Print 38 comment(s) - last by nocturne_81.. on Sep 3 at 8:23 PM

Multi-tasking in webOS is quietly brilliant.

Wasting time with the fun "Just Draw" app. I call this 1st grade quality masterpiece, "Zombie Invasion vs. Handgun".

Bubble Birds 2.0, one of the few decent free games (sadly) in HP App Catalog.

The "Memo" app -- now I'm finally getting something done! So far, this has been one of the best uses I've found for my new toy.
Tablet proves surprisingly fun, but there's definitely rough edges to this package

I was among those who two Fridays ago jumped online and bought a clearance-priced TouchPad from Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ).  I wanted to do a quick post with some of my impressions on the device, as I've written about it frequently, but never actually sat around and played with one for longer than a few minutes.

I. The Price is Right

I went all out with my purchase -- I bought a protective case, HP's TouchStone charging dock/stand, and a compatible wireless keyboard from HP.  With various coupon codes, and discounts I received my 32 GB TouchPad for the sweet price of $120 -- roughly 1/3rd of what people had been paying just weeks prior.  My whole purchase came out to roughly $260.

To be honest I never really saw the point of a tablet at the $500 mark -- and I still don't.  To me the main uses of a tablets are notes taking and games.  If I made $250,000 a year, a $500 tablet would make sense, but on my young professional budget, that cost is outweighed by the limited utility -- to me at least.  Some may find other uses -- I can see some parents using it as an education toy-turned-gaming device for children.  

I should mention that I also have unlimited data tethering (Thanks Sprint Nextel (S)!) and a laptop, so the "portability" of a laptop isn't as exciting to me.  For those who don't own a laptop or don't tether, I can see where a tablet would be a new and exciting experience.

That said, I always said that "When tablets hit around $250 I will buy one."  

At that price, the limited utility justifies the cost, for my lifestyle at least.  So when the opportunity came to get a fully loaded TouchPad with all the bells and whistles for $260 USD, I jumped on it.

II. The Good

I want to start things on a positive note.  After about 10 hours of use, I'm actually enjoying webOS 3.0 to a degree.

The keyboard feels very fluid (I have one major gripe -- more later).  And the card-based multi-tasking is intuitive and beats iOS/Android in my mind.  You close apps by simply flicking them upward in the tile view -- brilliant.  And that's not to mention the orientation, which switch super-fast and feels very responsive.

As for the browser, it's on par with Android's in my opinion, offering Flash video (which you can't play in iOS!) and other perks.  Like Android, there will be some sites with incompatible page elements, etc., but most mainstream public sites will be treated well.

The configuration of the device was painless.  Likewise the HP App Catalog was accessed fast and was relatively well laid out.  Downloads and installations of apps were quick and easy.

The customizable homescreen wallpaper is a nice touch.

Scrolling long lists was a bit of a pain, but at least you wouldn't miss your target -- a frequent downside of "kinetic scrolling" schemes (e.g. iOS), which have the unfortunate tendency to overshoot your target.

The apps that I downloaded were also relatively fun.  Games (like Angry Birds) felt as fluid as their Android/iOS counterparts.

Probably the most useful thing in the tablet so far has been the memo app.  I've been using it to jot quick notes I used to use MS Notepad for.  I actually find it's slightly quicker to type out and organize my thoughts on tablet as I don't have to bother with the visual distraction of my laptop's other running apps.  As an added perk, I feel like I'm on Star Trek: The Next Generation writing an engineering report when I take notes on my TouchPad.

The hardware is great, overall -- the processor is fast (1 GHz, dual-core), there's plenty of RAM, and the screen resolution is decent.  HP and its Palm unit did a surprisingly respectable job in that regard.

III. The Bad

That said, webOS had a long ways to go before it would have been a legitimate competitor to Android or iOS.  One thing I always harped on is the lack of apps.  Well guess what?  I was right.

The single biggest downside to webOS is the lack of free apps, in my opinion.  And at the root of this problem is HP's utter failure at promoting developer advertising options.

Yesterday I went through the entire catalog of free apps downloading any one that sounded useful.  Much of the catalog was composed of redundant apps (e.g. a dedicated app for each NFL team), or apps for major newspapers.  There were some gems among the rest of the apps, but there just weren't enough to satisfy most serious smart phone users.

For example there were only 6-7 decent looking games (all of which I grabbed).  When actually playing these, many were built for the lower resolution webOS smart phones or exhibited bugs.  So really the number was arguably even smaller.

Again, I'm still digging, but there seems to be a lot of trash, a little treasure, much like other app stores -- but there's far less apps to dig through.

Again this sordid state is largely because webOS has no built in advertising support, in its standard SDK.  Free apps in Android and iOS come thanks to services like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) AdMob or Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iAd platform.  For most developers, the only merit of a free webOS app is as a product demo.

To be fair, there is an AdMob SDK for webOS, but it seems like no one (not even Rovio, the Angry Birds folks) is using it.

Call me cheap, but I usually don't pay for a lot of apps on my smart phone, so I'm not planning on starting to with my tablet.  The sad part is that I'm actually somewhat inclined for accidental ad clicks on smart phones/tablets, so over an app's lifetime I'd probably make developers far more in "free apps" than paid ones, if only HP had supported that option.

Some other minor gripes:
  • No navigation buttons (back, forward, etc.) in the virtual keyboard.  Argghhh! Why?!? This mars and otherwise brilliant interface.
  • No rear camera hardware.
  • No way to use the front-facing camera to take still shots (perhaps one of those loathed paid apps does this... but no thanks.)  Looks like the free app "Digicamera Still Life" does allow for still shots, although I still feel this should have been available from a default webOS app.
  • Random errors/timeouts (esp. "007" errors) in the App Catalog frequently occur when try to access app profiles.
In short, the worst thing about the TouchPad is webOS, which still has an anemic App Catalog and some frustrating interface flaws.  That said, at $120 for a 32 GB tablet, webOS's annoyances seem a whole lot more tolerable.  

It's been fun (sort of) using webOS and getting to know this unique interface, but I won't be terribly sad to see it go when a streamlined TouchPad-adapted Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" or Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" comes along.

Maybe that's what HP should have done in the first place.

UPDATE: Tuesday Sept. 30, 2011 3:20 p.m. -

For those of you eager to get a TouchPad (or TouchDroid, soon hopefully) of your own, HP just announced that it would be making a "small" quantity of the devices available soon.  It says it is still sticking to the plan of a phase out, but comments:

HP will be manufacturing a limited quantity of TouchPads with webOS during our fourth fiscal quarter 2011, which ends October 31.

HP will offer these units on a per-customer-limited basis, so scalpers won't have quite the merry ride they did during the clearance (though we imagine they'll find ways to escape HP's planned restrictions).

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The Good you missed
By jnmfox on 8/30/2011 3:34:39 PM , Rating: 5
Thanks for the update/review but you missed a few things that really improve the webOS experience.

1. Multitasking- I think you undersold how great the multitasking is, I have a hard time using my iOS device after playing with webOS.

2. Preware- how you "jailbreak" your webOS device but it isn't frowned upon like with other mobile OSs.

I'm sure others have more "Goods", please post them below.

RE: The Good you missed
By Mitch101 on 8/30/2011 3:36:21 PM , Rating: 3
It also supports HTML5 and Flash.

RE: The Good you missed
By JasonMick on 8/30/2011 3:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
1. Multitasking- I think you undersold how great the multitasking is, I have a hard time using my iOS device after playing with webOS.

Well I did say...
The keyboard feels very fluid (I have one major gripe -- more later). And the card-based multi-tasking is intuitive and beats iOS/Android in my mind. You close apps by simply flicking them upward in the tile view -- brilliant.

I would say describing it as "brilliant" and saying it beats the top two tablet OS makers is sufficiently congratulatory.

Android's multi-tasking isn't as horrible as you make it out to be, it's just clunkier to use than webOS's.

2. Preware- how you "jailbreak" your webOS device but it isn't frowned upon like with other mobile OSs.

I'll have to check it out.

Sounds good, but what are the benefits of jailbreaking the device for the non-developer? The TouchPad already has Flash and wallpaper (goods I mention) -- things Apple's iOS does not. But I guess I'm confused what jailbreaking adds, other than a perception of freedom...

RE: The Good you missed
By jnmfox on 8/30/2011 3:51:16 PM , Rating: 3
1. I agree you said it is brilliant maybe more what I meant was it is difficult for users to understand how great the multitasking really is without at least seeing it if not using it.

2. There are more apps, and kernels, patches, and other tweaks available via Preware. You can cut-down on the logging the TouchPad does to speed-up performance, increase the touch sensitivity, overclock the processor and much more. There are also more free apps available via Preware.

Here is a great guide for new TouchPad owners.

RE: The Good you missed
By JasonMick on 8/30/2011 4:16:25 PM , Rating: 2
Here is a great guide for new TouchPad owners.

Thanks, great link! Reading now...

RE: The Good you missed
By Targon on 8/30/2011 4:09:37 PM , Rating: 4
WebOS is open by default, with no lock down the way you see it in other devices. There is a "hidden" developer mode that you can enable, and this will allow you to install apps and directly access the device from a computer.

Preware itself is like a secondary app catalog for homebrew applications that are not in the official app store. Patches for the OS, overclocking, etc. If you check out and ask questions over at, you will probably find that many, if not most of your negatives are already covered.

The biggest problem with the number of apps is that HP did not really try to get the entire WebOS ecosystem going in a rational way, and it kept people from taking the platform seriously. If the Pre 3 was released first, instead of the Veer, WebOS might be doing quite a bit better at this point.

RE: The Good you missed
By luseferous on 8/30/2011 4:21:39 PM , Rating: 2
I was going to comment on PreWare. It gives access to a whole load of extra O/S tweaks,themes, apps and utilities. For example free games such as Quake and Doom.(shareware versions) or apps like Govnah that allow you to easily alter the speed of your device.

On the your comment about back and forwards buttons. If its anything like the Pre' then try using a swipe in the gesture area.

RE: The Good you missed
By Diesel Donkey on 8/30/2011 11:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly the TouchPad has no gesture area. However, the up-swipe gesture is still present via software that detects when your finger leaves the bezel and enters the screen.

RE: The Good you missed
By Reclaimer77 on 8/30/2011 4:28:40 PM , Rating: 5
To be honest I never really saw the point of a tablet at the $500 mark -- and I still don't. To me the main uses of a tablets are notes taking and games.

I feel the same way. Why do they expect me to pay cheap laptop prices for a tablet that does far less than a cheap laptop?

When tablets hit $250, give me a call. But $500 for something that could be off the market and unsupported tomorrow? No deal.

RE: The Good you missed
By Solandri on 8/30/2011 8:59:34 PM , Rating: 2
From the teardowns I've seen, the tablets do in fact cost more to manufacture than a netbook with an equivalent-sized screen. The screen on a good tablet is IPS for good viewing angles, so costs ~$70 vs. $40-$50 for a regular TN on the netbook since you're always viewing its screen from the same angle. The touch-sensitive digitizer adds another ~$65, which is significantly more than the cost of the keyboard + trackpad + HDD (usually on the order of $30-$40). And even though the tablet's CPU is less capable, the lower power requirement means it costs about the same as a netbook's CPU.

I agree with you and have been saying for a while that the magic price point for tablets is $200-$250. But for the time being, it seems technology still hasn't gotten to the point where you can manufacture a decent tablet for less than a similar netbook. So right now, you're pretty much paying extra for the convenience and portability of a smaller form factor, as well as the social status that comes from owning a snazzy new (if overpriced) product.

RE: The Good you missed
By mattclary on 8/31/2011 2:24:40 PM , Rating: 2
Several people from my office bought these. One of our coworkers installed preware and overclocked everything for us. We are all very happy with our purchase at that price point!

RE: The Good you missed
By Aikouka on 8/30/2011 4:03:34 PM , Rating: 2
I've used a TouchPad and an iPad fairly extensively, and I've never really understood why people laud the multi-tasking in the TouchPad so much. Maybe I've just grown used to iOS's implementation, but as long as an application implements the APIs, it seems to work very well. Of course, if you run into an application that doesn't, it can be rather annoying.

Do you really find the need to let any application just run in the background?

Also, I highly disagree with the close gesture being intuitive. I would have had no idea how to close an application if I didn't read about someone else having trouble with it on the Anandtech forums.

RE: The Good you missed
By Zoomer on 8/30/2011 7:30:28 PM , Rating: 2
Of course.

Music streaming sites. Video streaming sites, file/image upload, irc/chat clients, navigation apps need to have the ability to run continuously in the background for proper functionality.

RE: The Good you missed
By TakinYourPoints on 8/31/2011 5:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
All of which multitask under iOS...

RE: The Good you missed
By The0ne on 8/30/2011 9:40:53 PM , Rating: 2
Trust me, 99% of the members really have no clue how a good multitasking OS is capable of or should be. The reason is as you've stated, that because the offering isn't there...rather because of poor OSes consumers can only expect so much.

Multitasking is a gem. Once you know it and use it you won't ever want to go back. Having said that it's not easy to program for. I've designed micro-controllers and programmed for the 68K CPU in late 80's and early 90's and I absolutely loved it. The Amiga got me hooked on the multitasking abilities, the scripting of tasks into various programs without user attention and so forth. It was just pleasurable to use.

RE: The Good you missed
By Diesel Donkey on 8/30/2011 11:05:20 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, HP did include a getting-started-type manual with the TouchPad that covers how to close apps.

RE: The Good you missed
By Diesel Donkey on 8/30/2011 11:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
...though, of course, I suppose that doesn't really mean anything when it comes to a discussion of how intuitive the action is.

RE: The Good you missed
By retrospooty on 8/30/2011 4:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
"Multitasking- I think you undersold how great the multitasking is, I have a hard time using my iOS device after playing with webOS."

Ditto with my android. WebOS is so easy to switch from open app to open app... Also just to easily tell what apps are still open. Really missing that from my old Pre

RE: The Good you missed
By ATTFdiggs on 9/3/2011 6:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
I just want to say thanks for posting up the info on preware. It is pretty amazing the speed that can be gained from the patches they offer. I haven't received either of my touchpads yet, but we had one at the office being used for development that is a loaner. I used it to test the patches and was very pleased with the results. Once I receive the pair I ordered, Preware will be the first stop.

At $100, it was a steal
By MrTeal on 8/30/2011 3:11:00 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't spent as much time as Jason with the Touchpad since I only got it on Saturday, but it's been a great device so far. I purchased it mostly so my wife has something to use the internet on in the living room and stops stealing my laptop, and I've been very surprised at just how well it handles normal web pages. My Galaxy S works for the web, but just barely.

The state of apps is atrocious though. I'm not sure if there's a non-HP authorized app store, but the number of free apps that support the tablet resolution is tiny. I'd like to think it will get better, but I'm not holding my breath on a dead platform. I'm hoping work on Cyanogenmod or other Android ports goes quickly.

RE: At $100, it was a steal
By Mitch101 on 8/30/2011 3:35:32 PM , Rating: 3
Did you turn off all the logging it greatly increases the performance of the device.

RE: At $100, it was a steal
By kmmatney on 8/30/2011 4:51:45 PM , Rating: 2
Bottom line - for $100 you can be a lot more forgiving. As a web browser alone, you can justify the cost, although more and better Apps would make it even better. I tried to buy one of these, but couldn't find any in stock, even though I started early in the timing was never right.

RE: At $100, it was a steal
By TakinYourPoints on 8/31/2011 3:58:03 AM , Rating: 2
The core OS is good, the state of apps is bad, and the hardware is atrocious. Given the quality of other tablets out there, $100 sounds about right for this.

RE: At $100, it was a steal
By Natch on 8/31/2011 8:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
Imagine how many of these HP could have sold, if they had cut their initial price in half, and offered more than a handful of apps??

poorly informed review
By jamawass on 8/30/2011 6:12:08 PM , Rating: 3
No mention of Synergy, email app, free lifetime 50 gb, notification system, drag and drop file loading, wireless printing to HP printers or Preware? Plus you can install ubuntu LXDE and run libre office, chromium, Gimp, ssh clients etc flawlessly. You need to update this review after you've actually used this device.

RE: poorly informed review
By EnzoFX on 8/30/2011 8:19:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'm afraid I must agree.

I've spent only a couple hours and prob the same amount reading about webOS and I feel I know more about this device than the author =/. What stands out most to me: someone giddy about their first tablet, all while boasting the price he "managed" to get.

RE: poorly informed review
By Diesel Donkey on 8/30/2011 11:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the fact that the TouchPad's processor runs at 1.2 GHz, not 1 GHz. And then there's the issue that it's really a 1.5 GHz processor that's been downclocked but can easily be brought up to speed using Uberkernel and Govnah.

$250 used iPad > Touchpad
By vision33r on 8/30/2011 9:53:38 PM , Rating: 1
For the price of an used iPad 16GB Gen 1 which can be picked up for $250, it is worlds better than the Touchpad because with the iPad you can get atleast 100+ apps that are free and many are full version apps with no limit.

Also tons of high quality games and apps go on sale for $1 all the time. All this renders the competition as dead.

Android's biggest problem is it lacks native Honeycomb apps and some of them are lazy ports of smartphone apps. Since Android has all types of different resolutions, some apps just look totally off on a tablet screen.

The lack of high quality developers for Android is not helping the Honeycomb ecosystem.

By Spring of next year, most of Touchpad users would have abandoned it for something more sleek and supported like the upcoming Amazon tablet or the Color Nook 2.

RE: $250 used iPad > Touchpad
By Diesel Donkey on 8/30/2011 11:36:18 PM , Rating: 3
The TouchPad has a great browser, e-mail app, photo viewer, mapping app, music player, IM capabilities (with messages from multiple sources combined into one view), and Skype video calling and chatting implementation. It is wonderful for streaming Flash video, and the keyboard is excellent (good proportions and responsiveness, and a number/symbol row included).

It is not great for gaming, and it is missing a few apps that some might consider important (Evermore comes to mind).

However, I think the UI combined with the positives I mentioned in the first paragraph overshadow the lack of certain apps. Unless the TouchPad app catalog is missing something in particular that someone feels they absolutely need I think that person would be very happy with a tp.

I spend my time on my TouchPad browsing the web, using one of several very good Google Reader clients, listening to music through the surprisingly decent speakers, looking up directions in Maps, and typing up notes in a great Simplenote client called pondNotes that supports Markdown. I'm not a Netflix user, so aside from Evermore, there's really nothing I fee like I'm missing on the TouchPad. And the UI is phenomenal.

I even like the form factor of the TouchPad. The few ounces of extra weight don't bother me because I'm just not that frail (and I often use the device in my lap or on a table), and do we really need to argue over a couple of millimeters of thickness? I think it just makes the TouchPad easier to hold. I don't need anything thinner, and in fact I don't really want anything thinner, especially if it means that I can inductively charge my tablet.

To each his/her own, I suppose. I just wish more people would try it and think for themselves a little bit before knocking it. Thinner and lighter with 8 bajillion apps does not inherently mean greater utility or enjoyment.

By KoolAidMan1 on 8/31/2011 5:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
but on my young professional budget

Interesting, I didn't realize "hack blogger" counted as a profession

RE: Hmm...
By nocturne_81 on 9/3/2011 8:23:06 PM , Rating: 2
Drats... Wish I hadn't already commented, I'd have voted this upwards..

I really don't hold any fault with most of the content on this site, but it seems that whenever I do -- I only see one name at the top of the page. Not to mention, there seems to be only one 'journalist' that regular engages and encourages troll wars in the comments sections of nearly every article.

By Argon18 on 8/30/2011 10:29:17 PM , Rating: 1
The memo app is one of the best uses you've found? So let me get this straight; you spend more than $200 on an obsolete battery operated product, and you're happy because it does what a paper and pencil does? LMAO.

RE: memos?
By V-Money on 9/1/2011 7:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
I bought it primarily to take notes with in college. I agree pen and paper is cheaper, but this takes up significantly less room, its much better organized, I can actually read it (my writing is horrid) and I can easily justify the cost. I use it for a lot more, but I could still easily justify buying it for the writing function alone.

Built-in Ad Support
By GreyMulkin on 8/30/2011 10:41:34 PM , Rating: 3
I don't care if the app is free, I don't want to see ads.

That webOS has no built-in ad support should be a selling point.

2.2.1 and 2.3 running on touchpad
By Mitch101 on 8/30/2011 3:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung might buy HP WebOS but I doubt it will happen.

I read that 2.2.1 is running from a dumped rom from
qualcomm and also read that someone has managed to get 2.3 running on the touch pad already. Not sure where I read it and since I didnt get a touchpad Im not following the articles.

Im waiting to see the Amazon tablet which is rumored to be priced aggressively at $300 possibly less. Supposedly running Android 3.0 non specific like the nook color and having good hardware. Think about it Amazon already has an App store for android apps so this could be an interesting battle in the tablet war.

Finally I would like to see what Microsoft offers in a tablet. Im sure everyone will have quad core but Microsoft office, lync, and sharepoint integration in a tablet is a tempting one. They just need to keep the price in check to get people buying them. Might be tough with a $300.00 android tablet from Amazon.

By phantom404 on 8/30/2011 3:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if any of the tweaks were applied before testing. I heard they are suppose to greatly improve performance. I'm getting mine this afternoon and can't wait to play around with it.

Too little too late...
By nocturne_81 on 8/30/2011 3:57:38 PM , Rating: 2
I find it highly amusing that it was mostly the ill-informed pseudo reviews that echoed back and forth in the blogosphere, many written by the very same author of this article, that humiliated HP to the point it had to shut it all down.. The same is happening to RIM with the playbook at this very moment. Sure, webOS and playbook's OS are not iOS or Android. But they offer a different approach and more variety -- which is good for competition, which is good for innovation.

Though, I still anticipate the firesale may indeed encourage more interest in webOS development while many wait for ICS to be ported. Who knows -- there may be a resurrection yet.

Future Updates
By Obujuwami on 8/30/2011 6:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
What should be the real focus of this article is that Jason managed to make a functional flux capacitor that can bend the fabric of space and time. He proves it with his update from the end of next month!

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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