HP Touchpad – and webOS 3.0

The HP TouchPad is available in the US and a whole lot of reviews are out. Of course I don´t have a review unit, which is sad but normal for a small blog – so I can´t share any first hand impressions, just comment on what others have shared on the TouchPad.

Hardware:

The TouchPad is thicker than the iPad2 or modern Android Honeycomb Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – however, the main complaint is materials: The TouchPads back is made of glossy plastic, which, as you may know, feels rather cheap. Besides that, it isn´t the lightest tablet out there.

Software:

Everybody likes webOS usability. webOS 3.0 on the Touchpad starts with around 300 apps, of which 50 are great apps – this is more than the Android Honeycomb tablets started with, which is good, too. There are some complaints though, too: The Skype integration is not perfect yet, so is the overall speed of the device, hickups are said to occur from time to time (despite the fast Qualcomm chip inside). HP stated, that these issues are supposed to be fixed in about a month with an OTA update – there is only one first impression though, and this is as its always been with (HP) webOS: Great ideas, not polished yet (I was going to write: “Great ideas poorly carried out” but that sounded to harsh without a deep dive into the TouchPad (e.g. a long hands on (a few hours or days)).

Still, comments and ratings on the HP TouchPad have been overly positive. It´s said to feel very “natural” in use, that some parts of its usability are like “that tune you can´t get out of your head”, e.g. the swipe up to close an application. In fact, i have read more than once that while not yet on the iPad 2´s level, the TouchPad is already a serious contender to the Honeycomb tablets, which are believed to have an overly complecated user experience.
Whether this is enough to have TouchPad sales at the level where HP expects them, remains to be seen.

(Stay tuned for another article on HP webOS in general later today.)

A thought on cheap tablets – what you should figure out before buying

I am still about to get a tablet, and every time a new cheap tablet pops up, I am considering it because I like to make a bargain. Of course, a cheaper tablet always lacks some features when compared to a more expensive one – be it the brand or more. If you are considering cheap tablets, you are apparently not too much about brands, and if you are willing to import such a device, you shouldn´t care about warranty. Often there are some more features that aren´t quite as good as with the more expensive alternative: These are CPU / GPU performance, amount of RAM, weight, touch screen quality, 3G, battery life – if the, say, china tablet not made/sold by a top brand at a drastically lower price, you have to expect one or more of the named features being inferior.

Pierre Cardin PC1018 9.7” Tegra2 tablet

Independent of your usage case, you shouldn´t go for an Android tablet that has specs inferior to: 500+MHz ARM11 CPU, 256MB Ram, WiFi, Android 2.1 – as battery life is usually not on the average spec sheet (or mentioned for fictional usage cases), and weight varies depending on the form factor, I don´t give you numbers here. Of course, tablets may still work for you, if you just want to use them as a digital picture frame or an e-reader – but still, it won´t be fun to use them as build quality will be most likely crap, too.

If you want to use your tablet for the web, you might need Flash for a full web experience. If you want to have a good Flash experience, with Flash 10.1 for Android, you will need a tablet that has an ARMv7 (ARM Cortex A8, ARM Cortex A9) SoC and runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) – and if you want to play safe and have a snazzy device, 512MB RAM are better for you (a device like this one shows that this doesn´t mean you´ll have to pay a fortune).

But then, again, great specs don´t make a great tablet user experience yet. At the Pierre Cardin booth at CeBIT I was told that their Froyo running 9.7” Tegra2 tablet has a battery life of 3-4 hours – which is way inferior to what brands like Samsung, Motorola, LG or Apple offer. You may argue, that Froyo isn´t optimized for Tegra2 devices – and you are damn right, Honeycomb is Tegra2 optimized and may increase battery life, but still: You can´t tell when you´ll get Honeycomb on your cheap Tegra2 (or in general dual core ARM) device – though unfortunately you can´t be sure of fast Android updates on your top brand (tablet) device, anyway.

Still, it all depends on your usage case. Most of us don´t really know what their use case of a new device class is. So get a cheap device or a more expensive one that you can return to find this out – and then make your decision.

iPad 2 later today

As you might already know, Apple will announce and present the iPad 2 today at 7 p.m. Paris time. This morning iPad 2 already accidentely appeared on Amazon.de as netbooknews.de reports. The leaked specs (if they aren´t just placeholders and Amazon doesn´t know more than everybody else) suggest an 1.2GHz CPU (no word about dualcore here, so it might just be a faster Apple A4), WiFi, 3G, Canera, Thunderbolt I/O (and thus Display Port if I am not completely wrong) and Bluetooth – and an aggressive pricing that is – if it´s real – almost incredible for the 16GB model: 499€, just as much as the current iPad 16GB WiFi only costs.

Image by netbooknews.de / stadt-bremerhaven.de

If this turns out to be true – we will all know more later today – Apple´s chances to fight the upcoming Android tablets (which will not be able to compete in terms of number of Apps and Content deals in the beginning, but will be higher priced) might not be all that bad – on the other hand: Nobody expected Apple to give up the fight.