While the HP TouchPad does have a few oddities in its native selection of apps, most are impressive, making it a tablet that’s more than capable of getting the job done straight out of the box.
Starting with the web browser, its general performance will be familiar to Android users out there with it offering a similar general feel in terms of speed and webpage rendering style. And, of course, it offers Flash support so can playback online video and even run online games. It’s a slight oddity that new tabs/pages are opened as new cards, which stack on top of each other, but this certainly isn’t any sort of hindrance. What does hold it back slightly, though, is that like Android tablets the browser just doesn’t feel as snappy or fluid as on the iPad. It’s better than Android, with a slightly more accurate feel to finger tracking when zooming and scrolling but it’s still not quite up there with the best.
As for email, we already mentioned the funky triple column layout, but it’s worth reiterating quite how useful this is. All the usual email account types are supported and the interface is otherwise nice and slick. You can swipe emails from a list to delete them and pinch to zoom to navigate individual emails; all intuitive stuff. However, it did seem a bit buggy with it regularly failing to update or download emails without a bit of a prod.
Interestingly, HP has gone with Bing Maps rather than Google Maps for its native mapping app. This was apparently because Microsoft offered more freedom to tweak the interface than Google would. By the by the results are impressive. Some of the standard maps aren’t quite as pretty as Google’s but they’re functionally just the same and the isometric Bird’s Eye view is very useful for helping you work out where you are. What you don’t get, though, is Street View. There are arguments for and against both but Google probably edges it with Street View. Nonetheless, it’s easy to pinch and scroll your way around, search for a location and get detailed directions for car, train and walking.
The Photos and Videos app is another example of the attention to detail HP has given the TouchPad in terms of styling. It looks superb and is a breeze to use, and even pulls in photos from online services like Facebook. All told, it’s the best picture viewing app on a tablet.
You can also play videos through this app, though format support is poor. Mp4 and mov will work but DivX, mkv, and avi didn’t play ball. A quick search of the app store revealed there was one app available that expanded this compatibility, and very well rated it is too, but it currently costs £5.58, which is a bit galling. Of course, the iPad can hardly play anything either but it does have the slick iTunes store to fall back on.
And talking of app stores, the TouchPad doesn’t hold up all that well on this front. What apps there are on the HP App Catalog tend to be very good and HP has done an excellent job of making them easy to find, particularly thanks to its own ‘app magazine’, Pivot. This provides guides and other editorial content to put apps into context, making it easier to work out which might be for you. Ultimately, though, the volume of content just isn’t there, trailing both iOS and Android.