The TouchPad integrates technology from two giants of the mobile computing world – HP and Palm – to create a tablet which, on paper, is match-ready for the juggernaut iPad.
The TouchPad is one of the more interesting tablets to grace the GadgetGuy test bench of late. Unlike most of the current crop, the TouchPad doesn’t have a widescreen display, opting instead for a 9.7 inch 4:3 aspect ratio capacitive touchscreen, similar to that of the Apple iPad. Absent, too, are rear cameras, a development that’s becoming commonplace on tablets this year.
Outside of these omissions, the TouchPad manages to include a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 16 or 32GB storage, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, and microUSB charging and data port.
A 3G SIM slot is included, but no 3G modem is provided in the device. HP has told GadgetGuy that the slot is for a later version of the TouchPad.
Audio exported via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm wired headphone port, and features Beats Audio, a form of processing that promises music “the way the artist intended”. This technology can also be found in other HP laptops and is recommended for use with Beats headphones.
The TouchPad also debuts the webOS operating system, a new platform with its own apps and app marketplace supported only by HP devices, The OS integrates a technology called “Synergy,” a concept HP says integrates services and social networking clients into the TouchPad in a way not yet seen.
Performance – what it does well
There’s a lot to like about the TouchPad, largely because it feels so different from everything else available.
HP’s gesture controls work incredibly well, combining simple horizontal and vertical swiping movements to control which applications you use. It’s multitasking done right, offering such an easy control experience that you wonder how Apple overlooked it.
For Apple devices, you’re dependant on the home button for jumping between applications, pressing it once to go back to the home screen or twice to multi-task.
To switch between applications on the HP TouchPad, however, you swipe up the screen; a gesture that shrinks your current application down to a tiny window and allows you to navigate to a different one by swiping to the left or right. If you want to jump into a different app, simply press its icon, voila, you’re in. Alternatively, swipe upwards on the app icon to remove it from your list of running applications.
This method of navigating apps reminds us of RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook, only it feels stronger on the TouchPad, with no fiddling required.
HP’s Synergy works well too, connecting services such as your email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Mail, Microsoft Exchange, and even WordPress blogs so that updates are shown at the top of the screen for all of these solutions. What’s really cool about Synergy is just how many services it supports: there’s room to add MobileMe, Dropbox, Skype, plus more from HP’s online app marketplace as they become available.
There’s also a unified search system called “Just Type”, which appears when you’re switching between applications. Here you can type whatever you want, and webOS will search for your word or phrase as it appears in files on the TouchPad, or present options to search via Wikipedia, Twitter, Bing Maps. You can even create an email with the term as the body text.