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The HP Touchpad

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A few things have happened since my previous post concerning tablets, first I cancelled my order for the Onda Vi40, I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d regret buying it. Instead I opted for the equally priced, but superior, HP Touchpad.

Why I’d declined to look into the HP Touchpad is beyond me, well partly because I didn’t think any would still be available as they were famously sold for £89 (16GB model), a massive reduction from £399. They were sold out almost instantly, and I wasn’t interested enough at the time. Well at least I didn’t see its potential.

I can’t remember how I happened upon the HP Touchpad after I cancelled my Onda Vi40 order, but they were there on eBay, and they weren’t too unfairly priced. Okay, I purchased mine at £199, which is more than twice the amount they were sold for in the ‘fire sale’, but it was still half the original amount they went for.

Unfortunately I never received the HP Touchpad. After two purchase attempts from the same seller the item never arrived, due to being damaged in transit, then ‘lack of stock at wholesalers’. Opting for a 32GB version, which was £55 extra, I thought I’d finally receive my tablet. Which I did, except it was a 16GB model. Sigh, luckily the seller was happy to offer a reduction in price and so I secured my 16GB HP Touchpad for a rather overpriced £220. Nevertheless I was finally able to open it and give it a spin today.

Now for some selected specs (from Wikipedia):

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 APQ8060, dual-core ARM-based Scorpion
Storage: 16 or 32 GB
Memory: 1 GB, Mobile DDR2 SDRAM
Display: 9.7” 1024×768 TFT LCD with IPS, LED-backlit
Graphics: Qualcomm Adreno 220 core
Sound: Internal stereo speakers with Beats Audio, 3.5mm stereo jack
Camera: 1.3 MP front-facing
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1

As you can see, the specifications are an improvement over the Onda, for a similar price. There are indeed things that the Touchpad is lacking however. It has no microSD card slot, which almost put me off entirely - 16GB of storage is not exactly much. I am unsure if the microUSB supports flash drives or external hard drives, and it is also lacking HDMI output and a rear camera (which admittedly I’d never use) so not deal breakers, but still a bit of an annoyance.

But there are two main things I bought it for (apart from the price), the processor and the design. The Snapdragon S3 processor is far superior to the Allwinner A10 used in the Onda Vi40. Although the Mali-400 GPU is slightly superior to the Adreno 220, the processor itself is dual core rather than single core, and contains all the improvements Qualcomm make with their Scorpion cores over a standard Cortex-A8.

Now I’d like to point out two reasons why the following pictures are completely dire, first I do not own a decent camera (I used my phone), and second in my excitement to open and use the device I didn’t take said pictures very well. But aside from that, I’ll share my experiences so far.

Packaging

The HP Touchpad is excellently packaged, it is stylish and probably a massive rip off of Apple packaging, but I liked it nonetheless. You definitely feel like you’ve bought a premium product, which I sometimes think you don’t feel with other products, including my HTC Incredible S smartphone.

Design

The design of the HP Touchpad is nothing short of simple. There’s no design flair here and there, it is a simple, glossy black design, with only the necessary features such as a power button, home button, volume control, speaker grilles and microUSB port. This was one of the major gripes I had with the Onda that I tried to ignore, the irrelevant buttons, awkward camera, and extensive I/O options.

Admittedly the HP Touchpad is a little heavy. Where the iPad 2 weighs 600g and the ASUS Transformer prime, 586g, the HP Touchpad weighs in at 740g. This is noticeable in use but doesn’t bother me that much. Also this device is very prone to fingerprints. Being entirely glossy doesn’t help things and of all the screens I’ve used (admittedly not many) this isn’t the best at keeping fingerprints at bay. Again, not a massive flaw.

Screen

The screen is bright, and viewing angles are excellent, but being at a 1024x768 resolution, it is unspectacular when it comes to sharpness. I have seen and used the likes of the ASUS Transformer Prime and this simply can’t compare. Not terrible by all means, but the sharpness of text does suffer.

Software

I only gave WebOS a quick spin, but what I saw, I liked. It seems well designed, and quite intuitive in places, although application opening times were a little slow. Of course, the main reason I bought this tablet was to run Android, my preferred mobile operating system.

Android

Thanks to the CyanogenMod team, it is possible to successfully install CyanogenMod 9 - a distribution of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - on the HP Touchpad. And for Alpha software, it runs very well.

I won’t go into the details of installing Android on your HP Touchpad (you can find them here and here), however in my experience it is exceptionally smooth. HD YouTube appears to work well, apps open quickly, and scrolling, swiping and browsing is all very fluid. I can’t wait to see how well this runs when the software becomes stable. Apart from a few bugs here and there, the only major problems are dodgy Wi-Fi (it occasionally stops working, forcing you to disconnect and reconnect), and the lack of camera support – not really vital for me.

Sound

The advertised Beats Audio works exceptionally. Sound from the speakers in both WebOS and Android is surprisingly rich for a tablet, it even outdoes my netbook. This is one aspect I’m very impressed by.

Conclusion

Overall I’m very happy with my purchase. There are definite limitations to the device, including lack of expansion and HDMI, and the screen could be better, but for the price, you simply can’t get anything like this. Tablets are apparently due to drop in price quite soon, so they could be something to watch out for, but in the meantime, I can’t help but recommend the HP Touchpad, you simply can’t get anything quite as good for the price.