If this were a race of numbers, Apple would have already won. It isn't. The iPad 2, as successful as it is, isn't perfect. There's tons of room for innovation and we're seeing its competitors offer clear examples of that innovation. As with any market, the lower your market share the more likely you are as a company to take risks. After all, you've got nothing to lose. It's in breaking the mold and taking these risks that great ideas are often born.

For HP there wasn't much of a risk to take with their first entry into the new tablet market, thanks to Palm's risk taking three years ago. For those who have used a webOS phone in the past, the OS needed very little functional improvement. It was just a matter of needing better hardware, squashing bugs and improving performance. The fundamentals were sound.

In fact, I'm still surprised that no one has managed to really copy the things that made webOS so great given how much time has passed since the Palm Pre first went on sale. Even today with multitasking improvements in Honeycomb and iOS, it's still easier to launch, exit and switch between apps on webOS.

Has HP been able to give webOS the rest of the ingredients it needs to succeed? On the hardware side I think that's definitely the case. The new webOS family is powered by the latest and greatest from Qualcomm. Fast single core SoCs in the phones and Qualcomm's fastest dual-core SoC in the tablet. It's the software that remains webOS' blessing and curse. The functionality is there and remains unrivaled in many ways, but the platform is still buggy and is at times seriously limited in the performance department.

We'll get to all of that throughout the course of this review but first let's meet the TouchPad.

The hardware itself is pretty. The TouchPad is made entirely of glossy black plastic around the back and a 9.7-inch glass touchscreen on the front. The edges are all curved making the tablet easy to hold. While the glossy black plastic looks elegant at first, it shows fingerprints just like an old iPod.

The TouchPad is thicker than the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it's not the thickness that bothers me. The TouchPad is the heaviest tablet we've reviewed. At 730g it's over 20% heavier than the iPad 2 and the weight is noticeable. If you're using it on its dock or on your lap the weight isn't a problem, but holding it up for long periods of time can be fatiguing.

Build quality is good but not great. I detected a little bit of movement in the chassis if I tried to flex the TouchPad slightly. The micro USB connector at the bottom isn't perfectly lined up with the cutout in the chassis either, requiring me to insert its USB cable at an angle. The volume rocker on the right side of the unit wiggles a bit in place. All of these are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things but they're worth pointing out.

There's a microphone up top as well as your standard power/lock button and 1/8" headset/mic jack. A physical home button is in the usual place with a built in white LED notification indicator.

The TouchPad has two speakers along its left side:

Like its competitors the TouchPad has a built in accelerometer and gyroscope to detect rotation and movement along multiples axes. You can orient the TouchPad in all four directions and the OS will rotate accordingly. The accelerometer in the TouchPad is extremely sensitive, often rotating the screen for very slight movements of the tablet itself. While this sounds like a good thing, in practice it's not. The TouchPad usually rotated when I didn't want to and then seemed to lose its sensitivity issues when I tried to rotate it back. The problem here is likely in software.

2011 Tablet Comparison
  Apple iPad 2 ASUS Eee Pad Transformer HP TouchPad Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
SoC Apple A5 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz) NVIDIA Tegra 2 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz) Qualcomm APQ8660 (Dual Scorpion @ 1.2GHz) NVIDIA Tegra 2 (Dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz)
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 NVIDIA GeForce Adreno 220 NVIDIA GeForce
RAM 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Display 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
NAND 16GB - 64GB 16GB - 32GB 16GB - 32GB 16GB - 32GB
Dimensions 241.2mm x 185.7mm x 8.8mm 271mm x 175mm x 12.95mm 240mm x 190mm x 13.7mm 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6mm
Weight 601g 695g 730g 565g
Price $499 $399 $499 $499

There is no support for external storage and HP offers a 16GB and 32GB version at $499 and $599 respectively. Both support WiFi although AT&T has already announced a HSPA+ version for use on its network.

webOS Vernacular: Cards, Stacks and a Whole lot of Awesome
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  • bigboxes - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Please. How many fart apps do you need? :p

    Anand, I notice that you mention Wi-Fi connectivity. Can the Touchpad access network drives and/or can it map a network drive? Part of the appeal of a tablet is not just to access the internet, but to access the intranet as well. It is disappointing that there is limitations placed on video formats and file size. Will there be 3rd-party apps (web browser, media player,etc.) that allow better functionality or is this a hardware/OS limitation?

    One thing that is missing from this review is HP's support of the homebrew community. I would assume that there will be many programmers out there who will provide free apps and patches that will augment the touchpad. This will allow you to fix a lot of the devices shortcomings. Come to think about it that is one of the most important aspects of this platform: the ability to do what you want with your device. Whereas Apple locks down their device to ensure uniform performance, HP allows us techies the option to tinker wtih our hardware as we see fit. Thanks for the review Anand!
    Reply
  • tecknurd - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    I disagree and you talk like an Apple fan. To my own eyes iPads are restrictive. I can not go to any site with out getting an F grade. iPad are not productive when they can not handle Flash. Unfortunately the Internet still uses Flash.

    The problem with any OS is applications. Until developers adventure to other OS, applications will be limited. Linux has the same problems and still have the problems with having good applications. In Linux there are applications for office tasks such as OpenOffice, but I would not use it for a business because it is very limited.

    Of course it is not the OS. It is the applications for tablets or for any computer. If I am force to buy an iPad like you say, I would just get a Mac book Air or similar.

    I against the iPad and iPhone because I think there is something better from other brands. Actually this is true and Apple wants those brands kicked out. I do not support such a thing.
    Reply
  • codedivine - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    The WebOS internals folks have stepped up and released a patch that reduces the amount of logging the OS does. Apparently it seriously improves performance. If the OS is indeed doing a whole bunch of disk IO that it shouldn't be doing, that will explain a lot of the lag issues. Reply
  • AmdInside - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    "The application launch time is livable however, it's something you can get used to and hope that HP will improve over time. There are two bigger issues with the TouchPad's performance that are harder to deal with."

    I beg to differ. This is the major reason why I sold my iPad 1 to get the ipad 2. When I tested an iPad2 after a friend bought one, I couldn't believe how much faster it launched apps. I could never get used to the launch time of the iPad 1. I am really happy with the iPad2's application launch times. I could not imagine going back to an iPad 1.
    Reply
  • cioxx - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    HP isn't about building and nurturing consumer ecosystems and neither was Palm with its latest incarnation after WebOS introduction. HP's DNA is basically moving large amounts of units to corporate/conservative customers and getting on to the next model.

    The fact that they announced a faster Touchpad after 2 weeks of having released the first one is testament to that schizophrenic behavior.

    There is absolutely no guarantees that WebOS will get better or that HP leadership will get their heads out of their ass and behave like a consumer-friendly company.

    Just look at their idiotic ads to get an idea what decision-makers at the company consider to be hip or relevant.

    The "It's not an iPad" crowd is pretty tiny and I've yet to see a credible tablet on the market which answers the fundamental question - "Why get this instead of an iPad?"
    Reply
  • halihassan - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    in the mail section you mention that there is no way to mark multiple emails for deletion. This is not true; when multiselect is enabled, the email app allows you to delete, flag, and move multiple emails. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Wow you're right, I definitely missed that! Fixed!

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • arbarath - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Nice Review..

    I personally use Eee Pad transformer, It personally satisfies all my needs. I went n bought a tablet that it should reduce the usage of my Laptop or PC atleast by 40 to 50% and its doing it although it cannot replace entirely.

    There are lot of space for performance improvement on honeycomb, but i like it thus far. Regional Fonts are missing in honeycomb, like mine (Tamil) its the biggest thing i miss so far .. I stream movies from my Home Server using smb including all formats, transfer files like you do on desktop or laptop.its great.

    HP tablet looks nice and it will be an intersection of iOS and Android. Card feature is really interesting and nice.

    Great review. keep it up. thanks.
    Reply
  • Omid.M - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Awesome review, Anand.

    Looks like the tablet to beat if HP can issue some updates to address the bugs you pointed out. Have you sent a list of these bugs (scenarios in which they were encountered, so they can be reproduced) to the product manager for the Touch Pad or a media relations person at HP? If not, you really should.

    Google +, Google & Amazon music integration, Netflix, and better battery life (and no hiccups) would make this the ultimate tablet. I'd pick one up asap if those were addressed; I'm not sure how swiftly HP would do that, though.

    Some errors I spotted in the review:

    Format:
    Line with [error]
    [correction]
    (Page title the error was spotted on)

    It does get worse on the [PlayBook] unfortunately.
    [TouchPad, ]
    (HP app catalog)

    [Seek] shelter or [be] a hermit with your new tablet are the only present day solutions.
    [Seeking]
    [being]
    (Display)

    [IT's] still a [dual-issue] in-order architecture
    [It's]
    [dual-issue,] --- add comma
    (Performance)

    With a few benign apps [open] the TouchPad multitasking experience is fine.
    [open, ] --- add comma
    (Performance)

    @moids
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Excellent review, it's a shame webOS isn't gaining traction any faster and HP isn't pushing devices out the door any faster... WP7's UI design is interesting, but webOS has features that still make many honest Android and iOS users jealous.

    I would've loved to see where that IM conversation about GPUs was going. ;) BTW, I don't know about iOS, but there's like half a dozen Android solutions for synchronizing or connecting your phone to a PC in order to be able to SMS from the PC, and even view the phone's notifications. I don't think there's any Honeycomb solution yet tho, short of Google Voice, which not everyone can use or integrate.
    Reply

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