The TouchPad's standard apps like e-mail are well designed and use a handy panel feature that makes use of the whole screen. However, opening and extending panels is achieved by tapping a tiny control at the button of the screen, a strange design choice given the fact you are working with a 9.7in sized display. HP's Synergy feature groups contacts from multiple sources in a single application, and out of the box the TouchPad impressively supports Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft Exchange, MobileMe, Photobucket, Skype, Snapfish and Yahoo accounts. However, you can only view documents — you can't edit or create Office files on the TouchPad, which makes it unsatisfactory as a business tool. Though we expect features like this to come with software updates, the fact remains that the TouchPad is currently well behind its competition.
The HP TouchPad has two of the best sounding speakers we've heard on a tablet, and the device is easily able to fill a small room with decent quality sound. However, its syncronising software (HP Play) is still in beta, doesn’t support photos and videos, and is clunky to use. The HP TouchPad is also slow to mount as a USB drive when connected to a PC or Mac.
Without a doubt the biggest hindrance to the HP TouchPad's effectiveness is performance. Despite boasting hefty specifications — a dual core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor being the highlight — the HP TouchPad is sluggish to open apps, often takes a few seconds to respond to presses on the screen and generally feels much slower than most other tablets currently on the market. Its accelerometer is also way too touchy, so much so that even the slightest tilt will rotate the screen when you don't want it to.
HP TouchPad: Other features
The HP TouchPad has a front facing, 1.3-megapixel camera, and with built-in Skype support, you can make video calls over the service directly from the TouchPad's messaging application. However, the TouchPad does not have a rear facing camera. Though we suspect most tablet users would not be too fussed with the absence of a rear camera (after all, does anyone really want to take photos, or record video with a 9.7in tablet?), but the fact remains that almost all of the HP TouchPad's competitors have dual cameras.
One very cool feature of the HP TouchPad is exhibition mode, which is basically a fancy name for a big digital clock. In addition to a clock, exhibition mode can display photos in your gallery as a slideshow, your calendar agendas and Facebook. The Facebook mode shows your friends’ latest status updates, with a tiled background of profile pictures. The HP TouchPad also has "Touch-to-share" technology, which enables users to share content, read text messages and even answer phone calls from a compatible HP smartphone by simply tapping the devices together — however given that HP is yet to release these phones in Australia, we weren’t able to test this feature.
Disappointingly, the HP TouchPad is a Wi-Fi only device with no 3G connectivity option, though a 3G model is likely to be released at a later date. Curiously, what looks like a pop-out SIM card slot on the right side of the TouchPad is actually where HP has chosen to print the serial number of the device.
HP claims the TouchPad's battery is good for eight hours of Web browsing, and nine hours of video playback. In reality, the numbers we achieved were a little less than that, but still quite respectable. We managed roughly seven hours of sporadic use before the battery ran out on most occasions. No, it's not good enough to hold a candle to the iPad 2's impressive battery, but it's about on par or better than many Android tablets on the market.
The HP TouchPad will be sold through Harvey Norman in Australia from 15 August, but it can be purchased now from online store MobiCity.