The HP TouchPad Review: webOS on the Big Screenby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 17, 2011 11:11 PM EST
The webOS Browser
Based on WebKit, the TouchPad's browser is pretty comparable to what you get from Apple or Google on competitive tablets. Technically the browser doesn't support tabs but you can spawn new browser windows as cards on a stack.
Functionally this ends up working pretty similar to tabs and you do get a sliver of a preview of the card you're switching to, so there's a slight advantage. On the flip side, while you can just tap once to switch between tabs on Honeycomb you need to swipe up then tap to do the same under webOS 3. In practice I'd say it's a wash.
There is no support for an incognito mode like you get in Honeycomb, however you can clear all browser history/cookies/cache from within the app itself using its drop down menu:
Scrolling down web pages is consistent on the TouchPad but rendering happens below 30 fps. This is an issue across the OS unfortunately, the Web app is not an exception.
Scroll beyond the top or bottom of a web page and you'll meet a grey background, similar to what happens on iOS. The same applies for left/right scrolling, again similar to iOS. The problem here is the webOS browser is more sensitive to scrolling beyond left/right boundaries so unless you're very careful to scroll in a straight line you can actually have a more jittery scroll down a web page. This seems like an easy fix if HP just makes scrolling beyond the left/right edges of a web page require a more substantial gesture.
Double tap and pinch to zoom are both supported and work well. Occasionally when zooming you'll find that certain web page elements are poorly reconstructed:
Default search is powered by Google although you can sub in Wikipedia or Twitter if you'd like.
The TouchPad's browser reports a fairly standard user agent:
Mozilla/5.0 (hp-tablet; Linux; hpwOS/3.0.0; U; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.6 (KHTML, like Gecko) wOSBrowser/233.70 Safari/534.6 TouchPad/1.0
Web page compatibility is comparable to the iPad and Honeycomb tablets but not much better. I ran The HTML5 Test on an iPad 2, Honeycomb (3.1) tablet, RIM's PlayBook and the TouchPad to quantify compatibility:
|The HTML5 Test|
|Test||Apple iPad 2||HP TouchPad||RIM PlayBook||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1|
|Total Score||217 (and 7 bonus points)||229 (and 5 bonus points)||274 (and 9 bonus points)||222 (and 3 bonus points)|
|Parsing rules||1/11||6/11||11 (2 bonus points)||11 (2 bonus points)|
|Video||21/31 (4 bonus points)||21/31 (4 bonus points)||21/31 (4 bonus points)||21/31|
|Audio||20 (3 bonus points)||20 (1 bonus point)||20 (3 bonus points)||20 (1 bonus point)|
|History and navigation||5||0/5||5||0/5|
Overall scores are pretty similar for the iPad and the TouchPad. Honeycomb is a bit better (save for the annoying bug with Reddit) and the PlayBook's browser is in a class of its own. While not quite desktop-level, the PlayBook's browser continues to be the most compatible browser in the tablet world by far. How the competition is unable to come close is perplexing to me.
The TouchPad doesn't completely pass the Acid3 test unfortunately, putting it behind iOS and Android in that regard.
On the plus side there is full blown Flash support. I turned to GUIMark 3 to quantify the TouchPad's Flash performance:
|Flash/HTML5 Performance - GUIMark 3|
|Bitmap (HTML5 Cache)||Bitmap (Flash)||Vector Test (HTML5)||Vector Test (Flash)||Compute (HTML5)||Compute (Flash)|
|Apple iPad 2 (1024 x 768)||19.1 fps||N/A||14.2 fps||N/A||13.4 fps||N/A|
|BlackBerry PlayBook (1024 x 600)||11.2 fps||26.3 fps||10.7 fps||25.9 fps||10.2 fps||23.0 fps|
|HP TouchPad (1024 x 768)||27.7 fps||42.6 fps||9.3 fps||28.5 fps||8.0 fps||22.1 fps|
|HTC Flyer (1024 x 600)||30.3 fps||50.6 fps||12.1 fps||21.4 fps||8.5 fps||26.6 fps|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (1280 x 800)||22.9 fps||25.0 fps||11.4 fps||19.3 fps||11.2 fps||23.6 fps|
While not as good as the Flyer, the TouchPad's Flash performance is clearly better than that of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.1. HTML5 performance on the other hand is noticeably lower. Web page loading performance isn't anywhere near as good as the competiton:
The same performance deficit is reflected in SunSpider and BrowserMark tests:
In practice, browsing web pages with Flash ads is a relatively painless experience on the TouchPad - similar to Honeycomb in that regard. It's in playing video where the user experience can degrade. This isn't a problem unique to the TouchPad, while it's nice to have full Flash support - tablets with Flash just aren't quite fast enough to duplicate the desktop, or even a netbook experience. While I do expect that to change in the next two years, we're just not there yet. I was surprised by how well playback controls in Flash video players worked on the TouchPad. They weren't flawless, but I could actually get around a lot of videos using them.
On a side note, Hulu currently works on the TouchPad although I expect by the time you read this that hole will be plugged.