The newest competitor in the tablet wars has finally arrived. HP's TouchPad running WebOS is a very compelling hardware and software combination that proves easy to use. It's not completely polished, however. Here's a look at the star features.
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The HP TouchPad is a beautiful device--part of a second generation of tablets with dual-core processors, a camera, external ports, and modern-day mobile operating systems. Compared to today's tablet to beat, Apple's iPad 2, the TouchPad's case stacks up as a little bulky and heavy, and it's missing an HDMI port and a rear-facing camera. But otherwise, this tablet is a nice piece of machinery. The underlying operating system, however, (a souped up WebOS) is exactly what a tablet OS should be; it's extremely easy to use, and packed with some special features--primarily its Synergy software, which brings all sorts of external services together for contacts, photos, and more. You'll find all kinds of other nifty software surprises inside as well.
However, we were challenged with some performance issues during our testing. The device often slowed down throughout the day, or when we loaded up too many applications. We suspect HP will be working out some of the bugs, and optimizing WebOS for performance before and after the TouchPad launches on Friday.
The device will cost $499 for a 16 GB WiFi version; $599 for the 32 GB version. No carrier versions are available, but HP has said it will work with AT&T; it hasn't announced any others yet.
Another big tablet challenge--faced by everyone but Apple at this point--is a lack of applications, and a wary developer base that doesn't have the capital to develop for every platform. HP says development proves extremely easy for WebOS, and that it supports normal HTML5 apps, among other approaches. HP is also targeting WebOS for PCs running Windows, and for printers, providing a broader ecosystem for developers.
The HP TouchPad has a 9.7-inch XGA multitouch capacitive screen, with 1024 x 768 resolution. It measures 9.45 inches wide, 7.48 inches high, and 0.54 inches thick and weighs in at 1.6 pounds--a bit heftier than the iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It has a micro-USB port, but no HDMI out; it has a single camera (front facing) of 1.3 megapixels. The battery life was stellar in our testing.