The HP TouchPad is HP's first webOS-based tablet which runs the very new webOS 3.0 version. Quite typical for today's tablets, the TouchPad is powered by a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU at 1.2 GHz and is/will be available in two different flavors: W-LAN only and GSM/UMTS. Furthermore, each version is/will be available with 16 GB and 32 GB inbuilt memory. However, at the moment only the W-LAN version is available which supports dualband (2.4 and 5 GHz) WiFi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR as well as the typical light sensor, accelerometer, digital compass and a gyroscope. On the front, the TouchPad features a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for video telephony but there's no main camera on the back.
The HP TouchPad features a 9.7" XGA (1024 x 768) capacitive multitouch display which results in an aspect ratio of 4:3. It measures 240 x 190 x 13.7 mm including the inbuilt 6300 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery, which can be charged through the standard micro USB port or the separately available HP Touchstone wireless charging dock.
The TouchPad comes with four physical buttons which includes the volume up/down rocker on the right, the power button on the top and the webOS-typical "Card View" button below the screen. On the bottom, the device sports a micro USB port for charging the the device and connecting it to the PC. On the left the are the two Beats Audio stereo speakers located.
Like all previous Palm and HP webOS smartphones, the TouchPad supports the HP Touchstone technology which is a wireless charging dock. While charging with the Touchstone, the TouchPad can be set to an Exhibition mode and the user can chose whether to display photos or show upcoming appointments. It's even possible to "program" different Touchstones for different tasks, for instance at home the TouchPad is showing photos while at work it shows the calendar.
Furthermore, the Touchstone technology enables wireless communication between the HP Pre 3 and the TouchPad which allows to share web links between devices or accepting phones calls on the TouchPad where the device works as a kind of hands-free Bluetooth headset. It's also possible to read SMS messages which were received on the Palm 3.
The HP TouchPad is using a redesigned version of webOS which is optimized for larger tablet devices. Like all other webOS versions, webOS 3.0 is also a card-based multitasking environment which allows to open and arrange applications into stacks. However, unlike the smartphone versions, webOS 3.0 is now notifying the of received messages, E-Mails and events on the top of the screen, rather than on the bottom.
Since the currently available TouchPad is WiFi only, it can't do any GSM or UMTS calls at all. However, HP has added Skype to the massive list of supported Synergy services which allows to make and receive voice and video calls over - funny enough - Microsoft's owned Skype service.
But Synergy can also merge calendars from multiple sources which can be viewed together or one at a time. Furthermore, for messaging, Synergy combines all conversations with each contact into a single chat-style window.
Another feature which was already introduced with the original webOS release but enhanced with the later webOS 2.x release is HP's "Just Type". By typing on the main screen, the TouchPad searches across many sources on- and offline and retrieves matching contacts, E-Mails, web pages and even offers to search different services.
Therefore, a user doesn't has to think about which application might be the appropriate one to open but can let the device decide.
The HP TouchPad comes with an on-screen full QWERTY keyboard which offers four different sizes (XS, S, M and L).
Since the HP TouchPad is featuring a 10" screen, the web browser isn't limited to a mobile browser but a full featured browser with Adoble Flash support. It nearly shows web pages as on a PC but pinch to zoom allows to zoom in and out of web sites, providing a text reflow for easier reading without scrolling left and right.
While the previous webOS versions used Google Maps as the default and only mapping service, the TouchPad is now using Microsoft's Bing Maps. Bing Maps features road, satellite as well as Bing's bird's eye view.
Furthermore Bing Maps features routing which calculates the route between two points.
The TouchPad wouldn't be a HP product if there wasn't a printing feature and as a matter of fact the TouchPad can print wirelessly to any new and most old HP printers, without installing any specific software.
While, the TouchPad supports for webOS smartphones developed applications, these applications are running in a kind of emulator but not fullscreen. That's somewhat a little bit annoying, especially if there's yet no XGA optimized version of the app available from the HP App Catalog.
On the other hand, previously purchased apps are also running on the TouchPad and it's hopefully just a matter of time until the developers are releasing a TouchPad optimized version of their programs as well.
No discussion, webOS was a great smartphone operating system already and HP did a fantastic job to carefully bring it the tablet platform. All the enhancements and changes make sense, resulting in an easy and intuitive to use system. Not as perfect as the software is the hardware. While there's nothing wrong with the HP TouchPad you have to like 10" tablets - and I know many of you like it. However, for me the TouchPad is a little bit too bulky and I would love to see a 7" or 8.9" and thinner TouchPad. Also the used materials, especially the glossy black plastic is a finger print magnet! I wish HP has used different materials for the device but thankfully it comes with a cleaning cloth. Furthermore, as you might expect it from me, I would love to see the WWAN-enabled GSM/UMTS version as soon as possible released. On the other hand, the TouchPad plays nicely with all of HPs smartphones, especially with the HP Pre 3 and sharing content between the devices or taking phone calls on the TouchPad which arrived on the Pre 3 is the kind of innovation which makes sense and life easier. And since all HP smartphones are supporting tethering, it's not a big deal at all to connect to the Internet, even if no WiFi is around.
However, all this works best with a HP smartphone - for sure; even if the TouchPad tethers fine to other smartphone platforms like Android or the iPhone. But in this case, the joy of sharing contents and functionalities between the devices gets lost.
In terms of the software, the TouchPad is pretty complete and I'm a big fan of HP's Synergy integration which got even better with webOS 3.0. The Skype integration is as easy to use as a mobile phone. E-Mails, contacts and appointments are shown in a unified view but never mixed in the backend! That's how a unified system should work.
And while the 10" is slightly too huge for me, it's - for sure - a fantastic size for browsing the web. Thanks to Adobe Flash support, the browser shows web pages like a PC, there's hardly a difference to spot and the screen size contributes to the on-screen keyboard as well, which might be one of the best tablet keyboards out today.
All together, the HP TouchPad is a great first webOS tablet and if HP continues on this level of innovation, I don't fear for the system. While the TouchPad needs here and there some optimization, for instance rotates the display too easy and fast as well as the inbuilt Office apps allow reading only but not editing, I was told that all this will be fixed with upcoming software updates. And while we are talking about apps, in the recent months HP has also signed a couple of good agreements with software developers. And while not all major apps are available for webOS today, it's hopefully just a question of time to get the most important 30 or 50 apps out there for webOS as well. However, existing developers should take care about their apps now to get the larger tablet screen resolution supported as well.
The TouchPad isn't one of the cheaper tablets but one of the more expensive one. The device is already available in the U.S. and in Europe the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany will follow-up end of this week, with Canada following in mid July. Further availability is scheduled to follow later this year in Italy and Spain, as well as in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore.
The 16 GB version costs US$ 499.99/479 Euro while the 32 GB version costs US$ 599.99/579 Euro.
Cheers ~ Arne