The HP TouchPad is the first tablet computer featuring webOS, in some ways the spiritual successor to the original Palm handheld devices. Like its competitors, the TouchPad offers a multimedia experience with music, photos, apps, and games, as well as email and web browsing. But what sets it apart is HP Synergy, which promises to gather the various components of your online life such as Facebook and Google and organizes it all into a seamless whole.
The TouchPad is currently available direct from HP and from a variety of retailers for $499.99 for the 16GB version and $599.99 for the 32GB version.
BUILD & DESIGN
At first glance, the TouchPad looks like any other tablet computer; when I first took it out of the box I was surprised by how much it looks like an iPad, at least from the front. As far as size is concerned, the Touchpad is slightly shorter and wider than my original iPad, and it feels just a bit heavier.
When you look at the front of the TouchPad, you may miss the front-facing camera above the screen and the home button below, as they're rather low profile and non-descript. The large touchscreen display dominates the front of the device, which is certainly expected. The back panel is plain black plastic, with an HP logo and a few regulatory/informational icons close to the bottom.
The top right corner of the device is where you'll find the power button; the headphone jack is on the opposite corner.
The volume up/down rocker button is on the top right side, and the micro USB charge/sync port is on the bottom edge. The left side has two oblong speaker cutouts that you won't even notice unless you happen to run your finger along the side and feel them. They're very unobtrusive, especially since the speaker mesh is black just like the device.
I found the TouchPad to be very well built and quite solid. All of the corners, seams, buttons and such are well executed, with no rough spots, flexing, or other cosmetic issues. One concern is the plastic back of the TouchPad; because it seems like it will be generally less reliable over the long term than the metal backing on the iPad, only time will tell if that is a true concern.
As far as ease-of-use and portability are concerned, I have no complaints. Though the buttons are low profile, they're easy to find and operate without really looking away from the screen. The corners are rounded so no matter how you place your hands, the TouchPad is comfortable to hold.
The only slight negatives for me were the overall weight, since it feels a bit heavier than it should, and the back cover. It's a very slippery plastic, so I would want a case or skin to make it a little easier to grip.
As far as missing ports are concerned: though I would like to see an SD card slot for easier transfers of photos and music, it's not an absolute necessity.
HP TouchPad specs:
Screen and Speakers
The TouchPad has a 9.7-inch LED backlit, XGA capacitive multi-touch touchscreen display, and it looks great. In most respects, it looks almost identical to my iPad, with clear text and vibrant colors. It's hard to directly compare the two since they're running different operating systems and screen layouts, etc. They are completely different, so I put Angry Birds HD on both of them for a side-by-side comparison.
The games looked virtually identical to each other, aside from the backgrounds and such looking more green on the TouchPad. It wasn't too obvious until I looked closely, but once you see it, it's hard not to notice. It may have something more to do with the app than with the TouchPad's display, because my photos, web pages, etc. looked the same on both devices, and I didn't see any particular differences between them.
Glare was an equal problem on both tablets; I have a window next to the desk in my office and I found myself angling the TouchPad just as much as the iPad when it comes to trying to avoid glare from that window. The TouchPad's brightness can be adjusted via the Settings app, and though it has a good range, it isn't capable of the same eye-blinding brightness as some other tablets.
The TouchPad's touchscreen accuracy is a little off; sometimes the small "ripple" effect that appears on the screen when you touch it, like a cursor, wasn't where I had actually touched the screen. That wasn't a problem in day-to-day use, however, because webOS is somewhat more forgiving regarding that sort of thing. While I appreciate that when I'm just playing games or surfing the web, it could be an issue for future art apps, for example, where you want the line you're drawing on screen to exactly follow your finger.
While the screen is quite good, the speakers are even better. The TouchPad has stereo speakers and integrated Beats audio. Music and games sound great, with rich, full-bodied sound. And the TouchPad is plenty loud to power your next party too--at the highest levels, the volume was almost painful, but still of good quality.
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