Review roundup: HP TouchPad billed as 'mediocre tablet'

in iPad edited January 2014
Hewlett Packard's entry into the tablet market has drawn praise for its external beauty and criticism as reviewers dug beneath the surface, with one journalist calling the device a "mediocre tablet."

The TouchPad, which arrives Friday, features a 9.7-inch touchscreen with a 1,024 x 768 pixel display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core 1.2GHz processor. The device is Wi-Fi only for now with 16GB and 32GB models that sell for $499 and $599 respectively.

A 3G version of the device is scheduled to arrive on AT&T later this summer. HP announced the Touchpad in February as the beginning of a "new era" of WebOS.

HP's WebOS has been much-anticipated for its potential to break up Apple's lock on the tablet market. The world's largest PC maker acquired the mobile operating system when it bought Palm last year for $1.2 billion, promising to "double down" on WebOS.

However, early reviewers see the TouchPad as arriving late to the tablet party. In general, they were enthusiastic about the device's impressive looks, but took issue with the weight, bugs and lack of applications.

The Wall Street Journal

After testing the device for about a week, Walt Mossberg described the TouchPad as "simply no match for the iPad." He praised the tablet's user interface as "attractive and different," but noted that the UI didn't make up for "poor battery life, a paucity of apps and other deficits."

Mossberg found the device's hardware to be "bulbous and heavy" compared to the iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. He also criticized HP for leaving out key features such as a rear camera or a camera app for taking videos and still pictures. The Touchpad has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera that can be used only for video chats.

Using his standard video test, Mossberg found the device's battery to last only 60 percent as long as Apple's latest tablet. With the screen brightness set to 75 percent, the TouchPad played videos non-stop for 6 hours and 5 minutes, compared to 10 hours and 9 minutes for the iPad 2.

The review also took issue with the just 300 tablet-optimized apps for the TouchPad. Though the tablet can run roughly 70 percent of the 6,200 total webOS apps, it runs them "in a small, phone-size window that can't be expanded."

Noticeably missing were apps for streaming TV shows or movies and editing documents, as well as stores for directly downloading TV shows, movies and music. HP has promised a music store at launch and a video download store "shortly" after launch.

"I also ran into plenty of bugs in my tests, even though H-P said I was testing a production unit," Mossberg wrote. He had trouble with the email app, photos app and the "Angry Birds" game. He also found that he had to reboot the device periodically to keep it from getting too sluggish. HP acknowledged the problems and said an over-the-air update fixing the bugs would arrive in three to six weeks.

The TouchPad's ability to run Adobe Flash sets it apart from the iPad, but Mossberg found Flash performance on the device uneven. "Most Flash videos played fine, but some froze or stuttered badly, even on a fast Internet connection. A site written entirely in Flash wouldn?t even load, he wrote."

Despite the range of issues, the reviewer found the device a "joy to use," while concluding that, "at least for now, [he] can?t recommend the TouchPad over the iPad 2."

The New York Times

David Pogue characterized the TouchPad as "late for the ball," especially because the device's "biggest distinguishing component" is its operating system. According to him, the tablet "doesn't get off to a good start" from a hardware perspective because it's 40 percent thicker and 20 percent heavier than the iPad.

"It supposedly has a blazing-fast chip inside, but you wouldn?t know it. When you rotate the screen, it takes the screen two seconds to match ? an eternity in tablet time," he wrote. "Apps can take a long time to open; the built-in chat app, for example, takes seven seconds to appear. Animations are sometimes jerky, reactions to your finger swipes sometimes uncertain."

Pogue also complained that the TouchPad's battery life lasts only eight hours, compared to the iPad's 10.

To HP's credit, the reviewer did note that both the device and WebOS are beautiful. Pogue also praised the company's Synergy feature that consolidates contacts and calendars from multiple online accounts. The TouchPad boasts changes to the virtual keyboard, adding a number row at the top and adjustable key heights.

HP has also brought over innovations from Palm, such as magnetic charing and close integration with the upcoming Palm Pre 3 smartphone.

"In this 1.0 incarnation, the TouchPad doesn?t come close to being as complete or mature as the iPad or the best Android tablets; you?d be shortchanging yourself by buying one right now, unless you?re some kind of rabid A.B.A. nut (Anything but Apple)," Pogue concluded, adding that HP has shown "signs of greatness," but is "tilting at windmills."

Source: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

The Associated Press

Rachel Metz found the TouchPad to be just a "mediocre tablet," and not the triumph for HP that it should have been. "Yet while the TouchPad's software is beautiful and intuitive, overall the tablet is more of a "meh-sterpiece" than a masterpiece," she wrote.

Metz said the WebOS software made "perfect sense" on a tablet and navigating around the device was "a breeze." Video performance was excellent, and the device was good for surfing the web, although some websites would not load properly.

However, the reviewer also noted "plenty of fumbles" on the device. For example, IM conversations would sometimes mysteriously stop sending text. Other times, the tablet would stutter and freeze. Metz tested the video chat feature and found it to be "dismal." According to a colleague, the video from the TouchPad looked "like a Monet painting" and the audio sounded crackly.

"Sadly, the TouchPad is more blah than brilliant. The software is great, though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that HP can come up with a stronger tablet next time around," she concluded.


Rich Jaroslovsky, a self-professed fan of "the polished, easy-to-use webOS software," wrote that the operating system made the leap from phone to tablet "beautifully." However, he was surprised at some of HP's struggles in the hardware department. In particular, Jaroslovsky took issue with the TouchPad's weight, which is even heavier than Apple's original iPad.

The reviewer appreciated aspects of the experience that, like Apple, arose from HP's control of both the software and the hardware. For instance, the TouchPad can be paired with the Palm Pre 3 to pass information and even answer incoming calls and receive and send text messages.

But, the tablet "sometimes struggles with the basics," often feeling "sluggish and underpowered," according to Jaroslovsky. He was also disappointed by battery life, getting only 4 1/2 hours during stress testing.

"Especially given the TouchPad?s hardware shortcomings, you?re probably better off waiting for a TouchPad 2," he wrote.


  • Reply 1 of 111
    Must keep.... brow... furrowed.... at.... non... Apple.... products!
  • Reply 2 of 111
    anifananifan Posts: 25member
    Even as a die-hard webOS user I agree with these reviews. webOS is more intuitive and beautiful than iOS, but HP really should have just waited and optimized it for another month.
  • Reply 4 of 111
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Can you believe that there exists delusional fools and mentally ill people out there who have been calling this an iPad killer? And if these people are not mentally ill, then they are surely smoking much better weed than I am, and I'd like to know where I can get me some of that.

    I read a few of those HP tablet reviews and this tablet is a complete joke. It's fat and grotesquely obese. It weighs too much. It's made from cheap materials. It takes more than a minute to turn on! It has shoddy battery life. It fares terrible in performance tests, such as javascript. It suffers from many bugs. The video camera, of which it only has one, seems like complete crap, not even good enough for Skype. Flash is horrible, buggy and laggy on it, not that I really give a damn about Flash. When you tear the tablet apart, it looks like the insides of a cheap pc, not a tablet. There are hardly any apps available for it. They hilariously priced it at the exact same price as the undisputed #1 tablet which rules the universe.

    The modern tablet era, which was ushered in by the arrival of the groundbreaking iPad is still pretty young, but the tablet graveyard has already begun to fill up with the corpses of tablets which have already met their early demise. I imagine that in 6 months time, the corpse of the HP Touchpad will be feeling pretty comfortable lying 6 feet underground, next to his neighbor, Mr. Xoom and all of the other poor, unfortunate bastards.
  • Reply 5 of 111
    jacksonsjacksons Posts: 244member
    OMG Walt Mossberg didn't like a non iProduct!? Really? I can't beleive it. Oh wait...
  • Reply 6 of 111
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,876member
    Originally Posted by Jacksons View Post

    OMG Walt Mossberg didn't like a non iProduct!? Really? I can't beleive it. Oh wait...

    You mean to be more credible he has to lie once in a while and pretend that a crappy product is great and a great product is crappy? :-)
  • Reply 7 of 111
    jacksonsjacksons Posts: 244member
    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post

    You mean to be more credible he has to lie once in a while and pretend that a crappy product is great and a great product is crappy? :-)

    I think you know what I mean. If you want an unbiased opinion when an iSomething is envolved, Walt is not the tree to climb. I don't know if this HP thing is any good, but you will not find out by asking Walt :-)
  • Reply 8 of 111
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    That's too bad. I really like webOS. I don't need a tablet anyways, but I was really hoping hPalm would produce something better then just average.
  • Reply 9 of 111
    La HP libro estas malperfekta. Ne sxoko! Kiam ekis kredi HP sukcesus per verkas la unua provo? HP verkos.
  • Reply 10 of 111
    Originally Posted by Jacksons View Post

    I think you know what I mean. If you want an unbiased opinion when an iSomething is envolved, Walt is not the tree to climb. I don't know if this HP thing is any good, but you will not find out by asking Walt :-)

    Actually, when describing things like battery life, number of available apps, and websites that flat didn't load, it'd be a stretch to say he's being biased. He's just reporting the facts.

    Edit: Yeah, I know iOS wouldn't load the flash-based sites either. I'm just saying that if it has the player installed and it doesn't work, that's just Walt reporting his findings on how well it does at what it tries to be.
  • Reply 11 of 111
    Here we are at version 3 of WebOS, on its fastest hardware yet, and it's still slow, buggy, and power hungry.

    The UI is pretty, as usual, but it's still a mess under the surface.

    WebOS was a hail mary attempt from Palm; after years of trying to develop the next generation Palm OS they whipped together "WebOS" from a Linux kernel and WebKit in only a matter of months, and it appears there are serious architectural problems as a result. I'll be surprised if there are any WebOS devices in the market in a few years. Its flaws are just too deep.
  • Reply 12 of 111
    29922992 Posts: 202member
    just give them some time to polish the thing...
  • Reply 13 of 111
    I am curious to see what WebOS looks and feels like. I have heard a lot of positive hopes and comments on Apple boards regarding it, so I would love to see it.

    I am also very curious to see the second generation versions of all these non-iTablets. What will Xoom offer in the next version? What about RIM Playbook and of course, the HP Touchpad? They have a benchmark in sight, which is set by iPad and now they have one iteration of their products in the market. I'm sure that with this experience, they should make better ones next time around.

    Finally, maybe it's just me but the moment a reviewer uses something like "meh-sterpiece" in their review, I cannot take the rest of it seriously. It's not what I'd expect a reviewer to use. I mean this isn't
  • Reply 14 of 111
    karmadavekarmadave Posts: 369member
    Even if the TouchPad was brilliant, which is it apparently not, the lack of a complete 'ecosystem' will probably doom it to failure. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a complete ecosystem (devices, accessories, applications, etc) and Apple is definitely in the driver's seat with Google following way behind for now. While HP is obviously following Apple's approach, I am not sure if the market can support two 'closed' designs as well as the 'open' one from Google. I welcome HP if for no other reason it spurs the other players to keep innovating and evolving their platforms...
  • Reply 15 of 111
    big kcbig kc Posts: 141member
    Originally Posted by 2992 View Post

    just give them some time to polish the thing...

    Butthead once told Beavis that "you can't polish a turd", and he was spot-on. Even if they manage to optimize the OS and add missing features, and gain a reasonable number of available tablet-optimized apps, the hardware is still a disaster. TouchPad 2 had better be badass, or the whole concept is doomed.
  • Reply 16 of 111
    Originally Posted by Jacksons View Post

    OMG Walt Mossberg didn't like a non iProduct!? Really? I can't beleive it. Oh wait...

    Yeah surprising. I started to dislike him when I saw his interview with Steve Jobs. He feels like he's elite and he makes annoying, criticizing laughs toward Steve Jobs.
  • Reply 17 of 111
    r00fusr00fus Posts: 245member
    A lot of the critique is actually high praise...

    if you compare this device to Android tablets like the Xoom or Galaxy 10.1.

    The battery life is probably on-par, the WebOS is much better than Honeycomb, and 300 apps? that's like 3x as many as when the Xoom (or even Galaxy 10.1) had on release.

    There is no tablet market, only an iPad market.

    However, if I was going to anoint one halway-decent competitor to the iPad it would be the Touchpad.
  • Reply 18 of 111
    HP + Palm is not equal to more than the sum of its parts, but less.
  • Reply 19 of 111
    alfiejralfiejr Posts: 1,524member
    just like the Samsung Galaxy, the reviewers all list major problems for the first version of the TouchPad, while praising its good points. but the problems are fatal! which they just don't come out and say. instead they hopefully suggest they can be fixed ... in the indefinite future. even the obviously DOA RIM PlayBook.

    yeah, maybe. but an honest review would conclude you'd be foolish to buy one now, until they do. either buy an iPad, or just wait, would be the message.

    what these iPad wannabes are accomplishing, tho, is to quickly fragment the not-Apple tablet market into a confusing mess in the public mind (and just wait until MS joins the pack - if you can hang on that long). which confusion will push most buyers to the one product they know they can count on to deliver a polished good experience now - the iPad. and iOS 5 will be very, very popular.

    so what will be the next iPad killer hype? the Amazon tablet? or Sony? i guess Nokia has thrown in the towel ...
  • Reply 20 of 111
    redpillredpill Posts: 11member
    Originally Posted by Jacksons View Post

    OMG Walt Mossberg didn't like a non iProduct!? Really? I can't beleive it. Oh wait...

    I have been following Mossberg for years. I can honestly say he is one of the best. Moreover, he is a highly respected journalist with credibility and integrity.

    Let's face it, the iPad 2 is the tablet to beat. In order to compete with Apple, your product needs to be PERFECT right out of the gate. Unfortunately, all of Apple's competitors, for some reason or another, have stumbled out of the gate.

    Want proof? Remember the XOOM? Remember the PlayBook? Both of these tablets had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, they both stumbled out of the gate (Price/Missing Features/Lack of Apps). If you are competing against a juggernaut like Apple, you can't afford to produce a product that's half baked or else it will die a slow death.

    Having said that, I still think HP is a dark horse.

    Still, I was hoping their first effort would be a worthy competitor to the iPad. Sadly, it also stumbled out of the gate.
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