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Sunday, August 21, 2011

HP TouchPad 32gb

So Friday/Saturday was a tech frenzy the likes of which I have never seen... the great & terrible HP TouchPad hunt.

I heard about the HP TouchPad being discontinued, so I kept a bit of an eye on it, then I heard about the massive price slashing by The Source & Future Shop on Friday afternoon-- I rushed down to FS to grab one, they only had a 32gb left for $149.99 which I snatched up as quick as I could (this being Future Shop it took about 20 mins. waiting for a stupid manager to enter a password into a till)... what kinda irks me is that all the FS employees bought up most of the stock before the general public could get a chance-- they were crowing about it quite proudly, as were The Source employees when I went there looking for one. I didn't know a whole lot about it when I bought it, and had I known it has such a smooth UI & user experience I would've bought another for my dad. I *really* wish I could get another one for him. That's my big regret of this whole debacle.

What a score though... this has to be the best tech deal of the year for me. It's a sweet gadget that is not as good as it should be, but for my needs, it fits the bill quite well.

So basically, the TouchPad is one of the many tablets that have been released this year; in fact I think it only came out something like 50 days ago? Bizarre that HP would just drop it like they did & slash the price by 75%. It's a dead product but I'm still seeing those annoying HP Touchpad ads with Lea Michelle, or that boxer/politician on my TV in heavy rotation... guess HP paid up at least through the weekend. I can't imagine how much money they're losing by this decision to just scrap it.

There are good things & bad things about the HP TouchPad. For multimedia, pictures, music, video, it's as good as a phone/PSP, but with a bigger screen. HP's WebOS is different than what I'm used to, but surfing the web is a mostly smooth endeavor on it-- though there are a few quirks. Not a huge deal, but the web browser can't be set to launch on a homepage. You tap to open it & then you gotta input a URL or side swipe to open the Bookmarks list. Just little things like that which make it less dynamic than it should be. But compare it to my phone browser (Android 2.1) which is OK, but is clunkier than the TouchPad browser. Then we go down further on the handheld browser list, to the Nintendo 3DS (very clunky) browser and the PSP browser. So for a portable/handheld, the TouchPad scores very well. But... compare the TouchPad to my Toshiba NB205 netbook, and it's a different ballgame.

I'm not sure it's fair to compare a tablet like the HP TouchPad to a netbook/laptop, but with the MSRPs of tablets being firmly in the $400.00-$500.00 range, it's gotta be a consideration. Let me put it this way-- I'm typing up this post using my netbook. Hell yeah did I consider doing it on the TouchPad, but the onscreen keyboard is pretty finicky. I'm used to the Android keyboard on my little HTC Legend being cumbersome... yes the TouchPad is bigger, but it takes more than double the time to type things than it does with my netbook keyboard. Using the TouchPad to do general websurfing is great. Flash loads up fine, and I haven't had any problem viewing embedded video. I can post the odd comment on message boards, but any sort of content creation, whether it's blogs or whatever, is kinda hard. I will try to post an entry using the TouchPad sometime.

The body is very black, rounded & smooth. It's also a huge fingerprint magnet. It's heavier than I thought it would be, and with the rounded body shape & weight I can't find a decent stand for it yet.

There are 2 speakers along the length of the side/bottom of it, which sound better than most handhelds (including my crap netbook speaker)but they are recessed into the smooth body & the speaker holes feel bit sharp when you hold the tablet soemtimes. the HP TouchPad also has bluetooth, I synced it with my Creative D100 bluetooth speakers and it sounds great.

The TouchPad has a front-facing camera, but no rear one. And the camera can only be used with one app, Skype. Reminds me of my PSPgo mic that has never been used because I don't Skype.

I bought the HP TouchPad with the hopes of it being a good photo viewer, music player & most important: video player.

USB - The TouchPad is seen as a USB drive, which means drag & drop. I love that! I hate having to use software to load media onto a device... it's one of the main reasons I haven't gotten an idevice yet. It has a micro USB port at the bottom of it, again no proprietary cable, I can use the same cables that I use for my phone. The USB cable it comes with also plugs into a dongle that is a power adapter wall plug. I don't think that a USB drive or memory stick can be plugged directly into the TouchPad, it does not look like there's a USB Hosting feature. The only quirk I discovered with the TouchPad is that it has to be ejected by right-clicking EJECT on the device icon in Windows. If you use the Eject USB Device command in Windows, it doesn't unmount it properly, and you'll get this "Ouch!" message on the TouchPad.

Music - The HP TouchPad supports .mp3, AAC, non-protected files (non-DRM) I haven't put much music on it yet, it's not high on my list as I'm really happy with my HTC Legend phone as my main music player. The HP TouchPad music player interface is basic, there are 2 views, list and side-scrolling album view. Playlist creation is fairly easy, tap+hold a song, then drag it to a playlist along a side panel to add it. Songs can be repeat one/all/shuffle & the usual album/artist/genre categories.

Video - Much like Android, videos are in the Photos section, all mixed in. There's 2 settings for video: fullscreen or original aspect ratio. It only plays .MP4 files, .MP4 simple profile, H.263/H.264. Which is very limited. But-- it actually plays my PSP Video 9 encoded PSP videos!!! I am *so* happy about that because I've rarely come across ANYTHING that can play those. And it plays them well, usually the best I can get is a buggy playback from any handheld that's not a PSP. So for me specifically, this is an awesome video player. More codec support would be nice. What's bad about the video playback is that it doesn't show the name of the video file, nor a thumbnail image. So you load it up with videos & get a bunch of generic video icons with only the length. No title, no date, nothing about it other than the length. That is very annoying especially if you want a lot of vids on it. I think the TouchPad was rushed to market, though things like this could be fixed with a software update if only HP hadn't abandoned it so quickly. UPDATE: I installed WebOS update 3.0.2 68 and now videos show their names! So that's an improvement.

The video controls are very basic, it's similar to the Android/iOS with the length bar, but the bar is ridiculously small for the size of the screen. So moving the playback cursor is really tricky & strangely not nearly as good as on the tiny screen of my HTC Legend, which itself is not nearly as good as the precise video playback controls of the PSP. For a screen the size of the TouchPad, it's stupid to have such a small playback bar. Again, could be fixed with an update, but...

Photos - Supports .JPG. Photos do show thumbnails, and the basic functions are here, there's a slideshow option of course. The slideshow transitions, well.. there's only one that I know of, and it's not very good. It works, but it ain't fancy. Even my Aluratek has better slideshow transition options.

Multitasking apps - The HP TouchPad can do multitasking quite well. I can play music while web browsing, open up vids/pics, pause that to do some web browsing, and come back to it. The interface uses windows "cards" which works fairly well. Let's say you're looking at a web page, and you want to open another web page up, it creates another card that stacks up over the previous one, and so on. So you swipe from the bottom of the TouchPad to go back to your stack of cards, and you can tap on whichever in the deck or to close one or all, you flick it up & it throws it away. That's how all the apps operate. Very nice & smooth. I love just flicking things away on this thing.

I think the TouchPad was rushed to market too early, and I also think that all the tablets are overpriced. Last year I was lusting a bit for an iPad, and I've always been interested in the tablet market. I was hoping that these tablet wars would offer some good deals as the competition heats up. I did not expect a firesale like this. It's kinda sad, actually, even though I don't think the HP TouchPad is worth $400-$500, it shouldn't be discontinued, especially so early in its lifespan. HP has some weird things going on, and with the rumblings that they might be leaving the PC market altogether, that's not good for consumers at all. I think we may see computer prices rise sharply if there's one less major company making entry-priced PCs. If the TouchPad or other tablets were priced starting at $350.00 or $250.00, then they'd be more enticing for people to buy. I don't know if it's the iPad(1/2) effect or what, but it just seems like the pricing is too steep for what they actually offer to the user. Just go to Staples, seeing their display of tablets, there are so many out there that I wonder if we'll see some more tablet firesales as competitors fall by the wayside. Motorola Xoom, BlacBerry Playbook-- I'm looking at you!

Before buying the HP TouchPad I wasn't familiar with WebOS, so now I'm trying to discover as much as I can about it. It's essentially a phone OS with a UI tweaked for tablets. But basically the same can be said for all the tablet OS's, right? Tablets are just bigger versions of smartphones. In some ways that's a good thing, but they need to be priced more reasonably. Smartphones themselves are also frustratingly overpriced, but the market demand for them unfortunately has made it profitable for all the companies (manufacturers & service providers) to overcharge.

It's too bad that there will be no support for WebOS, while I don't like it overall as much as Android, it's a smooth interface that could be improved and could have been a contender. That's the same that could be said about the HP TouchPad itself. We hardly knew ya.... there may be no future for this gadget, but in the meantime I'm having fun with it, for the price it was a great buy & now I'm looking harder at other tablets. if I could find one that's better than this, I'd gladly pay more for it.



HerrJeff said...

Glad you were able to get one. At my local Staples, one employee also admitted buying one for himself on Friday pm: unfair practice?

Don said...

I'd say so, but from the stores point of view I guess they don't care who buys it as long as someone takes it off their hands.

At Future Shop, the guy who rang mine up had bought his weeks before the price drop. And his employee discount price was $125.00. So all he did was price protect & got his $25.00 back. But at both Future Shop locations I went to and The Source, all the employees standing around chatting with each other were practically high-fiving themselves about how they all got the stock before most of the general public. Nice to see their hard work get rewarded.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you about the 3DS browser. I personally use it a lot and don't find it clunky at all. You want clunky? Try a Kindle's webbrowser. Clunky AND slow. AND colorless. It sucks.

Don said...

hehe, slow AND no colour, yeah that's bad.

In some ways I like the 3DS browser, mostly for its convenience; after I've downloaded a Pokemon I like to get online & it's right there. I really want to like it more than I do. But I find it pretty slow, and stumbles quite a bit trying to load up sites. I like that it opens new windows, but I hate how it opens them EVERY page. And it remembers them so I have to scroll back to the last page that I want saved so it will discard the ones I don't want.

Ever since I started using a capacitive touchscreen, it highlights the shortcomings of resistive ones like the 3DS. I instinctively want to pinch to zoom & such when using the 3DS touchscreen, but obviously that's not possible.

It's just clunky compared to a smartphone's web browser, which is not as good as the TouchPads (which gets trumped by any browser you can load on a PC)

If the 3DS browser came out 2 years ago, I'd be more forgiving of it, but it came out 2 months ago. Yes it is a free download, but it would be nice if it was a little more robust.


Anonymous said...

You like Pokémon!? SWEET! You are now 100% more awesome! So...


Don said...

All I know about Pokemon is mostly through the 3DS Pokedex that was a free download. It's fun getting up to 3 new Pokemon a day. I have no idea
what MUDKIPZ is.


Anonymous said...

"MUDKIPZ", or "Mudkip" as it's actually called, is a Pokémon from when they were on GBA. It's a popular meme. Why? I dunno. But hey! Try Pokémon Black out! You might like it.

Anonymous said...

Who's your favorite Pokémon?

Anonymous said...

Happy National Bacon Day!

mailigirl said...

Do you know how much these under paid over worked employees make? Give them a break... So they got a deal.. Stop whinging about unfair practices. Life...NOT FAIR... The HP touch pad came out with more apps and they are coming out with a model that has a as card slot. I think the fire sale was a way to flood the market with their product...It Worked.. Very crafty HP. oh and for you android lovers you can have both webOS and android on your HP touchpad.. See reinterpret for instructions.

mailigirl said...

internet.. Not interpret ..lol stupid auto correct...having a "Big Bang" moment... Oh watch an episode....lol

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