HP TouchPad review

12 Jul 2011

WebOS has genuine potential but here it feels unfinished, and the TouchPad hardware never quite lives up to HP’s lofty ambitions

Price when reviewed: 
400(£400 inc VAT)
4

UPDATE 22/8/11 17:00

The TouchPad has been canned, and HP's impending firesale changes everything. For £89 (16GB) or £115 (32GB), we’d snap one up in a second, even in the knowledge that support from HP will be limited in the future. Ignore the lack of apps, just buy it for what it is: a large-screened web browser and media player with a superb interface for less than £100. Plus, there's always the possibility the community will find a way to put Android on it...

Original review

Following on from iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS, the crowded world of tablets gets yet another entry this month. WebOS has made the step up from smartphones, and HP sees it as its secret weapon; if it can run across handhelds, printers and even potentially laptops, it can attract the developers to compete with the big guns. It’s bold and optimistic, and first impressions suggest the HP TouchPad has enough about it to stand out.

HP TouchPad

It’s a glossy black tablet with a 9.7in screen, and we’re delighted to see HP follow Apple down the standard-aspect route – a 1,024 x 768 resolution feels more natural on a tablet than the widescreen approach of the Android set.

It’s an IPS panel, so although the maximum brightness is a fairly dim 290cd/m[sup]2[/sup], the low black point makes for a strong 2,900:1 contrast ratio. Colours are accurate and, although it’s too reflective, video and photos look great.

The webOS interface

So does the interface, and the core webOS 3 experience is an absolute joy. It uses the concept of “cards” for applications, with each instance – such as a single web browser tab – sitting in a stack with related cards. Tap a card to open it; tap and hold to move cards from pile to pile and create your own groupings; and to close a card, just fling it off the top of the screen. It’s effortless and intuitive, and makes the iOS task-switching bar feel like the most loathsome chore.

HP TouchPad

The familiar home button takes you straight to this card desktop, while a second press (or a tap of an icon) brings up the Launcher. It’s divided into four tabs: Applications, Downloads, Favourites and Settings, and elements can be dragged from tab to tab.

Each screen has its own context-sensitive options menu in the top-left, and the core settings and notifications menu – similar to Android’s – sits in the top-right at all times.

You’ll be making extensive use of the onscreen keyboard, and it’s not bad at all. Unlike the default Android and iOS keyboards, webOS has the familiar dual-function number row of a desktop keyboard: both number and symbol are visible on each key, and you press shift to switch emphasis. It works very well, and the whole thing is nicely spaced and responsive.

HP TouchPad

HP App Catalog

That will help when searching for apps in the HP App Catalog, as will HP’s in-house Pivot digital magazine. It pulls together a few interesting app selections into a nice little guide – like an upmarket version of Apple’s Staff Favourites.

Of the core tablet applications, the bespoke Facebook app stands out. While it takes a bit of getting used to, you’ll soon be flying through photos and friends with either its dynamic-column design or a more radical boxed layout.

HP TouchPad

Bing Maps, with its birds-eye isometric viewpoint, matches any rival mapping tool, while the mail app offers Facebook’s dynamic columns and a nice level of flexibility. Of course, HP was sure to get Angry Birds HD in there too.

Detail

Price ex VAT £333
Price inc VAT £400
Overall rating 4
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 240 x 13.7 x 190mm (WDH)
Weight 740g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 9.7in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 768
Display type Colour touchscreen LCD
Panel technology TN

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1,200MHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating N/A
Focus type N/A
Built-in flash type N/A
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
Upstream USB ports 1
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system webOS 3