HP TouchPad: Not Ready for Tablet Big Leagues

Hewlett-Packard is the latest PC maker to jump into tablets--and in entering the market, it has immediately become the latest tablet maker to land under Apple's shadow. The is the first tablet based on the WebOS mobile operating system, which HP acquired when it purchased Palm a year ago. But although WebOS shows some flashes of finger-friendly brilliance (it seems far better suited for a tablet than for the small screen of a phone), the TouchPad suffers from cumbersome design, performance lags, and a poor app selection.

The Wi-Fi TouchPad comes in two versions at launch, with a 16GB model costing $499 and a 32GB model costing $599 (both as of June 29, 2011), price tags that put it on a par with the iPad 2. A version with AT&T mobile broadband will ship later this summer.

Had the TouchPad shipped a year ago, soon after the first-generation Apple iPad, it might not have felt so behind the curve. But at this point it seems to be playing catch-up, despite the fact that it has several distinguishing features. Chief among them are the immersive meshing of contacts from multiple Web services and sources, the ability to print, Touchstone inductive charging, and touch-to-share (a Web, phone, and messaging transfer capability that will eventually work with the and the upcoming HP Palm Pre smartphones).

The HP TouchPad has a 9.7-inch IPS touchscreen display, with 18-bit color and 1024-by-768-pixel resolution. Though it matches the iPad 2 in offering IPS and that particular resolution, Apple's tablet has 24-bit color. Android tablets with 10.1-inch screens have a higher resolution (1280 by 800), but Android renders in 16-bit color.

Encased in glossy piano-black plastic, with rounded edges, the TouchPad has a less appealing look and feel than competing tablets do, including those that have plastic edges and backings. The TouchPad's plastic backing makes it very easy for the tablet to slide around, and the surface accumulates fingerprints very quickly (more rapidly than I recall the similarly designed Apple iPhone 3GS getting covered in fingerprints, to be honest).