HP TouchPad review roundup

HP TouchPad review scores are rolling in. Critics have positive words, but worry that the strong tablet market may wash away the HP TouchPad before it has a chance to grow.

Beck Deifenbach/Reuters/File
The Palm TouchPad is shown on a screen during a media presentation at Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, in this file picture taken February 9, 2011. Hewlett Packard Co will begin selling its TouchPad on July 1 in the United States for $499.99, debuting the first tablet computer powered by Palm's webOS software.

The HP TouchPad seems to have followed the exact same curve as the Palm Pre. As the original webOS device, the Palm Pre had tech reviewers salivating. Early previews called the device snappy, fun, and a strong competitor against Apple and Android. But the Pre took too long to come out; its rivals gained too much ground between the Pre's unveiling and its actual release. Now, years later, has the HP TouchPad fallen into the same trap?

A few months ago, the TouchPad looked like a winner. It rocks webOS 3.0, a speedy Snapdragon dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 1.3 megapixel camera, a 1024x768 resolution screen (same as the iPad), a battery ready for 7 to 8 hours of video, and a price tag identical to the Wi-Fi iPad 2 and Xoom: $499 for a 16GB model, $599 for a 32GB version.

Solid specs. But is it enough to attract attention away from competitors? Or, is this another case where "perfectly good" is not good enough? Over to the reviews.

The hardware

"Internal hardware allows for smooth operation," writes Casey Johnston in Ars Technica. "The TouchPad leans toward the heavy side of the tablet scale; at 1.6 pounds, it's a third of a pound heavier than the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but the same weight as the Motorola Xoom. Because the edges are rounded off and the back has a curve to it, the TouchPad feels chunky. Where other tablets might feel svelte, the TouchPad feels a bit like you're holding a blimp."

The OS

"Finally, webOS on the big screen -- or bigger anyway," says Tim Stevens in his tepid review for Engadget. "The TouchPad is HP's first device running webOS 3.0, a more tablet-friendly version of the little mobile operating system that we've come to love over the years. If you're familiar with earlier versions on perhaps a Pre or a Veer you'll be quite comfortable here because, on the outset, not a lot has changed, particularly when it comes to our favorite part of the OS: multitasking.... As ever, navigating apps like this is genuinely fun; there's something very satisfying about literally throwing away a window that you no longer want cluttering up your screen or your RAM."

The apps

Charles Arthur from the Guardian was pleased with the TouchPad's preinstalled apps. And if you want to download more? "Ah. Yes. This is where things get a bit sticky," he says, sharing the same lukewarm tone as many other reviews. "The HP app store (called the HP App Catalog) is nearly as empty as the RIM PlayBook's one. There's nothing like the range of apps that you can find on Android – or, of course, in Apple's store. HP is trying to make a virtue out of this by having a big magazine-style front called "Pivot" (I kid you not). This only confuses matters, but can't hide the fact that there aren't many apps out there."

The disappointment

"Tablets. There is the iPad, and there is everything else. The TouchPad is the first tablet that could be truly something more than everything else. The TouchPad gets it," writes Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan. "Which is why I was so excited for the TouchPad. And that's why I feel so completely crushed right now.... You're stepping on my dreams, HP. The TouchPad is so close, closer than anything else, to being good. But it's also very, very far from it. Look, give this thing six months. It could be amazing. If it's not by then, well, I guess that says everything that needs to be said."

The final word

"Despite these problems, in many ways the TouchPad is a joy to use," says Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal. "Its new version of the operating system, webOS 3, was rebuilt with tablets in mind. As on competing tablets, key apps have been rewritten to take advantage of the larger screen. For instance, the email app, which can combine numerous accounts, has three sliding panels—one listing accounts and mailboxes, another listing message headers and short previews and the last containing an email’s contents.... But, at least for now, I can’t recommend the TouchPad over the iPad 2."

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