like you would any other application.

We found that playing 720p HD Flash on the TouchPad was a pretty decent experience but there we found some lag at times.

Since the gesture area isn't what it used to be, the TouchPad offers up buttons on the top of the browser that reflect that of a standard desktop browser. While we like the gestures, the menu options are always available as well so the only thing you'll be losing is the novelty.

Other than that, the web browser performs admirably.

Multimedia

The music player on the TouchPad is exactly what you'd expect: pretty simple. The layout brings the independent panels you'll find on most of the preinstalled applications, with a panel on the left to sift through your library, a large section for selected album, and dedicated music controls along the bottom. I like the music controls a lot but it does look like it was ripped straight out of iTunes.

Photos and videos are kept neatly within its own application and is also painfully easy to use. You can browse the content or start playing a slideshow with just a tap and if you'd like to just see your albums, you can slide the large panel over the navigation panel for a full screen view of your album thumbnails.

Camera

One of the biggest misses with the TouchPad is that HP didn't include a rear camera on the tablet. However, there is a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. Its uses are extremely limited, and will only work with the Skype video chat application.  We can only hope that WebOS will see a Google+ application and take advantage of Hangouts.

 

Battery Life

The TouchPad didn't meet the advertised 9 hour battery life but it came close. Heavy use of the tablet should still get you a full eight hours and possibly more with lighter use. Still, the tablet will get you through a long flight or car ride with little worry.

The Final Take

The TouchPad is a great first try from HP and most qualms on the software side will be fixed in the future with updates. As it stands today, the software isn't bad at all but bugs are found throughout and you'll likely become frustrated with the lag the tablet can produce at times.

While software bugs and application selection will get better over time, the hardware won't. This isn't to say the hardware is bad in any way, but it lacks some features found on competitors that people will want. A rear facing camera isn't something that may actually be useful on a device like this but because the competition has included them, customers will want one.

The TouchPad could stand to shed a few ounces before it can compete with the likes of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2, but some may find the weight unoffensive and not a problem. We'd actually love to see a 7 inch version of the tablet sometime soon but who knows what HP is thinking of with WebOS.

The fact that the TouchPad attracts fingerprints like the plague is a huge turn off for me. The shiny black backing of the TouchPad looks almost gross after using it for a while and you'll need to keep the cleaning cloth on you at all times. The tablet market is still basically the newest toy for tech enthusiasts, and they are something you'll want to show off to people. Showing off a device that looks like a baby has had in its playpen is hardly something I'd want to show off to my friends.

You can tell HP put a lot of effort into the TouchPad but unfortunately due to its lack of apps, software bugs, and weight, it's too little too late. For this summer, at least. Despite whatever issues the tablet may come with the TouchPad we're still fans of it, as it's a beautiful device with some rockin' software.

I honestly wouldn't recommend the TouchPad right now. Not this version, anyway. While Rubinstein would have you believe otherwise, this beautiful tablet just isn't ready for prime time. If you've been waiting for a great challenger to the iPad 2 and the large selection of Android Honeycomb tablets, you may not find what you're looking for with the TouchPad. That may change with future WebOS tablets, but as it stands today, you may want to start waiting for a Windows 8 tablet.

We really wanted to like the TouchPad and we do for the most part. Unfortunately, our expectations were simply too high.

Back to top ▴

  • Anonymous

    great review ,you aren’t dictating what and not to buy

  • Jason Trenkler

    Great Review!

  • Jason Trenkler

    Great Review!

  • Anonymous

    Sigh, I wanted this to be so good. Total pass in my book

  • Anonymous

    Sigh, I wanted this to be so good. Total pass in my book

  • Lektriklisa

    Rubinstein conned a company into giving him a salary.  He made the same statements when the Palm Pre was released – this is just De’ja vu.

  • Anonymous

    Surely this review could do better “The Bad” points than a) weight – same as iPad 1 and how many tablets did that sell? b) software – so tell us which product came out with no bugs right out of the gate and c) holy mother of nitpicking fingerprints really?

    It’s like complaining just for the sake of complaining.

    • Anonymous

      1. We’re in an iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 world – not the first iPad world.
      2. Bugs are one thing, many are another, and having the device randomly reboot several times when doing the most simple of tasks is just plain annoying. 
      3. I’m usually not one to criticize on the fact that devices attract fingerprints but the TouchPad collects them so badly it looks unsanitary to use. Call that nitpicking all you want but it looks gross.

      I’m not recommending the TouchPad over the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1. Those who have been looking forward to the first WebOS tablet this whole time probably jumped on it in the first place. 

      • Anonymous

        While the TouchPad is indeed a bit thicker than the iPad2 or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, its neither thick or heavy overall. 

        To say the TouchPad is fat because its thicker than the iPad2 is as absurd as to say that Anne Hatthaway is fat because she’s not as skinny as Gwyneth Paltrow.  I’m an iPad2 owner, and have only played with the TouchPad at Best Buy for a few hours (combined time/multiple sessions).

        I happen to think that the TouchPad presents indeed a better solution for someone who wants to do work on the tablet than either the iPad2 or the Honeycomb tabs.  In fact I think WebOS is flat out better than iOS and Honeycomb (just like Anne Hathaway is more attractive than Gwyneth Paltrow…but that’s a conversation for a different day)

  • ClearEyes

    Why is there no comparison or reference to the best UI on any tablet–the BlackBerry PlayBook? Better weight (more portable) . More powerful–no lag or random reboots. Elegant, smooth multi-tasking.

    Wow! Better hardware, better software, yet not even a mention.

    • Anonymous

      Good point but I think it’s more natural to compare the 9 or 10 inch tablets against each other and the 7-inchers against each other. I talked about the PlayBook in my Flyer review. 

      • Anonymous

        That’s exactly why I didn’t make mention of any 7 inch tablets in the review. The Playbook having the best tablet UI is certainly up for debate, as it’s a mish-mash of all competition anyway.

      • ClearEyes

        Sorry  I actually think a tablet device needs to sit in the area between a table top size and a hip fit device  In other words, between a laptop and a telephone  
        The PlayBook form factor fits the bill. If RIM could fit an 8 inch screen in the same size case, I would be a tiny bit happier. But they MUST NOT make the case bigger  
        I still don’t see anybody bringing their iPad anywhere, while I have seen others like myself who have their PlayBook with them everywhere.

  • Betonthis1

    Wow a retail version that is constantly rebooting!!! What a QA team they got!

  • http://twitter.com/toxigenicpoem Derek Anderson

    You totally forgot about HP’s Beats Audio. Which for any audiophile makes this an awesome tablet. Plastic Headphone Jack, Separated & Shielded Stereo Channels, Isolated Audio Island, Dedicated Amplifier, and Software Audio Enhancement, make any pair of headphones sound better, and make Beats Audio headphones sound AMAZING.

  • Elovely

    My dad’s Touchpad is already frozen/dead/unresponsive even after a full 20hrs plugged in. he’s on a call with HP right now. Looks like the iPad 1st gen will be his toy tonight!

    • Elovely

      Okay so he just needed a hard reboot by holding a couple buttons. Sure it can run flash but the OS isn’t very smooth.

Back to top ▴