HP TouchPad (16GB)
Typical Price: $279.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: The HP TouchPad uses Palm's unique WebOS interface and delivers Adobe Flash-enabled Web browsing, Beats audio enhancement, and impressive compatibility with third-party calendar, messaging, and e-mail services.
The bad: The TouchPad has a thick, smudgy design, offers no rear camera or HD video capture, includes a limited app selection, and its unique cards system of multitasking isn't as fully utilized as it could be.
The bottom line: The TouchPad would have made a great competitor for the original iPad, but its design, features, and speed put it behind today's crop of tablet heavyweights.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
HP could have taken the easy way out. Like many computer manufacturers today, HP could have easily jumped on the Google Android bandwagon, lobbed out a Honeycomb tablet, and called it a day. Instead, through hard work and some key acquisitions (most notably Palm), it set out to create an entire ecosystem of mobile hardware and software that could truly rival Apple's.
The HP TouchPad is one result of this effort. In a tablet market that is more or less split between Apple and Google, the TouchPad offers a refreshing alternative with a distinctly different take on how these types of devices should work, and how users interact with them.
Priced at $499 (16GB) and $599 (32GB) with no option (yet) for cellular data service, the HP TouchPad isn't priced like an underdog. It has the app catalog of an upstart, though, with a selection of native tablet apps that numbers in the hundreds and around 8,000 WebOS apps in total.
Is the TouchPad the perfect option for those fatigued by the iPad's app-centric tablet, or did HP miss its mark? Let's have a look.
While the TouchPad's WebOS software is inspired and unique, its design is quite the opposite. Half an inch thick and wrapped in high-gloss plastic, the TouchPad's look and feel share more in common with a kitchen cutting board than the svelte designs of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or iPad 2.
To be fair, the TouchPad's construction feels solid and worthy of HP's reputation for quality. It's the thickness and choice of materials that's throwing us off. After a few minutes of handling, the slippery plastic backing feels like a plate at a pizza party.
We suspect HP's choice of materials has something to do with the TouchPad's special Touchstone inductive charging dock ($79), which uses an electromagnetic field to transfer power through the back of the tablet. Still, a textured finish like the one found on the Asus EeePad Transformer, would have gone a long way to diminish the ick factor. Sorry to be so fickle about the TouchPad's feel, but there's no way around the fact that tablets are handheld devices. This stuff really does matter, and frankly, not harping on it would be a disservice to all the great tablets out there that get it right--from the iPad all the way down to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color.
HP does nail down some of the standard design elements, such as the dedicated buttons for screen lock and volume control, along with an ample (though somewhat invisible) home screen button. Two slim speaker grilles are found on the left edge, making them unlikely to be covered by your hand while holding the tablet in landscape view. A standard headphone jack is located on the top edge, and a Micro-USB port is located on the bottom for charging and syncing.
Related links: TechRepublic's business perspective
HP TouchPad leapfrogs rivals in productivity
Three areas where HP TouchPad trumps the iPad
Teardown of HP TouchPad
The choice of using a broadly compatible Micro-USB port is both refreshing, and surprisingly short-sighted. With so many of today's tablets making use of their dock connections for video output and other accessories, HP seems content to leave those features for version 2.0. On the upside, it's very easy to find a replacement charging cable.
We should also note that the TouchPad lacks a hardware switch for the screen rotation lock. The rotation lock function can be activated using a simple pull-down menu, but given the device's sensitive accelerometer, a dedicated switch like the one on the Acer Iconia Tab or iPad would have been more satisfying.
Beauty is more than skin deep, and those desperate for new flavor of tablet may be willing to overlook our aesthetic gripes. You want to know if the TouchPad can deliver the goods--so here you go.
In terms of hardware, the TouchPad runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU APQ8060 1.2GHz processor and comes with either 16GB or 32GB of RAM. There's no option for memory card expansion. The front panel is a 1,024x768-pixel resolution capacitive display blessed with multitouch and connected to a graphics chip capable of rendering 3D graphics. Your location can be approximated using the integrated Wi-Fi (802.11n), but no GPS is included (though later models with wireless cellular data may offer it).
Another feature missing from the TouchPad is a rear-facing camera. Now, we take the camera criticism with a grain of salt, since the idea of capturing photos or videos on a tablet still feels absurd, even under the best circumstances. Still, it's nice to have the option, and it's one more spec the competition can point to.
You do get a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, but good luck finding a use for it. Even with the stock messaging app synced with our Skype account, it was unclear how to initiate a video call. A task as basic as taking a self portrait seems impossible using only the preinstalled software. Our vanity may never recover.
To more practical matters, the TouchPad's core features revolve around the five main apps tucked in the home screen dock. These include the Web browser, e-mail, messaging, photos, and calendar.
The TouchPad's ability to triage e-mail is one of its standout features. During setup, the TouchPad prompts you to enter any and all of your e-mail accounts, including Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, and more.
A three-pane view follows, which allows you to view your accounts, e-mail list, and e-mail preview all in a single view. E-mail replies pop out of the three-pane arrangement as a new window floating above your inbox, where it can be addressed immediately or toggled behind your inbox to deal with later. It's a distinctly different approach to e-mail than you'll find on the iPad, and one that better resembles the desktop computer method of multitasking and window juggling. For us, it's a natural fit, and composing e-mail and managing multiple inboxes feels intuitive.
In many ways, the TouchPad takes the metaphor of the desktop more literally than any Mac or PC. On a conventional computer, every window represents a separate application or document. For the TouchPad, windows are gathered into stacks that are tied to their common task. For example, in the course of reading e-mail you may find yourself clicking links to the Web. The resulting Web page is grouped together within the same stack as the e-mail that contained the link. This automatic continuity of associations between windows allows for a less schizophrenic kind of multitasking. In theory, at least.
Sometimes the logic breaks down. Let's say you open more than one Web link contained in an e-mail. Just like the previous example, the first page will be grouped together with your e-mail. If that page remains open, though, each succeeding page will open as a separate stack, breaking its association from the e-mail that spawned it. Maybe there's a rationalization for it, but to us it seems inconsistent.
Fortunately, WebOS affords you full manual control over managing and organizing stacks however you see fit. You can pull an e-mail reply out from its stack to deal with as a distinctly separate task. You can create a document in Quickoffice and stack it among important e-mails and Web pages. Ultimately, if you are someone who naturally organizes life into little piles (bills, to-dos, correspondence, etc.) then you will feel right at home in TouchPad's interface.
That said, some of the TouchPad's apps don't take full advantage of the card stack metaphor. Calendar, for example, is never more than a one-window view. There's no pulling appointments out as separate windows or managing separate calendars as separate views. In HP's defense, the TouchPad's ability to meld together all of your various calendars (Facebook, Google, Exchange, and others) into a unified view is no easy feat, and shouldn't be overlooked.
The TouchPad's photo app is another missed opportunity for taking advantage of the home screen stacks. One can imagine spreading out multiple photos on the home screen or stacking relevant images with presentations. Instead, the TouchPad's photo app is a single window that comes across as a low-budget imitation of the iPad's photo viewer. To add some confusion, the main view of your photo library displays your collection as a series of photo stacks, but doesn't actually provide any of the stacks functionality found on the TouchPad's home screen. You can't pull them apart or reorganize them--they're really just a fancy way to dress up what is essentially a folder. It's a disconnect--and ultimately a minor one--but it points again to a lack of consistency.
Now, there are some great things to say about the TouchPad's photos app. Just as HP infuses its e-mail and calendar app with all of your online accounts, so, too, does the photos app. Your photos from Facebook, Photobucket, Snapfish, and others are all pulled in and cached to your TouchPad, alongside any photos you may have stored locally. Even comments for Facebook photos are pulled in and displayed alongside your images. Some big names were missing from the account synchronization list, such as Picasa and Flickr, but HP plans to extend compatibility with "Synergy Services," which users can download from within the app store. Only time will tell if anyone develops a Synergy plug-in for your favorite service, but at least the door is open.
The included Messaging app also does a decent job of integrating several of the more popular instant messaging services on the Web. At launch, HP builds in compatibility with AIM, Google Talk, Skype, and Yahoo. If you also happen to own an HP WebOS phone, you can pair the devices over Bluetooth and both send and receive SMS messages through the app, as well.
As for the rest of the included software, a pop-up menu from the home screen reveals more apps, including Bing Maps, an HP-authored Facebook app, Quickoffice, contacts, memos, Amazon Kindle, and more. Tabs running across the top of this menu can take you to device settings, a customizable listing of favorite apps, and a section for downloaded content that includes a link to HP's WebOS app store.
The TouchPad can directly download third-party apps through the built-in HP App Catalog. Here again, HP took a chance to distinguish itself from the app-buying experience on the iPad or Android Market. As a platform, WebOS does not have the volume of apps to match its competitors, and at this point in the game, there's probably no catching up. Instead, HP has designed a curated buying experience on the TouchPad as a way to highlight quality content and to give the developers behind those apps a chance to shine.
Upon opening the HP App Catalog, users are presented with digital magazine called Pivot, which acts as a kind of shopping guide front end to the app catalog. The magazine content changes out each month, and each page highlights a particular app or a genre of apps. For example, a page extolling the benefits of listening to Internet radio offers direct links to three hand-picked music apps, which users can either purchase or bookmark to consider later.
A series of tabs running beneath the Pivot digital magazine offers a quick means to jump into the full app catalog, either browsing by category, or as a keyword search. The catalog includes apps designed for both WebOS smartphones and the TouchPad, and lists each apps compatibility on the app description page. Apps designed for the smaller-resolution screens of HP's line of Pre phones are mostly compatible with the TouchPad and run on the tablet in their native size.
We've talked a lot about the TouchPad in relation to the iPad and the army of Android tablets on the market. When it comes to performance, though, we couldn't help comparing the TouchPad to RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, which bears the same price, and is fighting HP's same battle to define a new tablet platform.
We had our criticisms about the PlayBook, but as a tablet that promised Adobe Flash compatibility and powerful multitasking capabilities, RIM delivered in spades. It also threw in HD video capture and 1080p HDMI output, just to make things interesting. With that in mind, the HP TouchPad doesn't match the horsepower of its fellow underdog. The Adobe Flash compatibility for the browser is there, but in a few instances it had a hard time running if multiple Web pages with Flash content were open. We also found it generally sluggish when launching apps, compared with the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and a cold boot took a full minute and 8 seconds. It's certainly not the slowest machine out there, but it's not going to make anyone take notice.
The same can be said of the TouchPad's screen quality. It's not the brightest, and the black levels aren't great, either.
|Tested spec||HP TouchPad||Apple Ipad 2||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1|
|Maximum brightness||292 cd/M2||432 cd/M2||336 cd/M2|
|Default brightness||85 cd/M2||176 cd/M2||336 cd/M2|
|Maximum black level||0.38 cd/M2||0.46 cd/M2||0.30 cd/M2|
|Default black level||0.11 cd/M2||0.19 cd/M2||0.30 cd/M2|
|Default contrast ratio||772||926||1,120|
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)||768||939||1,120|
HP rates the TouchPad's battery life at 8 hours of Web use, or 10 hours of video playback. We'll update this review with independent test results from CNET Labs.
The TouchPad is an important tablet. It's important for HP, and important for consumers to have another option out there beyond what Apple and Google are offering. At the end of the day, though, the TouchPad feels like a well-orchestrated competitor to the original iPad and not the forward-thinking alternative we had hoped for.
|Built-in devices||Display, Touchscreen, Speaker(s), Digital camera, Keyboard|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||7.5 in x 0.6 in x 9.4 in|
|OS provided||HP webOS 3.0|
|Installed RAM||1 GB|
|Processor||QUALCOMM 1.2 GHzSnapdragon APQ8060|
|Input device type||Touch-screen|
|Display type||9.7 in TFT active matrix|
|Wireless connectivity||IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11b, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11g|
|Battery installed (max)||Lithium polymer|
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 41
4 Star: 12
3 Star: 7
2 Star: 7
1 Star: 10
An excellent Tablet for getting work done!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on July 4, 2011
20 out of 24 users found this review helpful
Pros: -True Multitasking
-Full Web Browsing Experience
-Excellent Build Quality
-Great Battery Life
-Excellent Tech Support
-Built in Skype with Video
-50gb of free storage
-Citrix and VPN support
Cons: -Accessories are hard to find
-Black glossy back is fingerprint magnet
-Bug with USB eject on Windows PCs
Summary: I tried the iPad, Xoom, and Galaxy Tab. I was not impressed by any of them. They are great devices, but I needed a tablet to replace my laptop. I own a Palm Pre and love it despite the crappy hardware. I was very excited about the Touchpad, until I read the first batch of reviews. I decided to go down to my local Best Buy and try one out for myself. I played with one for about 5 minutes and I was hooked. I bought a 32gb Touchpad immediately. I've had it now for 4 days and I am still impressed by it. I can't put it down! I'm glad I did not get an iPad! Thank God I like to actually "test drive" devices instead of relying solely on the views of others (especially CNET). I would like to address some of the things I've seen about the Touchpad in the reviews and compare them to what I have seen with my Touchpad.
The Touchpad is by no means slow. It has 1GB of RAM and dual core 1.2 GHz processors. My Touchpad has been pretty zippy. I've had over ten apps running at a time (just for fun) and it did not slow down. However, it does slow down when you are installing apps. It also suffers from what I call "turbo lag". If you ever owned a car with a turbo you know what I mean. You click on an icon for an app and it takes about a second to launch, but once it does, watch out! It screams! I did notice that the "consumer" Touchpads are a lot faster than the demos. An HP rep at Best Buy pointed this out to me and showed me her personal Touchpad. It was faster than the one on display. Mine is also faster than the display models. So I think HP really screwed something up with the demo software.
-Thickness and weight
Be serious! The Touchpad is only .2 inches thicker than the iPad 2. That's nothing! It does weigh more but it actually feels more solid. It is well put together. It weighs a third of a pound heavier than an iPad so if you could put up with it, you can put up with the Touchpad.
The Touchpad loses to the iPad when it comes to shear numbers of apps. The iPad has a ton more, although most of them are pure crap! But then again the iPad has a ton more apps than Android and Android is doing fine. The Touchpad has a lot of games and productivity software to keep you busy. I've spent over $50 on high end games for my Touchpad so far. All of my games from my Pre were automatically downloaded to the Touchpad also so I'm not hurting at all.
Now lets talk about the Pros for this devices:
The Touchpad allows you to run multiple apps at once (up to 39 according to some of the fan sites). Ever app can be multitasked (unlike apps on the iPad). It uses a "deck of cards" function for handling running apps so you can see them all on the screen. You can watch a Youtube video, then recieve an email. You can switch to the email and the Youtube video will still be running. If you are playing a game, you can minimize your game then switch to another app and do something, then switch back to your game without a hiccup. It may sound familiar to iPad users but it is not. You can't do this on the iPad as easily or as fluidly as you can on the Touchpad. Check out Russell Brand's Touchpad commercials on Youtube to see what I mean. To close an app you flick it off the screen. There is even cool "Angry Birds" sounds when you flick the app off the screen (Touchpad Angry Birds Easter Egg on Youtube). It actually makes multitasking fun, even though it multitasking sounds depressing.
-Full Web Browsing Experience
The Touchpad has Flash built in. It is a lot better than Flash on Android. I have multiple Android devices (a tablet and a few phones) and Flash crashes the browsers on these devices at least twice an hour. Flash has not crashed on the Touchpad even after 4 days of heavy use. My daughter watched Youtube (the real one!) through the Touchpad's browsers for 4 1/2 ours on our trip to Atlanta without a problem. The Hulu website also works on the Touchpad. I watch a few shows on Hulu.com with no problems. Flash is not even on the iPad or iPad 2 which is an epic failure! The Touchpad also surfs to real sites by default. No chessy mobile sites!
-Excellent Build Quality
The Touchpad has Gorilla Glass on the Front and is put together extremely well. I have not found any flaws with the device at all. It also has Beats Audio with two stereo speakers that sound great and have really good deep bass.
-Great Battery Life
I'm seeing over 8 hours of real world heavy use before I have to charge it. That's streaming video over wifi, playing 3d games, browsing the web, viewing documents, and playing music. Unlike my Android device I don't have to turn off stuff or change CPU settings to get that much battery life. I browsed the web for over an 1 1/2 hours, then we immediately took a 4 1/2 hour trip to Atlanta in which my daughter watched YouTube videos on the Touchpad using my phones wifi, and the Touchpad still had over 30% left on it when we got to Atlanta.
-Excellent Tech Support
The Touchpad has a built in Tech Support chat program in the Help app. I had some problems installing music on my Touchpad, heard about the chat support, and decided to give it a try. I was able to chat with Tech Support directly from the Touchpad in under two clicks!! You have 90 day free tech support when you purchase a Touchpad.
-Built in Skype with Video
The Touchpad has built in Skype with video! No need to download an app (iPad, Android) or worry about whether or not your front facing camera is supported (Android). Just add your Skype account to the device and you are on your way. I chatted with my cousin and brother over Skype. The video and sound quality were good.
-50gb of free storage
You get 50gb of free cloud storage through Box.net on the Touchpad. I believe its for life once you sign up. Box.net integrates well with the Touchpad so you can view your files seamlessly.
-Citrix and VPN support
The Touchpad has support for Citrix and Virtual Private Networks. I have not been able to try them out yet because I'm on vacation.
Ok, now the Cons I've noticed so far:
-Accessories are hard to find
My Best Buy did not have any of the accessories for the Touchpad (case, bluetooth keyboard, touchstone charger, etc). Every store I tried in Atlanta did not have them in stock yet or sold out of accessories. I had to buy a cheap generic case to put my Touchpad in. I guess I'll be ording stuff online.
-Black glossy back is a fingerprint magnet
The back of the Touchpad is a glossy piano black color. It attracts fingerprints like crazy. The Touchpad did come with a cloth to wipe it off and it works pretty well. The front also attracts fingerprints, but since it is gorilla glass it is easy to wipe off with your t-shirt.
-Bug with USB eject on Windows PCs
The bug I have with my Touchpad is that there is a special way you have to eject it from Windows. First, let me explain. Unlike the iPad (without jailbraking) , you can drag and drop music, photos, and videos to the Touchpad from your computer. The Touchpad connects to you computer through a USB cable (included) and becomes a large USB thumbdrive. You then just copy your stuff to it like you would do any other hard drive. There are no special drivers or programs required. However, you can't use the "Safely Remove" function to eject the Touchpad. If you do it complains about not being removed properly and it won't find the files you put on it. You have to right click on the Touchpad's drive icon and choose "Eject" to safely remove it. After that it will find you files in the appropriate program. Its a bug that is easy to get around but it is highly annoying.
I hope this helps some of you with your decision on whether or not to give the Touchpad a try. At least I actually own and use a Touchpad unlike some of the reviews here who played with a demo for a few minutes and think they are expert enough to write about it. It is the best tablet I've owned. I have several friends with the iPad and I can tell you that the web browsing experience on it does not compare to the Touchpad. I would place the Touchpad's web browser on par with an actual laptop or desktop computer's browser. I watched a friend browse the web on her iPad today and was glad I got my Touchpad just for that! Not to mention the fact that I can zip through doing things 10x faster than my friends can on thier "run one app at a time unless its the music app" iPad. Good luck!
A serious threat to the iPad and iOS
Rating: 5 / 5
on June 29, 2011
17 out of 34 users found this review helpful
Pros: Operating system, speed, ease of use. Has almost all the apps that people use in the catalog already.
Cons: Could be a little lighter, but that's my complaint about all tablets in the market daoy.
Summary: To the person who said idiots, it isn't out yet...some of us are insiders who were able to receive it before release date.
Overall, I have to say this is GREAT tablet. Much better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab and on the same level as the iPad. Don't get fooled by the apps numbers game...truth is, MOST apps (and I literally mean more than 50%) on the Android and Apple market are garbage...the HP catalog has all the apps you need, and new ones are being added all the time. Since it supports flash, I get my Hulu and Netflix through PlayOn. HOT!
Freezes often other than that nice interface
Rating: 2 / 5
on June 29, 2011
15 out of 32 users found this review helpful
Pros: Liked the interface and touchscreen was very responsive
Cons: it froze quite a bit and apps would glitch and flicker, the feel of the TouchPad felt very cheap and not sturdy.
Summary: I have been playing with this for about a week, I played with it at work that has a working one and went to a HP event and when I played with it, it froze and crashed multiple times. When the HP rep was showing it to me the OS just froze and had to do a hard reboot to get it working again. For now it's not that reliable and would wait until it gets updates to fix the problems with it.
Great for the price, gives the iPad a run for the $
Rating: 5 / 5
on September 19, 2011
4 out of 5 users found this review helpful
Pros: Vivid screen with interface that works well and compatible with a lot of online content that is out there. The apps have increased greatly and webOS is a great operating system. For those who prefer Android the option is there too. After
Cons: The "card" feature takes some getting used to and hitting the power button to lock the screen sometimes happens.
Summary: After HP decided to kill their infant tablet, the price of the discontinued, and even slightly inflated eBay prices, made the tablet worth dabbling in but those who do will not be disappointed. The "card" feature of the tablet is a bit annoying at first but then it's full potential is released once you get used to it. Also the support for flash sites I feel is much better.
I used the iPad extensively for a while and found it to be a great tool but the TouchPad outshines it in my opinion. The tablet feels like it isn't as fragile and easy to break.
HP is making a mistake discontinuing their Touchpads.
Rating: 5 / 5
on August 24, 2011
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: webOS, WiFi, build quality, battery life, graphics, network connectivity, "fluentness".
Cons: Needed WiFi to set up.(is this a con or just part of my idiocy of not having a wireless router to begin with?)
Summary: HP has made a mistake in my opinion discontinuing their consumer products. The Touchpad is great and was actually on my list of things I wanted even before the price-drop. I, honestly, considered tablets useless and something obsolete to my needs but after the purchase I quickly came to the conclusion that I was highly wrong. This thing is hands-down the best piece of consumer technology I've purchased in the last decade. Now we purchase an Elitebook..
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