Pros: $150 for a 32GB tablet? That's a serious fire sale!!!
Cons: No rear camera. No built in 3G. Limited app store.
I learned on one of my favorite gadget blogs that Hewlett Packard was abandoning it’s joint-venture with Palm and that they’d be liquidating their Web OS devices. The once $399 16GB Touchpad (which I reviewed) has dropped to just $99. The $499 32GB version has dropped to a shocking $149. The recently released 64GB, white-painted, version which retails for $599 hasn’t received a cut, but, it just might – so keep your eyes open.
Naturally, I did what any capitalist would do: I bought a bunch of them planning to refund the difference and either sell them or gift them.
I spent about an hour on the phone calling Best Buys, Staples, Office Maxes and Walmarts until I was able to figure out a store with them still in stock. Apparently Best Buy decided to completely stop selling them to hungry customers and ship them back to HP (I’ve always hated Best Buy). Meanwhile, PC Richards and Staples, for the most part, sold out this morning, or, in PC Richard’s case, will let you go to the store, order one (back order) and then ship it to you. I believe Amazon is refunding the price difference too.
The vast majority of the functionality of this tablet, I have already covered in my review of the 16GB version. Therefore, I will only talk about the major components again.
The tablet probably has the highest build quality of any of the tablets I’ve used/owned besides the iPad 2. The back has a plastic cover so sturdy and solid that it feels like a ceramic or porcelain. There is no back camera, so unlike the Xoom, Thrive and other tablets which must design their backplates to accommodate cameras and speakers, the Touchpad’s is simply smooth and featureless. For the $150 I spent, I can overlook not having a rear camera. Afterall, I do my HD video recording on my iPhone and I’ve almost never used my iPad2’s HD recording camera since holding it up is awkward.
The front of the Touchpad features a gorgeous 9.7” screen flanked by a black bezel, a front facing 1.3 megapixel camera and the Web OS gesture lamp. It’s a clean, pretty design, but, like most other tablets, it is slightly difficult to use outside if you have the sun overhead or in a situation that presents glare.
The Touchpad is slightly heavy feeling at 740 grams, which will make you feel fat next to the 610g iPad2, but, the Touchpad is not as heavy as the best-in-class Toshiba Thrive (725g). All you need is a good booklet case protector for it and you’re good to go.
The HP Touchpad OEM case costs about $25 if you can find one on Ebay. I'm disappointed that unlike iPad 2 and it's smart cover, the Touchpad isn't designed to cut its screen off when you close the lid flap.
WHY BOTHER BUYING THIS IF WEB OS IS DOOMED?
Although I’m not certain of the future of Web OS, aside from 3rd party apps, there are already numerous apps on Web OS available for the HP Veer, the Palm Pixi and the Palm Pre/2. No, they aren’t as numerous as what I’ve got on iPad2, but, there are plenty of staples to keep you satisfied with this tablet if you get in on the sub-$150 pricing. Pandora for example, lets you continue using your music preferences to listen to choice artists. There are numerous Weather apps, Facebook, Kindle reader, calculators and stock apps available. There are even plenty of games to download – including Angry Birds, but, once again, this is probably not the best tablet if you want an ecosystem like Apple’s.
Where the Touchpad completely apes the iPad2 is in the fact that it has a browser with Flash player. Not only that, but, it’s a Flashplayer that arguably works smoother than Flash on many Android tablets – namely, our Motorola Xoom. Flash is a feature iPad may never, ever have. Therefore, I can justify purchasing a Touchpad through that alone. This is a tablet specifically designed for people who want a tablet with a superb browser for reading their emails and responding, or just general web surfing.
Web OS is not without it's flaws though. Unlike iPad, the browser lacks a text magnifier to do fine editing of typed text and saving online images can be a chore if it isn't formatted just right.
I'm also not pleased that the Touchpad only has a French, English, Spanish or German keyboard. I need Chinese and Japanese like on my iPhone4 to do most of my chatting.
Hopefully, an update will allow us to use Proxy settings. At the moment, Touchpad doesn't allow you to use anything other than your own DNS/ IP/ VPN numeral settings - so if you need to use a Proxy url, you're out of luck.
GENERAL USE OF THE TOUCHPAD
There is no 3G available so you'll have to tether to a bluetooth enabled smartphone when you want to use Touchpad in areas with no Wifi.
When Palm designed the WebOS operating system, it is obvious that they basically copied what they could from Apple. Some lawsuits are still pending in fact. The browsing experience for the most part feels just like an Apple iOS device, specifically, the iPad1. There is pinch-to-zoom, inertial scrolling and marginalized tap-to-zoom effects which try to keep text in a sensible wrap as you zoom in or out.
The one exception to the Apple-esque feel is that WebOS has a “dimple” effect which shows you the exact point on the screen you’ve tapped. Honestly – I find it annoying, but, unless you are well versed in iOS you may not care. You may even find it helpful.
Being able to watch Flash videos on their page is awesome. Thing is, unless they have easy to manipulate volume sliders - or other settings sliders - sometimes, you'll have trouble trying to get the sound output just right.
Similar to Android, all the sub-functions of WiFi, power options and the search engine can be accessed by touching the appropriate symbol on the edge of the screen. There is no physical orientation lock button, but, you can lock the orientation within two taps of the upper right corner of the screen.
Text is crisp and clear with automatic character resizing to accomdate people who need to zoom in to ready tiny text or Asian characters (people like me typing in Chinese). The browser here is a pretty good one and with the snappy Gigahertz CPU, it runs smoothly enough to enjoy the experience at any given time.
Once again, Web OS’ “Synergy” software is one of the major reasons why WebOS phones did as well as they did. Synergy takes all of your contacts and attempts to synchronize them so whatever message you receive from a specific person – no matter what device they sent it from – will be funneled to you in a coherent manner. Thus far, neither Apple, or Android have functionality this good, but it may come further down the line. Touchpad even offers an app called “Free Texting” which lets you send text messages to people’s cellphones. When they reply, you receive an email heralded by a notification. If you have your Pre 3, Veer or other Web OS device synched to the TouchPad, your text messages will be merged into the tablet’s chat client. I also liked that the Tablet comes out of the box ready to sync with services such as AOL, Facebook, Google Chat and Exchange, but, even better – any of those services that have syncable Calendar apps on their websites will be combined with the Touchpad’s Calendar app. Email contacts and folders on your accounts are handled the same way. Once you finish registering the TouchPad with each individual site, it easily pulls down data from the cloud and presents it to you - neatly organized.
Another breakthrough feature which the Touchpad brilliantly implements is synchronization with the newest Web OS devices in “Touch to Share”. The demonstration we got showed that the touchpad can be easily synched with a WebOS phone, such as the Pre 3 or HP Veer, just by bumping the phone to the tablet’s home light. If your phone rings, you can answer the call on the tablet itself without ever touching your phone. It’s sure to be a feature Google and perhaps even Apple or RIM will want to “borrow” since they all are so heavily invested in ensuring you have a Tablet that matches your choice of phone. Unfortunately, the Pre 3 has only been released in Europe and may never see a US release. I still plan to post my Epinions review of the Pre3, but, some people may not like the fact that it’s a great phone they may only be able to get if they take a Euro tour or buy from Ebay with the SIM unlocked.
The bluetooth system merged with my iPhone4S and allowed me to answer/place calls through the tablet - it isn't limited to HP phones.
AUDIO and VIDEO
As I’ve already mentioned, being able to view Youtube videos on their native page and also have access to comments and notifications from Google Adsense about my account is easily, one of the biggest selling points for me. However, the Touchpad excels in the video department by having a gorgeous screen, and probably the best speakers I’ve used on any tablet up until now.
Flash videos play with virtually no slowdown at all.
The speakers are branded “Beats Audio” – but, that’s not entirely true. The speakers themselves are not made by Beats, but, the audio processing is. Similar to “SRS WOW” technology on laptops, the Beats technology helps sound coming from the Tablet sound crisper and clearer than the majority of low end/ mid range laptops you’ve probably used. At their highest level, there is no noticeable distortion and bass response is admirable. Instruments have their distinct ranges whilst listening to classical and even downloaded movies sound better than they do on other pads.
Audio is outstanding even if you use midrange headphones, but, if you are fortunate enough to own higher end headphones, such as Beats’, you may not ever want to watch a regular television again and opt to use your Touchpad instead.
I originally gave the HP Touchpad only 3 stars because it came up lacking when compared to other, similarly priced tablets. Thing is, at this price, all is forgiven.
$99 for the 16GB version.
$149 for the 32GB version.
If you can get your hands on one of these today (BJ’s claims their sale starts tomorrow), or if you’ve recently purchased one from BBY, Walmart, Staples or Office max, make sure you take that receipt in for your refund if you haven’t hit the liquidated price.
There is talk that HP may even be planning to liquidate it’s PC division, which would make me very upset, since I’ve purchased so many of their computers, but, keep your eyes open if and when it does happen. I have no idea how HP came to this. They’ve been running commercials and demonstrations of the Veer, Pre 3 and Touchpad for a while now and I seriously thought they were going to build a solid competitor in the mobile electronics market. But, as with the Jornada line, HP has shown me that when they make deep cuts, they cut to the bone.
ACT FAST cause SUPPLIES ARE SEVERELY LIMITED.