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.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
Conner_36 - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkbecause its a free market
kmmatney - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI agree - at this price there isn't much incentive. At this time, it seems like the iPad 2 is still the better device. I don't think WebOS gives you any more "freedom" than iOS.
bpgd - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkThis is the review I have been waiting for. As always Anand's review is gold standard. He goes into details and really tells how the thing works.
NeoReaper - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkI feel bad writing this comment because this is actually the first time I've ever posted anything on Anandtech and I've been coming to this site since its inception. I have a lot of respect for virtually every article I have ever read on this site written by Anand with the exception of this one. This is only an opinion but I feel like this review isn't nearly as critical as it should be. Based on what I've read in regards to performance, battery life, bugs, etc.. this device doesn't deserve the pass that you gave (at least that's the impression I get from reading this) This device has too many underlying flaws that haven't been addressed, mainly being the OS performance issues that have existed since the original Pre. Why criticize Skype performance when the screenshot you have cleaerly shows a large number of system services sapping CPU usage for no good reason? I mean, really? Pulseaudio is using almost 27% CPU usage. Maybe I'm interpreting this review incorrectly... I just feel that you were hoping for this device to deliver but reality it doesn't and you're simply hoping that OS updates will resolve the performance issues. If you want to believe that, why not expect the competition to make an update to the OS which boasts features that will make it better for office productivity? Hope is for fanboyism, a reviewer should be deliver facts without twisting it with what could be. Your final words are completely contradictory to itself. I hope you re-examine your review. As I've said already, I have great respect for you, Anand, and I've praised virtually every article you have ever written, but this article I cannot.
lunarx3dfx - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linkOne thing you might want to keep in mind though, is that while pulseaudio was using 27% of CPU resources, is that necessarily HP's fault? I would be more inclined to believe that the fault lies with the developers of pulseaudio for not making a well optimized app.
Now, I'm not excusing the glaring flaws with the Touchpad, however I have not noticed the majority of the performance issues reviewers have seen with my personal TP. That's why in an earlier comment I wanted to know what build of the OS Anand's unit is running. I think reviewers got an earlier build that may not be as optimized as the release build.
I was in Staples the other day, and the demo unit was running build 16 whereas the release models are running build 41.
NeoReaper - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linki see your comment regarding the build number now, it would be very interesting to hear back from Anand regarding the build he was running and whether or not any performance issues have really been fixed. as for the pulseaudio thing, pulseaudio is a linux audio service so the state of its optimization would be HP's fault. It is not a third party application. As I said, my main gripe with the review is that even in the final words portion of his article, many statements are contradictory. How productive can it be when he states that the unit is runs slower than its main competitors in virtually every aspect? How can you justify weight and size with such poor battery life and performance? Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh but the problem is, all the underlying "performance" issues that he states are in the Touchpad are the same problems that plagued the Pre, Pixi, and Pre2. I would love for HP to "fix" the performance issue, but maybe its not really that easy to "fix".
lunarx3dfx - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linkI forgot about pulse being a linux service. Whoops. lol. I can expplain the extra weight and thickness of the device though. Well, HP did. The reason it is so much thicker and heavier according to them, which makes sense to me, is the inclusion of the inductive charging coils.
NeoReaper - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linkahh, ok ok, that makes sense.
Leonick - Monday, July 18, 2011 - linkThe keyboard is actually pretty impressive compared to the competitors, having both a numbers row with special characters and a tab key.
I also like how it handles the settings compared to iOS, having settings in the individual apps make a lot more sense in my mind that a centralized app, still iOS apps can do this if the developers choose to and when there are any settings you might want to change more than once or while running the app the generally do so.
Seems they got notifications pretty right for a tablet too. Pretty similar to how honeycomb does it it looks like. I think the system coming with iOS 5 will do fine for the iPad but it's still not perfect, it seem to be lacking statusbar icons to show that you have notifications and it would be neat if it could display upcoming calendar events and not just events with reminders (like the cydia app Lockinfo does).
Also, it was mentioned how the system was similar to notifications on a PC, well that's understandable, they do have plans to put WebOS on PCs.
Belard - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - linkI agree with you on the keyboard. When I played with the Playbook, I noticed the keyboard right away and LOVE it... iOS and Android should COPY this onto their own devices... ah, let the lawsuits fly.
When you have passwords that are combos of numbers and letters, going back and forth can through you off (it does me).
I'd give HP/WebOS a 10 for the keyboard. I'd give Android and iOS a 6 in comparison.
The Settings Icons for WebOS are a pain.... You have to open one after the other, and if you DON'T close the, they'll stay in memory - constantly running.