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The TouchPad is HP's first tablet effort running the webOS operating system that it acquired when it purchased Palm back in June of 2010. Many users and lovers of webOS's blend of beauty and functionality have been waiting with baited breath to see how it performs on a tablet.
While webOS has been praised by almost everyone who has touched it on a phone, it's had trouble grabbing a large chunk of the smartphone market share thanks to lackluster hardware and limited app selection.
Has HP managed to take the best of webOS and implement it on the TouchPad while avoiding the pitfalls that have plagued the platform in the past? Is the TouchPad a compelling option compared to market leader Apple's iPad 2 or the less impressive Android 3.1 Honeycomb tablets currently available?
When you first lay eyes upon the HP TouchPad, everything looks very familiar - almost scarily so. When viewed from the front with the screen off, you are almost transported back to January 2010 when the original Apple iPad was revealed. The TouchPad features a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 pixel, IPS display front and center, just like the iPad. The screen itself is just as good as the iPad's, it has good color reproduction and viewing angles. It has a thick, nondescript bezel that surrounds the screen, within which is a home button and an embedded 1.3-megapixel camera. The home key is eerily reminiscent of the iPad's home button, though it is oblong in shape and has a glowing notification light built into it.
Moving to the side, the TouchPad finally starts to look different than the iPad. The rounded edges somewhat hide, but don't totally eliminate the 13.7mm (0.54in) thick profile of the TouchPad. Compared to the original iPad, the TouchPad is slightly thicker, though it is hard to notice the added girth. When sitting side-by-side with the iPad 2 (8.8mm/0.34in thick) or the equally svelte Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (8.49mm/0.33in thick), it is downright portly.
Along the edge of the tablet are a power/sleep/unlock key, a volume rocker, a microphone, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro-USB charging/syncing port, and stereo "Beats" speakers. The speakers will provide stereo sound when the TouchPad is held in a landscape orientation with the home button on the right side. There is also a dummy SIM card slot that will be utilized with future 3G/4G models, though it is not accessible in our Wi-Fi-only review unit.
Around back is a vast sea of glossy plastic that is very similar to the back of the iPhone 3GS. It is rounded and glossy and prone to fingerprints. If you are particular about the cleanliness of your gadgets, the TouchPad will be a fingerprint nightmare for you. The plastic gives a somewhat cheap feel to the TouchPad as well; it certainly does not have the quality feel that the iPad 2 or the Galaxy Tab 10.1 exhibit.
In the hands, the glossy back and heavyweight (the TouchPad weighs a stout 740g/1.6lbs) make the TouchPad a bit difficult to keep a handle on. It is rather slippery and the weight makes it difficult to balance on a lap and type with two hands.