HP TouchPad Review: A Tablet For Productivity?

Is The TouchPad An iPad Or Xoom Competitor?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Tablet Pricing16 GB32 GB64 GB
iPad 2 (Wi-Fi)$499$599$699
iPad 2 (AT&T 3G)$629$729$829
iPad 2 (Verizon 3G)$629$729$829
Xoom (Wi-Fi)-$499-
Iconia Tab A500 (Wi-Fi)$449--
TouchPad (Wi-Fi)$449$549-

HP offers the TouchPad at a slightly lower price compared to its competition. However, hardware acquisition isn't the only price you're bound to pay. A tablet purchase, as with the adoption of a personal computer, constitutes the acceptance of a specific platform. But no tablet can truly succeed without a healthy base of developers creating new apps. Even if its hardware wasn't as sexy as it's perceived to be, Apple would still enjoy a tremendous advantage by virtue of the ISVs publishing to its App Store. Android still has some catching up to do in that regard. And it's a much more palpable problem for the TouchPad. Variety in the App Catalog is particularly thin.

In the end, HP's battle has nothing to do with the hardware. It has to do with software and attracting more developers. Even if it takes four times as long to develop an app in iOS than webOS, the development community is going to follow the trail of dollars. According to a recent IHS iSuppli survey, 79.2% of tablet owners confirmed owning either an iPad or iPad 2, and 50% of those shopping for a new tablet said they would by an iPad 2. That's what will motivate developers more than anything.

The TouchPad and its webOS represent a third contingent of business-oriented users willing to pay for third-party software in order to improve their mobile computing experience. But HP is in a tough spot. It has to face down Apple and Google, both more established in this field.

HP mitigates its disadvantage somewhat by touting a more professional billing than what iOS or Android offer. And if you're most interested in productivity, the TouchPad is indeed a compelling contender. There are so many things that HP did right here. The interface is clean and Synergy is unbelievably useful. But some critical features, like document editing, are missing even with the latest 3.0.2 update. Quickoffice is supposedly working on this, and it is supposed to be a free upgrade, but we don't know when it'll become available.

Thus, professionals shopping for a productivity-oriented tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio have two choices:

  1. HP's TouchPad, clearly intended for business use with a few missing features and a small selection of entertainment apps. Despite leaning on a purportedly more performance-oriented Snapdragon SoC, our benchmarks demonstrates less aggressive performance.
  2. Apple's iPad 2, clearly intended for consumption, but relatively well-suited for productivity. It's thin, lightweight, and a solid performer.

Despite impressive extras like Synergy, business-specific features probably won't be what ultimately save the TouchPad. It turns out that professionals aren't all that different from regular consumers in what they're able to do with the tablet form-factor. Both groups need ample choice when it comes to the software able to address their needs. The plethora of apps in Apple's App Store is perhaps the iPad's most significant selling point, and it could certainly be enough for businesses to consider passing on the excellent work behind Synergy. We're not asking for hundreds of thousands of apps here. But HP should be going to market with a few hundred solid choices.

Given the state of HP's infrastructure, HP's asking price is high. The tablet space is very competitive, and the Android-based tablets are already struggling to battle it out amongst themselves. There's very little wiggle room for the TouchPad to coexist, which is why execution is critical. In the near-term, HP needs a lower price and more complete software foundation. After all, a business tablet without the ability to edit documents feels lacking.

  • obarthelemy
    I have faith in the QuickOffice port coming through: datawiz have been woking in the mobile space since Palm days (actually, they started on Palm I think, so they know their stuff, and the platform. It works well on Android.
  • obarthelemy
    I don't understand why you use the Xoom as the Android yardstick though, it's been upstaged long ago, by the Asus and Samsung tablets at least
  • compton
    I'm certainly glad the TouchPad has a decent display -- a good trend to say the least. Apple deserves much of the credit for setting the quality bar in consumer devices like the iPhone/iPad. Happily, if you are looking around for a new phone or tablet, good displays are easy to find. If consumers as a whole get used to using good screens in tablets/phones, why don't more laptop manufacturers capitalize by upping their game? HP may have realized that the TouchPad needs a good display, but most laptop (theirs, Dell's, Asus, ect.) displays are shamefully terrible. Perhaps the laptop as we know it needs an injection of what makes modern tablets so appealing -- and at (or around) the top of that list is a bitchin' screen.
  • I've probably read at least 20 reviews of the touchpad. This is the only one I would actually call a review. This was balanced and in-depth. Thank you for your efforts.

    The one thing lacking in this review, which is also lacking in everything being written about webos, is the mention of what I consider one of the standout features of webos: The openness of the platform. With preware installed (free), you have access to thousands of patches and homebrewed apps as well as linux applications. It is possible, for example, to run a full Debian Linux in a chrooted environment (without any cracking or jailbreaking), giving access to OpenOffice, and all other x-server Linux software out there. HP/Palm is the only tablet OS developer that actively encourages the homebrew/open source community in its efforts. As a developer, it is not only the ease of development that is compelling but the huge amount of expressive and creative freedom you get. With the Apple appstore, the walled garden may protect consumers well, but also creates a completely controlled and often repressive and capricious environment for a developer. This openness is the secret sauce behind much of the loyalty of webos users. The os is a joy to use, a joy to explore, and a joy to create new code in. And unfortunately, most reviewers can't or won't take the time to understand this extremely compelling aspect of the OS.

    Thank you again for the best review of the touchpad I've seen yet.
  • DjEaZy
    ... nVidia work's with ARM... now AMD does it too... so where is intel at?
  • Well done review!...most thorough and in-depth of any I've seen thus far. As a user of about 3 weeks, I learned several new things I'd not discovered before. I second klktrk's comment about the homebrew community at PreCentral. I've taken advantage of several patches to customize my TouchPad (overclocking to 1.5 GHz, increased volume setting, etc)
  • HP really invested a lot of time and effort going into this tablet, and it is most definitely going to be an Apple killer and an Android killer one day. The potential it has is remarkable. Maybe not in this model, but in the next. As for right now, the card system in ingenious, the notification system is perfect, wireless charging is perfect, tap to share is perfect, and many many other things, including it's up to par with Apples A5 processor chip and Android Nvidia Tegra 2 Duo Core processor that evens out the fact that all these tablets are roughly the same speed, except for Apple, who lacks flash content support browser-wise. HP really leveled the playing field on this one, especially with the HD screen, and the Beats Audio, And also with their immense advertising. I don't know about you guys but I see the TouchPad on a lot of commercials and on ads everywhere! I'm thinking about buying one for school instead of the regular laptop.
  • absoluthunter
    LED Pixels? Pretty sure this is an S-IPS LCD screen with LED back light. Sure wish people would understand the difference, specially when reviewing in technical forums.
  • BlueFireAngel
    Thanks for a solid review! I'm not a Palm/HP owner yet but I hope to be someday soon. I've been impressed with Palm since I got a PDA 10 years ago. And since I've seen the Palm Pre I've been excited about the potential of webOS. I hope it catches on and that people begin to realize how powerful a tool webOS can become.
    Thanks again, Andrew!
  • Honis
    Very nice review.

    HP just announced the $100 off sale from this last weekend is now permanent.

    "Effective immediately, the HP TouchPad 16GB Wi-Fi will now be available for $399.99 and the HP TouchPad 32GB Wi-Fi will now be available for $499.99"