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Published July 20, 2011
The HP TouchPad has a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera concealed in the bezel surrounding the display. Unlike the iPad 2, the Motorola XOOM, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, or any other major tablet that is on the market, the TouchPad does not have a rear camera.
The front camera is only used for one purpose out of the box: Skype video calls. There is no app to take a picture with the camera, and you cannot even turn it on unless you are in a call. Performance with the camera in a call was mediocre, and did not compare to the video calling features found on the iPad 2, Android Honeycomb tablets, or the BlackBerry PlayBook. I found the image received from the caller to be very choppy and low resolution, despite both of us being hooked up to fast internet connections. The recipient on the other end said that my picture was clear enough, if not stunning.
Music playback on the HP TouchPad was pretty good, as the Beats speakers managed to output a fair amount of volume without breaking up. I can't say that they were noticeably better than the speakers on the iPad or the PlayBook, and I didn't really hear a stereo effect at any point, though your mileage may vary with that.
You can load music onto the TouchPad by using the USB cable and mass storage mode on your computer. Dragging and dropping files onto the TouchPad was easy enough, but I did have to reboot the tablet before the music player would see the tracks I had added. You can also use HP's new Play software to sync music from your iTunes library over to the TouchPad.
The TouchPad loses points for not having any streaming music services available out of the box. The usual services that one would expect to see, like Pandora or Slacker Radio, are nowhere to be found, and don't even think about looking for rdio or MOG. Amazon's Cloud Player worked OK in the browser, but it does have its limitations. Google Music does not fare as well in the browser, as it is very difficult to select tracks to play.
The HP TouchPad is equipped with a 6,300mAh battery that is designed to last through a whole day of use. While it may not have the stamina of the iPad 2, I found the TouchPad's battery adequate enough in my use and I did not have to look for a wall outlet halfway through the day. Like the iPad, the TouchPad requires a fair amount of current to charge, so using the included charging adapters is recommended. The Touchstone charging dock accessory makes it easy to charge and display the TouchPad on your desk, and is a no-brainer purchase if you are buying the TouchPad.
As a long time user and fan of webOS, I had such high hopes for the HP TouchPad when it was announced back in February. Unfortunately, the competitive tablet landscape has not changed with the arrival of the TouchPad. The lack of apps, heavy design, and slow, laggy performance really holds it back from being able to give the iPad a run for its money.
Not all things are bad with the TouchPad, as certain features like the Synergy integration and the multi-tasking features are very cool and work rather well. The browser is not perfect by any means, but it does support Adobe Flash videos, which work more often than not.
As much as I wanted the TouchPad to succeed and become my tablet of choice, it has not. HP could right a lot of these wrongs with software updates to improve performance, which it's promised are coming, and throwing tons of incentives at developers to get some much-needed apps to the platform.
It also wouldn't hurt to pull a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 move and scrap this tablet design to come up with one that is thinner, lighter, and just a better option when placed next to the likes of the iPad 2 and slimmer Android tablets. But until then, the TouchPad is just another also-ran in the tablet category as the iPad continues to dominate the market and capture the public's attention.
Update (8/20): HP will offer a fire sale of all remaining TouchPad stock at $99 for the 16GB version and $149 for the 32GB version. Watch out for Amazon and HP's own listings for the closeout price to become effective.
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