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HP TouchPad review



Our Score


User Score


  • Stylish design
  • Slick multi-tasking interface
  • Inbuilt wireless charging


  • Small app selection
  • Can become very slow
  • Lacking some features like rear camera

Review Price £399.00

Key Features: 9.7in touchscreen; 1.2GHz dual core processor; WebOS operating system; Inbuilt wireless charging

Manufacturer: HP

We wanted to like the HP TouchPad, we really did. Ever since we first saw the WebOS software it runs being used on the Palm Pre (HP bought Palm last year) back in 2009 we were won over by its charms as a slick and powerful touch-friendly alternative to iOS, so when it was set to arrive on a tablet, we were tickled pink. Unfortunately the transition hasn't been an easy one and with the TouchPad arriving late to the tablet party, it's struggling to convince us to steer away from the established iPad and Android competition. Here's why.

HP hasn't dropped the ball when it comes to design, at least not in the purely aesthetic sense. The none-more-black colouring and curvy shape is simple but highly effective, and it really looks the part whether in-hand or resting on its dock (more on which later). However, it won't stay like that for long. The glossy black plastic back gets covered in fingerprints very quickly and it isn’t the hardiest surface either, with our review sample already sporting a healthy selection of dings and scratches (not all from us, it must be noted).

Build quality is also only okay. It has an all-glass front, with everything else reasonably tightly packed together - there are no wobbly panels or such like but there's a bit of flex in the back and some of the edges around the cut-outs for the speakers are a little sharp. Also the volume rocker is a little loose. None of it's serious but neither does it quite match the best.

HP TouchPad 2

What's more, it's heavier than much of the competition. Despite having the same 9.7in screen size as the iPad 2 it's 139g heavier – 740g vs 601g. While this doesn't make it obviously much worse to hold for long periods, it certainly doesn't help. And it's a shame because the curvy design really is a comfortable one. Of course, we still maintain there's limited comfort in holding any of these larger tablets, with none of them really being suited to single-handed use – unlike the 7in tablets such as the BlackBerry PlayBook or HTC Flyer – but the TouchPad does stretch the idea even further.

Physical features are also limited. You do get a forward-facing camera for video calling and such like while a standard microUSB socket is used for data transfer and charging, and there's of course a headphone jack as well. However, there's no HDMI of any sort for connecting to a TV, no microSD slot for expanding the storage (16GB and 32GB versions are available), no full-size SD slot for getting photos straight from your camera, and most surprisingly there's no rear camera. Admittedly these are all somewhat niche requirements when it comes to everyday tablet usage but when much of the competition does offer some of these, they stand out as omissions.

HP TouchPad 3

HP TouchPad 5

Just quickly taking a tour of where these features are, the microUSB sits on the bottom (when in portrait) edge, webcam in the bezel above the screen, there's a volume rocker on the right, the power/screen lock button on the top, and stereo speakers on the left. The speakers are in this orientation as the logic is you'll most often be using the tablet in landscape when engaging them, which is something we found to be the case. Meanwhile sitting dead centre of the bottom bezel is the only button this machine uses in navigating the interface – it maximises and minimises apps – though it's not actually needed as a gesture also takes care of the same duty.

The screen is one of this tablet's stand out features, though. It's the same size (9.7in) and resolution (1,024 x 768 pixels) as the iPad 2 and is as within a gnat's whisker of being as good quality with great viewing angles, bright colours, and good contrast.

So the hardware's not out of this world but what always appealed with WebOS devices was the awesome interface. Can this save the TouchPad?…

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June 30, 2011, 1:36 pm

You need to correct the first paragraph: "we had a chance to have a look at the final design of the iPad" - pretty sure you mean TouchPad. You'll lose some clickthrough revenue...

A Scotland

June 30, 2011, 1:43 pm

It is interesting that TR continue to place such a high emphasis on the absence of 3G. How many people out there actually pay for a separate 3G card for their laptops or tablets?

I seem to recall that TR described the initial wifi only iPad as pointless because of this omission, but my understanding is that the majority of sales are the wifi only models. This makes sense to me as I don't actually know many people who could justify paying extra for a 3G sim card.

I wonder if it is a big deal for journalists due to the nature of their work and so journalists assume it is also a big deal for everybody else.

Not having a go just genuinely curious. I may well be wrong and the odd one out but would be interested to know.


June 30, 2011, 2:10 pm

Oops! A last minute rewording of that opening paragraph ended up with it not making sense. Apologies.


June 30, 2011, 2:16 pm

An interesting point. It's almost certainly the case that as journalists we do attach more weight to such things but nonetheless, there are vast swathes of the population that regularly commute by train where it comes in very handy, and there are of course many other such examples.

Also, it's not that we absolutely feel it has to have Wi-Fi, merely that it's regrettable that currently the option isn't there.


June 30, 2011, 2:21 pm

Coer blimey, I'm not having a good day of it so far, am I. I of course meant to say "it's not that we absolutely feel it has to have 3G".

A Scotland

June 30, 2011, 3:08 pm

I wonder how long before they put wifi on trains as standard...

richard smith

June 30, 2011, 3:52 pm

@ A Scotland - I know 6 people with an ipad all of them have wi-fi only models, most of them use it in the office on the tube or at home. One of them uses it on the train but he just downloads stuff to read off line.

I had the original Palm Pre which was an awesome phone, well I say awesome phone the hardware was just about passable at the time but the OS (Palm WebOS as the time) was in my opinion class leading - true multi tasking, the very fact it never had to be shown a cable to charge or sync calender and contact etc was just amazing and that was V1.4.5.

I am now on a Galaxy S2 as my contract came up for renewal and went from a £35 pm contract for the Pre to £27 for the G2. Would have stuck with my Pre had it not been for the battery lasting 4hrs max and been dropped too many time to mention (slider going) and as O2 don't stock any other WebOS phone (and they are not getting the Pre3) went to G2. Will the Pre 3 be available from anyone. G2 is excellent hardware, but I'm not that in love with Android just seems there is an extra couple of taps to do task.

So in answer to the question will anyone buy the tablet and the phone I probably would if the phone was available from someone, but as HP promised it for summer and summer is nearly over and it has yet to even appear unlocked on their website let alone on a carrier.

Come on HP you paid the money for an excellent OS - do it justice.

Ian Yates

June 30, 2011, 7:20 pm

Summer is almost over? Where are you from? Here in the UK Summer is officially June, July and August.

I agree WebOS is/was an amazing OS. It'll be a shame if HP can't do something with it.

Also, I have a WiFi-only Asus Transformer and just tether it to my phone if I need the Internet - one bill but all the freedom.

Chatan Mistry

July 26, 2011, 2:18 pm


This is a great and balanced review. Well done guys.

I've had the tablet for a couple of weeks now, and I've currently got the original Palm Pre as my mobile phone which I've been using for about a month.

On the whole, I've been very disappointed by the TouchPad. The hardware itself is nice and the OS is excellent. But it is SO SLOW! Navigating the OS can become jerky and when you do anything remotely intensive like web browsing (which is excellent otherwise - it's a great compromise for the lack of apps) it grinds to a halt. If you put it next to a iPad/iPad 2, it looks terrible.

I originally thought the bad performance was due to indexing that the device might be doing. But alas no - a week later it's still slow.

My recommendation for anyone is to wait to see what HP do. There is a 4G version of the TouchPad due later in the year with a faster processor, but I think the key is to see whether HP spend time optimising the OS for performance. I cannot believe a dual-core CPU would be this taxed by the OS this way. My Palm Pre was a little slow, but that's a single-core processor and it's a couple of years old so it's understandable. This is brand new hardware and it feels work

HP - sort yourself out! Oh, and whilst you're at it, check the spelling of buttons on your GUI, You shouldn't be having spelling errors in the OS! (hint: look at he toggleAll button in the email client!)


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