Thoughts on the HP TouchPad

Two weeks ago, HP managed to create intense interest in a device that was more or less ignored by consumers. Slickdeals redefined the SD effect, taking down every merchant that offered the fire sale price. Several oversold their stock. One in particular, way oversold through Amazon. I attempted to purchase one from this vendor. Like the many other slickdealers, my order was cancelled. Unlike the others, I was only trying to purchase one tablet.

A coworker, interested in picking up a TouchPad, learned that a Best Buy near work had some in stock. Sensing that my order would get cancelled, I went and stood in line at Best Buy. Only 6 people after me received a ticket to buy one. So, I was a little lucky to get one.

The Scoop

After a little over a week with my 32GB TouchPad, I’d say it’s a steal at $150. The most I would have paid for the TouchPad is $300. Yes, this is under the estimated $320 cost for the components in the TouchPad, and about half of the original price of just under $600. This is something the tablet manufactures do not want to hear. I see tablets as a tertiary Internet device; behind the PC and the smartphone (pick your order, but you’ll be more productive on the PC when creating content).

WebOS

This is my first WebOS device. Originally, I was planning on only playing with WebOS for a little bit and spend a weekend getting Android onto the TouchPad. However, after playing with WebOS for a while, I’m not sure I will ever put Android on the TouchPad.

As an Android user, navigating around WebOS felt a little awkward at first. Going from several hardware buttons on my Motorola Droid, to only one menu button on the TouchPad didn’t help this. Closing apps is one example where I struggled for a while. On the Droid, I just keep pushing the “back” button until I hit the home screen. I eventually figured out that you can sling shot apps off of the screen, and then caused the TouchPad to crash. After that, I gave in and read the Quick Start packet, and found you just slide apps off the top of the screen, no sling shotting needed.

For those who don’t already know, WebOS is built on Linux, and is much closer to a Linux distro than Android is. The TouchPad even includes a GPL/Open Source statement PDF in the root of the device. And, yes I have contemplated installing Gentoo Portage onto it.

The Good

I am very impressed with the WebOS web browser. Comparing to the earlier Honycomb browser (on the Motorola Xoom) it is much more responsive. Having Flash pre-installed, and having the muscle to handle it, provides a very good browsing experience. Besides the occasional issue (WordPress distraction free writing mode), the TouchPad is as good, if not better than a laptop for general Internet browsing.

Hardware wise, the IPS display looks good, and has great viewing angles. Sound from the two small speaker slots are, dare I say, better than the speakers on my laptop (surprisingly good for a tablet). Wireless charging using the touchstone dock (accessory, purchased separately) is really neat.

The Bad

There are slim pickings when it comes to apps. Not that this affected my purchasing decision, but those who like apps will be disappointed. When I first powered up the TouchPad there were maybe 400 apps for it. This number has grown quite a bit in a week, but is it still rather low. There isn’t a terminal app that works, something I’d like to have. Yes, there are ways of getting a full terminal if you root it, I just haven’t gotten there yet.

While the IPS display is very nice, I can see where people are hoping the iPad 3 has a “retina” display. At 1024×768 the resolution is a little low, and the individual pixels are noticeable when couch surfing. Additionally, to keep the holes in the back plastic case symmetrical on the longer sides, there is a “pop out” plastic tag. Rather than just include the information on that tag, HP could have fit a SD slot in there to provide some storage expandability.

The Ugly

It takes absolutely for ever to boot. Most probably won’t notice this as they’ll turn it on once, and only shutdown/reboot only when system updates require it. I typically turn off my devices, especially if I won’t be using them for a day or so. There really isn’t anything more that is ugly about the TouchPad, its a fairly solid device. The weight could be reduced, but it isn’t that bad.

Final Thoughts

The TouchPad is a very nice tablet. However, it is not without its faults, expandability ends up being the biggest. Regardless of its faults, the TouchPad is a good tablet that is being cleared out at a very nice price point. But, I would not have bought it at the introductory price as I simply cannot justify that kind of expense for a tablet. I feel a little spoiled by HP.

Ultimately, HP’s misfortune has temporarily killed the tablet market for everyone but Apple. Most of the Android running competitors either had junk hardware at the $100 price point, or they’re sitting with mediocre hardware at the $400 price point. The only truly interesting Android tablet is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, thanks to its keyboard/battery dock. I was going to get one, or rather the second generation Eee Pad Trasnformer. However, now I’m out of the tablet market for the time being.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on the HP TouchPad

    • I should have clarified that. It didn’t come with the touchstone charger, it was an accessory that I bought (for ~60% off).

      I should also note that I wrote the beginning two paragraphs on the TouchPad. I was trying to use the distraction free writing mode, but kept running into minor, WordPress related issues. It is clear to me that distraction free writing mode was not designed with tablets in mind. Even though, it is what I’d consider the preferable mode for writing with a tablet (dedicated apps are so 2010).

      -John Havlik

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