You may have noticed last week that HP TouchPads were rather cheap. I amazingly managed to buy a 32gb model from Carphone Warehouse for £115 which I thought was a great bargain. Once I had got it home and charged it, I was confronted with something rather different. Up to now my tablet computer experience had been an OQO model 01+, a Dell Streak 5 and an Advent Vega. This post is just my initial thoughts on the HP TouchPad, some tips to improve performance and a few free apps that I would recommend you install.
So it has a dual core processor, 1gb of ram, 32gb of storage, decent stereo speakers, a strange little draw that does not have any purpose, a micro usb port, a webcam, wireless n, a decent gpu, and a gorgeous 9.7″ 1024×768 4:3 screen. It is a great looking tablet, mostly plastic, but it feels solid. The speakers are good enough for sofa listening. With headphones the Beats by Dre stuff inside sounds great. The screen is a major fingerprint magnet, but it’s bright and with anti-glare screen protector it will be great. Below are a few pictures of the screen, the buttons and the nice case I bought for it.
This is where I expected the TouchPad to shine. My first experience was not the best. It was slow to start up, it lags whilst multi tasking and quite often freezes. Not a great start really. But there are lots of things going on behind the scenes and I mean LOTS. Once your device has first booted up you start adding all of your different accounts. It supports LOTS of different accounts AIM, Box.net, Dropbox, Email accounts, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft Exchange, MobileMe, Photobucket, Skype, Snapfish and Yahoo. So I added half a dozen different accounts. These all need time to sync. This initial syncing seemed to slow the TouchPad down at first. Another thing that slows the device down is that HP seem to take event logging with the TouchPad seriously and I mean VERY seriously. So much so that they have decided to forgo performance so that they could log lots of events. Luckily this is easily remedied, I’ll cover this in the tips section later.
So once I had done my initial setup I was ready to install some apps from the HP App Catalog, it is quite easy to look through, it tells you at a glance whether or not the app is optimized for the TouchPad. I have found media players, games, blogging software, maps, radio apps, social networking apps it was all there. It’s just that it sort of ends there. There are a lot of apps for previous webOS devices and these run within a smaller onscreen emulator. Sometimes this ok and other times it is just peculiar.
It was at this point I realised there was a newer version of webOS so I updated the system, after this update it felt smoother which was a pleasant surprise. So at this point with a new Android device I would be downloading every possible app for my new device and really trying it out. But I had already done that earlier and it took about half an hour. I decided I would have to look into the homebrew community to see what this device could really do. Below are a few screenshots of the layout of the launcher and some of the apps.
Tips to speed up your TouchPad
Earlier I mentioned that you could reduce the logging of events by the TouchPad. This is quite easy as long as you have a webOS phone or a Skype account. You need one of these to get into the “Phone & Video Calls” app. Once you can get to the dialpad you type ##5647# and press dial and another app pops up, you choose “Change Logging Levels…” and then “Set Logging To Minimal” and that will reduce the logging that is done, making the TouchPad feel a little faster. The next steps are to put you device into developer mode and install some software from your pc called “Preware” this is a collection of apps, tweaks, kernels and plugins for your TouchPad. For further info on how to do this I would head over to PreCentral’s Forum where they have a few step by step guides on how to install it without breaking your TouchPad. There are lots of things you can install from within Preware. Below is a list of items I have installed using Preware. All of these will all help to speed up the TouchPad.
The future of the TouchPad
So where does the TouchPad go next? At the moment there are several teams of developers attempting to get Android to run on the TouchPad. The Cyanogenmod team have managed to get it to boot but can’t get the touchscreen to work. A few people received TouchPad’s that already had Android installed, which were remnants of HP’s previous ideas for the device. One such person put his TouchPad on Ebay at a ludicrous price and people are actually bidding on it. Luckily another person copied the entire system and is helping various developers with the port. The main problem is that a lot of TouchPads where bought during the sales and immediately put on Ebay for triple the price. This has reduced the number of developers who were able to get there hands on one.
Honeycomb is what people want on their tablets. I have used a few different tablets, running Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb. The Honeycomb experience just felt right, the others just felt like a huge phone interface. There are a few things that will hold back Honeycomb for the TocuhPad. Firstly Honeycomb is closed source so the developers can’t just build a rom from the ground up and install it. Secondly the TouchPad does not have similar hardware to other current devices so borrowing parts from their roms is not going to possible either. I imagine CM7 will be as far as the porters get.
One strange twist in the tale is that HP seem to be reconsidering their stance on discontinuing the TouchPad. Various rumours are flying around that say that HP will make some more TouchPads. I have also heard that HP are going to continue to support webOS with further updates.
What I would like to see would be a dual boot system that had webOS and Android on it. webOS is great to use it’s just I can’t see new app developers getting onboard with it, leaving the number of TouchPad optimised apps quite low. With Android (whichever version they settle on) I know I will be able to find plenty of games or apps to keep me amused.
Overall the TouchPad is a great device. For the amount I bought it at, it is an amazing device. As to what HP do next and how the far Android porters get will decide the fate of the TouchPad. If you have got one let us know how your finding it?