Ever since it debuted with the Palm Pre, back in early 2009, the WebOS operating system has looked ripe for picking and turning into a lovely tablet flavoured brew. Finally, two years on, we're able to sample such delights with the HP TouchPad. The device won't be arriving until summer of this year but we got hands on at Mobile World Congress last week.
Packing in a 9.7in screen, it's definitely of the larger tablet variety than the more portable 7in models such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and HTC Flyer. In fact, the representatives from HP (who bought Palm last year) we talked to even admitted that they've designed the device precisely to keep people on their sofas (or desks), rather than for taking out and about, which explains the Wi-Fi only design of the first devices that will be available. At around 740g, it's one of the heavier tablets around but again, this is inherent to its design.
As with all these tablets, it's much of a muchness in terms of aesthetics - you can pick from any colour so long as its glossy black. The decision to go glossy, when HPs two new phones the Pre 3 and Veer have matt finishes, does seem a bit odd but again with the whole lounging vibe, you're unlikely to have this rattling around in the bottom of a bag that often. Moreover, it does look rather nice when devoid of fingerprints.
Hidden below that glossy back is a TouchStone wireless charging receiver that means you need only place the TouchPad on its bookstand-style dock and it will start charging. What you don't get, though, is a microSD slot, as HP has chosen to go with onboard storage only. What's more you only get a choice of 16GB or 32GB, which while adequate is hardly plenty.
There's little reason to be concerned when it comes to the rest of the tablet's specs though. The 9.7in screen packs in a healthy 1,024 x 768 pixels while powering things along is a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, with 1GB of RAM to keep it fed with data. Certainly, in all the time we played with the device, it was nothing less than instantly responsive. You also get accelerometers and gyroscopes for controlling tilt and orientation based games.
There's no back-facing camera for taking 'proper' photos but a front-facing camera is present for making video calls. You can't make normal calls on this tablet but you can pair it with a Pre 3 or Veer to use the speakers, microphone and camera on the tablet while passing the call through the phone, letting you take a call on the sofa while having your phone on charge upstairs.
Also on offer when you pair two of these devices together is the ability to tap the phone onto the tablet and transfer data from one to the other. In the demo we saw, a web site was open on the TouchPad and when tapped it opened the same site on the Pre 3. A niche requirement, perhaps, but cool nonetheless.
The quality of the LCD screen is excellent with vivid colours, deep blacks, great viewing angles, and sharp text.