I want to love the TouchPad. It's the first webOS tablet, and while I'd appreciate the ability to choose between a number of devices sporting the mobile platform, I'll take anything at this point that doesn't involve a full QWERTY keyboard and slider form factor (because let's be honest, the numerous variations of the Pre's design are getting old). On paper, it's ready to compete with the best of them: 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 9.7-inch display, and wireless connectivity to your webOS-powered smartphone so you can make phone calls and send text messages directly from the tablet.
The HP TouchPad is available in 16 GB and 32 GB flavors for $499 and $599, respectively. I've been working with the tablet over the past few days, and have discovered the following:
- TouchPad offers a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, so in theory, it should be a snappy tablet. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. When it works, it works well; transitions are quick and apps open with ease. But from time to time, the device will hang for 1-3 seconds while an app is loading. What's worse, in the past 48 hours that I've worked with it, I've had five system resets due to webOS freezing up. Each time, it freezes for 20 seconds or so, and resets.
- Continuing on that, the overall experience with the TouchPad is incredibly frustrating, because you never know what to expect. So far as I can tell, it has to be something to do with the coding of the operating system on the tablet. TouchPad has an impressive spec sheet, it just seems like the software needs to be tweaked. Perhaps we'll see improvements in future software updates.
- The hardware isn't impressive in comparison to other tablets on the market. Exuding a Pre-like feel with glossy black plastic, the TouchPad is somewhat thick. Combined with the rounded curves, it exudes a toy-like feel.
- The 9.7-inch display is a nice size, though the added width makes it challenging to type on in portrait mode.
- There's no rear-facing camera. Seriously, HP? I've never used a tablet camera for anything more than a casual picture (tablet cameras aren't quite there yet) and certainly don't see it as a viable replacement to your camera, but not having one is sure to push some prospective buyers to competing devices. HP does bundle the device with a front-facing camera, but it's intended specifically for video calling apps - there's no app to use it for picture taking purposes.
- The TouchPad packs a 6,300 mAh battery, and so far, battery life has been decent. I'll have more information on it in the full review.
Unfortunately, the issues with the TouchPad are part of a bigger issue. HP's handling of webOS can be equated to that child that you know has a great deal of potential, but you watch in sadness as their parents encourage them to make foolish decisions. While it has suffered from a lack of developer support a handful of other logistical things, webOS in itself is an excellent OS. It offers some of the best multitasking capabilities on the market, and is one of the few mobile OSes out there that I'd recommend to anyone from a first-time buyer to advanced user. It's one of those operating systems that "just works," and on several occasions, I find myself going through native apps thinking "why haven't other platforms thought of that?"
webOS is an operating system that I want to see succeed, but the combination of lackluster hardware and unnecessary delays between product announcements and release dates endangers the platform. At this point, it's anyone's guess as to whether they can turn it around and make it a serious contender in the marketplace.