HP's TouchPad: Mixed reviews about user interface, inevitable iPad comparisons

Summary:Ever since the TouchPad was introduced back in February, Hewlett-Packard has insisted that this webOS-based tablet is not an iPad competitor but something else entirely. Nevertheless, the comparisons can't be stopped.

Ever since the TouchPad was introduced back in February, Hewlett-Packard has insisted that this webOS-based tablet is not an iPad competitor but something else entirely. Nevertheless, the comparisons can't be stopped.

Most of the reviews of the TouchPad here on ZDNet and other tech news sites have been very mixed, although mostly tipping over to the negative side.

Before I get to my thoughts about the TouchPad after spending a few days with it, I also showed the device to a few friends and family who don't own tablets to get a fresher perspective on what these consumers liked, disliked and would be looking for should they ever decide to get a tablet.

(Note that this is not a scientific study nor am I claiming that this is going to be the overall opinion of any demographic groups. It's just a collection of first impressions.)

Nick, 25:

Overall I found the interface intuitive enough.  The one odd thing was the method of closing windows by dragging them to the top of the screen; I'm not sure if I would have figured that out if I hadn't heard you guys say it right before I tried it out.

Other than that, I think everything was clear enough to understand without instructions.  Power/speed wise, I don't really have any basis for comparison, but it felt fast enough and I was never bothered by slowness or lag.

Brent, 26:

The cheap construction bothered me. It felt as if the screen might come off the back at any moment.

In general, the design felt reminiscent of an iPad, with the large screen and single button, however, their attempt at differentiating it by making the button skinnier and rectangular, just made it more difficult to push.

The interface was fairly simple, however figuring out how to close an app was completely non-intuitive. You have to drag it to the bottom (toward the system tray/dock), which I would think would create a shortcut to it on that tray. And then, it shoots in the opposite direction and disappears. [We] thought it would be a good idea to have a garbage can to drop it to or something.

The only reason I wouldn't get an iPad is because it's too expensive. I wouldn't consider a different tablet for more than $300.

Ivan, 45:

It is heavier compared to the iPad. The good thing that I noticed was that the speakers were surprisingly good for a tablet. As for the interface, it's not as quick as the iPad, but it was sufficient for me. When I was looking at YouTube videos, they came up immediately and quite clear. No problems with Internet access.

One problem was that I couldn't find how to close the browser after opening it. I wish I had a chance to test out if it had the equivalent of Microsoft Office (i.e. Word, Excel) so if I was using this to do work.

As for my thoughts?

While I like the look of the webOS 3.0 UI and found this tablet to be more user-friendly than almost every other Android tablet I've ever examined in person, I was still disappointed. Here were my biggest qualms:

  • Too heavy: The TouchPad weights roughly 1.6 pounds. It's noticeably bulkier and heavier than the iPad 2 and the 10-inch Galaxy Tab. When holding the device in one hand, my arm was tired within a minute. This should never be the case with a tablet these days. It's just not acceptable.
  • Lack of apps: This point had been drummed to death by most reviewers, and it's not really actually that fair as other app stores (i.e. iTunes and the Android Market) started out small at one time too. But not even all of the apps that were supposed to be available could work - namely Amazon's Kindle for webOS app. A tablet should have an e-reader app at somewhere by default, so either Amazon or HP (or both) dropped the ball here.
  • Navigation issues: Again, like most of my friends that I interviewed, there are some issues with navigation, closing windows, etc. that had to be learned after practicing with the UI. Also, although it was incredibly simple to set up the TouchPad with my Google account so that I populated my calendar, contacts, documents file and more instantly, the TouchPad always showed me logged in to the Messaging app even after the device was sleeping for a long time. Several messages still went to the TouchPad, which I didn't see until I turned the screen back on after a day. I had to figure out how to manually log out of the Messaging app (which wasn't that simple) and/or turn the device off altogether. I wasn't a fan of the last option as the start-up time was close to a minute.

HP has touted the TouchPad as the perfect blend of a personal and professional tablet, but it doesn't quite fit the bill for either. As for the latter, with the failure of and the comparisons to the BlackBerry PlayBook and even the HP Slate, one has to ask: Can a business tablet ever succeed on the same level as the iPad? Apple's tablet isn't even pushed as much for business tasks, yet it's still somehow winning.

Related:

Topics: Hewlett-Packard

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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