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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  • Saraandy - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    I loved the Comparison table, the most comfortable way to select the best! Thanks for the wonderful write-up on HP touch pad.Inspiring Designs; Creative Excellence!!! Reply
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Thx Anand, great review I live the extent and depth compared to even print magazines.

    Web-OS looks good, but I have to say it's a damn shame that really it's missed the market share and Apps boat. HP should use it's expertise to produce great hardware and merge it's webos features with android and become the premier blue-chip tablet maker that way. There is some evidence that developers are even favoring iOS over android as iOS users actually buy apps. What hope does webos have - wouldnt you develop for iOS, android or win8 tablet first way before this or playbook?

    We've seen this type of wishful thinking before in the tech world. Perhaps IBM will bring out a tablet with os2 warp on it?
    Reply
  • audemars02 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    wow,just like your veer review, this was a very fair and complete review. You clearly get what HP is going for and how great this tablet can be. A few quick comments for you on the review:
    Keyboard - are you that you can resize the keyboard? just hold down the keyboard key on the bottom right and you get 4 size options. Also, you can press-and-hold on most keys to get additional symbols/characters

    SMS forwarding - the Pre2 will be able to forward text messages as well once it gets a future software update as well. So the pre2, pre3 and veer will be able to do that

    call forwarding - you can actually register the touchpad as a Bluetooth headset for any phone, not just webOS phones...this can be cool for people who dont have a webOS phone yet

    app loading times - while it may be slower to load up apps at first, it really needs to be said that once loaded up as a card, app loading times become instantaneous due to webOS's awesome multitasking

    touchstone - you may want to mention that you can still charge the touchpad on the touchstone, even when it is in the HP touchpad case. Its so convienent!

    again, great job with your review. I cant wait to see how things get better after the OTA update we will be getting at the end of the month. Should fix a lot of the issues you mentioned

    adam
    @audemars02
    Reply
  • jamawass - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Great review as usual. However call logs for cell phones and skype are logged in the phone application.
    Also a mention about printing to hp printers ( I have printed succesfully to my network connected mfc-6310, touchpad autodiscovered it effortlessly) would've rounded up your review. Thanks
    Reply
  • bobharp - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    The review content and method was clear concise and informative.
    Great work. I wish I felt I needed a tablet.
    Will take a serious look at the Pre3.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • randinspace - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    When I read this sentence: "There's tons of room for innovation and we're seeing its competitors offer clear examples of that innovation," I started to wonder how long it would be before Apple sued HP if the TouchPad actually managed to take off. Reply
  • Conner_36 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    i think they wont, because surprise surprise... Palm has patents! Most of these killer features are probably protected by patents and some of the obvious UI holes might be there to avoid law suites.
    Apple isn't an 'evil' entity, its a business. They got pissed at google when they blatantly changed their andriod os from looking like rims to looking like ios. Android innovation is a step forward two steps backwards. Notice how apple tore the phone away from the carrier and googles fine with handing the market back?
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Thanks for a very complete and informative review. Which casts this tablet under a better light than other reviews, and nicely highlights some strengths (speakers ! yes, watching movies requires good speakers !) and weaknesses. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    The UI for the TouchPad is there, the performance expected of it is not. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Why buy this over an iPad 2? Reply

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