The HP TouchPad Review: webOS on the Big Screenby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 17, 2011 11:11 PM EST
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|
|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|
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.
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TheTechSmith - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI also like the product review choices. Not everyone who reads Anandtech is a PC gamer, and tablets and smart phones are evolving way faster than PC technology, so it makes sense that more coverage is required. There are still plenty of PC component reviews that benchmark using plenty of games for that market. This is a particular product review I was waiting for in fact. Although one review I would like to see is a revisited Boxee Box review, since the Boxee software has changed drastically since the first review, and it was promised at the end of first review to be done before last Christmas.
justaviking - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkAs long as the phone and tablet reviews do not prevent traditional reviews of PCs, Laptops, and componets, then what's the problem? It takes me about 1 second to not read a review.
Anand has to follow the market and the industry. Should he be busy benchmarking floppy disk drives? Should he not consider the ability to properly play HD video? He needs to stay current with industry trends or AnandTech.com will become a relic of the past.
There are lots and lots of reviews here that are not relevant to my immediate purchasing needs. Many I read because they are interesting anyway, though some I skim over much faster than others.
Lastly, and I hesitate to say it, but there is no need for profanity. It is possible to strongly and passionately voice one's opinion with resorting to gutter language. It's not that I'm delicate and easily offended, it's just that it affects the overall character of this site which is usuall very professional, even when the various fan boys don't agree. This site has some of the best readers in the world, and let's keep the standards high.
dookiex - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - linkNot only does Anand need to follow the market and industry, if he was to only review and report on PCs, laptops, and components, there would be very little content on the site! If you sat down and thought about it, there hasn't been any really breakthrough offerings in PC and components land in quite some time now. As for PC gaming, that market really died down since the 360 and PS3. Mobile casual gaming is also NOT helping matters in PC gaming land.
thisisthetruthfolks - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkYou hit it spot on. Anand if you read these comments, I'm just trying to figure out why this site focuses so much on all these cell phone / tablets stuff when it's traditionally a PC and hardware site.
I think this site would be best off focusing on the CHIPS found in these devices, not so much the devices themselves.
And how come laptops get no attention? The biggest article you guys did on notebooks was a notebook GPU roundup that did nothing useful besides list all the available GPUs and categorize them as low end, mid range, or high end. Nothing in that article offered anything that the typical reader of this site didn't already know or couldn't find out on google.
Where is the reviews of notebook GPUs? No benchmarks of the 580m, no benchmarks of the 6990m, etc. etc. Sure there are some articles, but so many things are missing.
I subscribed to this site on twitter because I thought it had great reviews for GPUs/CPUs...only to find out that 99% of the time anandtech posts stuff about tablet computers that I couldnt care less about.
At least reading fudzilla is interesting. Except it has zero credibility. Maybe I'll subscribe to tom's hardware instead...
sprockkets - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkDon't like the first review of webos since you are a tablet hater? Then don't come back here. But don't be a whiny bitch about it either. That's Steve's Job.
Wardrop - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linkI've been wondering the same thing for the past year. I can only speak for myself, but I kind of see these articles as spam. I also hate the reviews of those boutique computers, as first of all, I get the impression AnandTech readers aren't on the market for a pre-built desktop computer, and second, a lot of these computers are only available in the U.S, and so are irrelevant for a lot of other readers (like many of the cellphone reviews). Laptop's I understand as they're popular and not something you can build yourself, but other than that, I'd like to see AnandTech focus more on desktop hardware and industry news. Anyone can give us reviews of mobile phones and tablets, but there aren't too many sites that can write an SSD anthology as comprehensively as AnandTech. That's their strength, and I'd love to see more of it.
halihassan - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI’ve yet to reach the end of this review, but so far it seems like you’ve covered the tablet fairly well. One item that I found missing (but is relatively unique) is the monthly Pivot magazine built into the App Catalog. I quickly discovered and downloaded several apps that way, and having used Android and iOS app stores I definitely think that gives HP a huge edge when it comes to discovering applications.
halihassan - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI agree that HP has a ways to go to fully integrate a wireless syncing solution, but it was nice that Box.net offers 50GB of storage for free to all TouchPad users. Box.net is built into Synergy, but it has yet to appear in the music or photo apps, just QuickOffice and its own app from what I can remember.
Wander7 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI love that background with the light shreaking upwards towards the heavens.
lunarx3dfx - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkAnand, could you let me know what build of the OS your touchpad is running? Ive noticed that the display models in stores are running build 16, whereas the release build is 41. I think there was some serious optimization done between those build, because ive had none of the performance issues experienced by reviewers on my touchpad. The experience is nice and snappy for me, albeit with the occasional stutter.
Also, HP already announced that the first ota is due out by the end of this month with bug fixes and optimizations.
I personally love my touchpad, and hardly even use my computers anymore for anything other than working in office and playing games. My touchpad has practically replaced every other device I have. I love it.
Also, this was sent from my HP Touchpad. :-)