Computers / Hands-on Review

Bump Your webOS Device with the New HP TouchPad Tablet


If you were expecting Windows on the new HP TouchPad, guess again. What distinguishes this sleek multi-touch tablet is that it’s neither an Android or iOS device. Instead, it’s HP’s first webOS tablet. The operating system is a reinvention of Palm’s webOS software platform, which HP acquired last year as part of its purchase of Palm, the Smartphones maker.

Built for mobility and high efficiency, the new webOS is a next-generation multi-tasking experience with access to both local and Internet resources. Unlike a Google ChromeBook, the TouchPad lets you find information stored in the device itself or in the Cloud using the Just Type feature. Also, you can move back and forth seamlessly between your apps—without losing your place.

A Wi-Fi only version of the HP TouchPad will ship July 1, with 16- or 32-Gigabytes of internal storage. Preorders for the tablets, priced at $499.99 and $599.99 respectively, can be placed now.

Except for the amount of storage, the two HP TouchPad models are identical. Both sport a 9.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels and 18-bit color. The HP TouchPad incorporates a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU clocking in at 1.2 GHz. Only 0.54-inches thick, the TouchPad contains a front-facing 1.3-Megapixel Webcam for live video calling. The 1.6-pound TouchPad supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo.

The HP TouchPad imparts a multimedia-rich Web experience with support out of the box for HTML 5 and Adobe Flash. (The latter is a video format embedded in many Web sites that cannot be played on Apple iOS devices, including iPads.) The TouchPad contains HP’s Beats Audio technology with superior high-fidelity playback through the built-in stereo speakers. You can attach your HP TouchPad to your PC or Mac and drag and drop music, photos, video and document files. You can also download movies or TV shows onto the TouchPad from the HP MovieStore, powered by RoxioNow. Thanks to the Qualcomm Adreno core graphics and high-definition screen, the TouchPad is an immersive gaming platform. Newspaper and magazine readers can purchase subscriptions and long-form text lovers can buy digital books.

The TouchPad is also a serious business device. Because webOS was designed to manage several tasks simultaneously, you can have, for instance, your email, calendar, browser and photo app all open at the same time and switch easily between them. That’s because the Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor was designed to run multiple applications at once without slowing you down. The TouchPad supports many popular formats. The bundled Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite is compatible with Microsoft Word (DOC and DOCX), Excel (XLS and XLSX). You’ll also be able to read PowerPoint (PPT and PPTX) and Adobe Acrobat PDF content and view JPG and GIF images. You’ll be able to collaborate with colleagues using Google Docs or and print wirelessly to compatible networked HP printers.

If you manage multiple portables, you’ll love HP’s exclusive Touch to Share capability for sharing Web address between the HP TouchPad and compatible webOS devices. Say you’re intrigued by a newspaper article or a recipe you’re viewing on your tablet. You can simply touch the front of the tablet to your Pre3 Smartphone, and the Web page is transferred over to the Pre3 screen.

The HP TouchPad is able to sync email, calendars or contacts from multiple sources and organize it into single views. The integration works for calendars and contacts, too. And the Just Type feature lets you start typing a string of text, and webOS will search your device and the Web. It will also suggest applications you might want to launch.

Whether you're touching base with business associates or checking in with friends and family members, video calling is an application that comes alive on the TouchPad's large, sumptuous display. Smartphone screens seem so puny by comparison. When someone calls you, you'll receive a text notification at the top of the screen so it won't disrupt what you're doing. When connected to your Pre3, you'll be notified if you get SMS messages, IMs and emails without interrupting what you're doing. If a phone call comes into your phone, you can answer it on the TouchPad.

According to HP, there are thousands of apps already available for the HP webOS, and the company is working with developers to introduce thousands more. There are apps for social networking, health and fitness, productivity, finance and even 3D games. Plus, the redesigned App Catalog makes it even easier to find what you need.

The HP TouchPad comes with a micro USB cable and AC charger. And there are some innovative accessories expected in August. First among them is the HP Touchstone Charging Dock, an inductive charging easel. Place your TouchPad in portrait or landscape mode on the angle-adjustable stand, and charging starts automatically without having to fit the tablet into a connector or plugging in a cable.  Though sometimes referred to as a wireless charger, the Touchstone dock itself indeed needs to be plugged into a power source. You can use the TouchPad as it charges. Just set it on the Touchstone, and the Exhibition app launches to automatically show you anything from today's agenda to a slide show of your photos to something as utilitarian as  a clock.

A companion accessory is the HP Carrying Case/Stand that allows for charging the tablet on the Touchstone dock without removing the protective case, and it has the holes in place for the power and volume buttons and headphone jack. There’s also the HP Wireless Keyboard, which features full-size keys, a wireless Bluetooth connection and an estimated battery life of seven months. Two AA batteries are included. Finally, the HP AC Power Charger is a backup charger with a removable 5-foot micro USB cable and a twist-to-lock plug adapter design.

While the debut HP TouchPad leverages Wi-Fi, HP is partnering with AT&T to introduce a version equipped to communicate through a 3G data plan that you’d be able to purchase. That version is expected later this summer.