The impact of tablet devices on the computer industry is astounding. Apple revolutionized the tablet with the inception of the iPad, and countless of other PC manufacturers have scrambled to release their own devices in an attempt to keep up with the Cupertino company. Recently, HP has announced and released their TouchPad; after their acquisition of Palm, it seemed to be the perfect platform to run the rebranded WebOS on which they spent so much.
After it’s launch on July 1st, accompanied by heavy marketing, less than six weeks later HP made the announcement that they were discontinuing the device. Within days, the pricing on the HP TouchPad was dropped to $99 and $149 for the 16GB and 32GB models, and a mad rush for any stock available caused chaos in stores and for online merchants. Thousands of orders were canceled for online buyers and limited stock would trickle in to big name retailers, leaving lines of eager bargain hunters outside the doors. During one of these resurfacings, I was able to get my hands on this tablet to give it a try and see why HP had abandoned this tablet competitor.
Once I turned on the 32GB model I had purchased for $149, I immediately noticed that the tablet is a little thicker than the first iPad. The buttons are minimal, like the Apple tablet, and it is housed in a shiny black plastic. It features a 9.7-inch screen like the iPad, a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera, and a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor provides the horsepower. It does weigh a little bit more at 1.6 pounds, which isn’t a big deal, but it is a noticeable difference. While HP had planned to release the TouchPad with integrated 3G and 4G versions, only the WiFi model was released. For some folks, that will be impractical for portable usage, but around the home or office it works fine.
The WebOS interface is attractive, giving you some app icons at the bottom of the screen for a web browser, email, calendar, photos, and chat. Other apps can be acquired through the HP App Catalog, where you can download free and paid software to use on the WebOS platform. Some notable ones that HP provides for free are Douments to Go, the full version of Angry Birds, and Box.net, a cloud storage utility. What is remarkable about Box.net is that TouchPad owners are eligible for 50GB of online storage for free. Normally, this would run you $19.99 per month; so buying a TouchPad at the heavily discounted price yields a great bargain on the online storage.
Out of the box, the TouchPad is noticeably slower than an iPad, even with the dual-core processor. After some research online, several tweaks can be made to speed up the performance substantially, and once completed, I was very satisfied with the TouchPad’s speed. In completing these tweaks, the TouchPad is opened up to a great deal of other apps through Preware, a third-party WebOS development community, comparable to the jailbreaking capabilities on the iOS platform.
Future development of the WebOS platform is up in the air, but the rush is on to migrate the HP TouchPad to the Android operating system. Recently, the first steps have been made to port this OS to the TouchPad, which will definitely breathe new life into this orphaned tablet device. Either way, for $99, the HP TouchPad is a heck of a deal and a great way to put the future of computing into your hands.