HP has been conspicuously noticeable by its absence in the consumer tablet market. But after a year of sitting on its shiny new Palm-based mobile operating system, webOS, HP finally unveiled its rather exquisite HP TouchPad.
HP TouchPad: Build
Lke most of HP’s consumer touchy feely devices, it is glossy piano black and a haven for smudges. That said, we had no qualms with the added weight and dimensions because it’s so much more robust than an iPad. Aside from the blister home button on the right, the only other buttons are a volume rocker, off button on the left and there’s a mini USB to plug in to the PC. There are two speaker grilles on the left and right for HP Beats Audio tech, which is a little underwhelming until you plug headphones in.
HP TouchPad: WebOS
Powering on is instant and take you in to webOS 3.0. There’s no home page as such, more a work space to put your apps and tasks cards and we were suitably impressed by the touted card stackings, making it a cinch to navigate. Bonus points for adding a nonchalant flick up gesture to bin anything we were working on. We also loved the Just Type feature, which is essentially the same as typing in to your search bar on Windows 7 start tab. That made finding what we needed effortless.
It is very slick and geared for multi-tasking without getting us lost in Escher-like mazes of apps and difficult to find tasks. Fortunately, the guts include 1GB of RAM and a bleeding edge dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2GHz processor, which is designed to handle flipping between apps without slowing down. We tested this with HD video played back over Wi-Fi and several web pages open, plus a couple of apps running. Try as we might, we couldn’t hit lag and didn’t encounter any staccato playback because it’s just too responsive.
What is it missing? Well there’s no video recording, video out to get HD playback on your telebox, no 3G yet, no rear camera and no lip-smacking touche éclat that created the Macolyte fanbois we know and love. However, HP has built a beautiful prosumer device and used its background in enterprise to bolster the TouchPad’s security business credentials. That means Microsoft Exchange and virtual private network (VPN) support amongst other business corporate friendly concessions. Oh yes, need we even mention the fact it natively plays Flash and supports a massive array of video and audio codecs?
It’s a shame we couldn’t try out HP’s new cloud-based media service, HP Play because it wasn’t live at the time of reviewing. That said, multi-media playback impressed and it has the chops to run very purdee graphics – assuming developers build games to take advantage.
HP will have to build up its app to if it wants to deliver an ecosystem to keep us coming back. At the moment, the App Catalog cupboard is bare though there are apps for Kindle, the Guardian, Sky, Facebook and…yes…Angry Birds in HD. The good news is that the TouchPad should be good enough to keep developers interested and the monthly tech mag app Pivot might keep punters coming back.
Where HP really excels, is in the social networking and contact management synergy – they are seamless. The TouchPad synchs contacts and social networks, fusing them together with beautifully laid out icons that make it a joy to use.
HP TouchPad: Screen
On paper, HP has stuck to the iPad 2’s blueprint rigidly, using the same quality 9.7-inch multitouch display with a 1024x768 resolution. HP hasn’t told us if the screen uses the same IPS tech inside but the colour palette is rich, details are razor-edge sharp and the viewing angle is wide. Add the toughened Gorilla glass and the TouchPad feels like it was made to survive.
The screen isn’t edge to edge and HP has done this to house a home button that lights up to orientate you when you’re switching between landscape and portrait modes – a great addition in dark environments
HP TouchPad: Battery
HP claimed about eight hours of battery life for light use and that’s not a grandiose guesstimate. We clock four and a half hours on with Wi-Fi on and some background apps running so it’s good enough for short haul lights. It did take a very long time to charge over the superb Touchstone wireless charger but it charges in portrait or landscape and is as cool as…
HP TouchPad: Verdict
HP's TouchPad is a brilliant first entry from HP in to the tablet market. It is slick, intuitive, powerful and looks stunning. It is also very well priced against the competition to give HP and edge. The apps is has are very limited for now but we're hoping it will be supported by developers and sells like hot cakes.
HP TouchPad launch date: Out now, link HP
HP TouchPad price: £399 (16GB) £479 (32GB)