Last night I had the privilege of being one of a select few bloggers to attend an event in HP's first and only Canadian retail store. The cozy nook on Alberni Street in downtown Vancouver was bustling with excitement as HP launched a demo for its brand new Touchpad, the first tablet running HP's new webOS.
I had the opportunity to give a Touchpad the full test run. I admit I was skeptical of the device walking into the event. I've used the iPad 2 and it's a hell of a tablet. I've tested out Android gadgets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and they were pretty slick. What could webOS really offer me?
But a few unique features caught my interest, and on the whole, I was a lot more impressed than I expected to be.
First, the software's multitasking is handled deftly. Its easy swiping and swapping and flicking of apps and windows is even better than on the BlackBerry PlayBook and the ability to drag windows into "decks of cards" made for spectacularly easy app management.
Second, its ability to integrated a variety of accounts, dubbed "Synergy Accounts," really enriches the experience on a deep level. Adding your accounts—I'm talking Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Skype, Dropbox, and tons more—creates synergy within your webOS. An easy example is with Facebook. When I synergize my Facebook with webOS, which is a quick and hassle-free experience, there is automated integration throughout. Accessing the native photo app pulls up all my Facebook albums too. It's plain and simply awesome.
I also love the "Just type" feature on the homescreen, where you type in anything and real-time results start popping up, letting you swiftly search your entire device and tap through to all your apps, contacts, etc. in one breezy motion. It's nothing new for mobile devices but it works excellently on the webOS.
Notifications are handled quite well, and the keyboard's adjustable size is a handy feature too. Plus, the "HP App Catalog," while perhaps not as prominent as it should be on a tablet, looks great and allows for simple and rapid installation of multiple apps simultaneously.
But the Touchpad isn't perfect. It's missing a rear-facing camera. It's exterior shell a glossy plastic that doesn't feel as nice as the iPad's aluminum casing and picks up fingerprints like crazy. And at times, the device seemed to be missing a little extra burst of speed I craved for a truly seamless experience.
So is the HP Touchpad an iPad killer? No. Is it a legitimate alternative? Yes.