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Is it worth buying a discounted HP TouchPad?

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August 22, 2011

To buy or not to buy a discounted TouchPad?

To buy or not to buy a discounted TouchPad?

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Last Thursday, HP announced that it would "discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones." The surprise announcement came less than two months after the release of the TouchPad and the company subsequently slashed its price, prompting a stampede of customers looking to snap up a tablet bargain. But just how much of a bargain is it considering there won't be any future updates to webOS from HP and developers aren't likely to produce many new apps for a discontinued device? Having spent some time with a TouchPad recently, I'd have to say, like most things, it depends.

When first playing around with the TouchPad - pre-discontinuation announcement - it was hard to see how it could compete against Apple's all-conquering iPad or even the multiple Android challengers to the tablet throne. Sure, the TouchPad itself seemed built well enough - albeit a bit heavier than the iPad - and webOS worked nicely on the tablet - though with a few noticeable and lengthy stutters despite the dual-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 1 GB of RAM under the hood.

But there was nothing to really set the TouchPad apart and it was hard to see how it would gain a foothold in the tablet market with its limited selection of apps. It seems HP had the same reservations and decided to cut its losses, which are likely to be substantial when you take into account the US$1.2 billion price tag for the acquisition of Palm in 2010 with webOS cited as a major motivation for the purchase.

So is it worth snapping up a cheap Touchpad? First here's a quick refresh on what's inside the box.

Hardware

Coming in 16 GB and 32 GB models with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n - there are no 3G options - Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and A2DP, GPS, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 6,300 mAh battery, the HP TouchPad is a decently specced device. Like the iPad, it also boasts a 9.7-inch multi-touch display with 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution.

HP Touchpad home screen

The device weighs in at 770 g (1.69 lb), making it heavier than both the 680 g (1.5 lb) original iPad and 600 g (1.33 lb) iPad 2. This is despite it measuring 190 x 230 x 14 mm (7.48 x 9.05 x 0.55 in), which makes it shorter in height in portrait orientation than both the iPad and iPad 2 (13 mm/0.51-inches and 10mm/0.39-inches respectively). While the width of the TouchPad is the same as the original iPad, it is 4mm (0.16 in) greater than the iPad 2, and its depth is 1 mm (0.04-inches) greater than the iPad and 5.4 mm (0.21-inches) greater than the iPad 2.

The volume rocker, power/lock button, 3.5 mm headphone jack, micro USB charge port and home button are all in the same location you'd find them on the iPad. The unit's stereo speakers, which include Beats Audio technology, are located at the top and bottom of the left side of the device when held in portrait orientation, which allows for greater stereo separation when not listening through headphones.

The gloss finish looks slick enough when you first pull the TouchPad from its packaging

The casing of the TouchPad is high gloss black plastic on the back and sides and glass display on the front. While it doesn't compare to the brushed aluminum finish of the iPad, the gloss finish looks slick enough when you first pull the TouchPad from its packaging but within a couple of minutes both the front and rear of the device will be covered in very visible fingerprints. A case is the obvious solution if you're looking to protect your device not only from unsightly smudges and smears, but also knocks and scrapes.

Lack of Apps

HP was similar to Apple in that its acquisition of Palm in 2010 allowed it to both make the hardware and own the software that runs on its TouchPad and webOS smartphones. But a year is a long time in the tech world and HP entering the tablet market with between 300 and 400 TouchPad optimized webOS apps - along with the more than 8,000 webOS apps for the Palm Pre that will run on the TouchPad in compatibility mode - paled in comparison to the more than 90,000 apps currently available for the iPad through Apple's App Store, which doesn't count the more than 425,000 iPhone apps that will also run in screen doubled mode on the iPad.

TouchPad's pre-installed apps

Current and future capabilities

So with a limited selection of apps - the lifeblood of any tablet - and the likelihood of that list growing significantly being pretty much zero, why has there been a rush to snap up the TouchPad at the discounted price? A lot of people simply love the idea of a bargain and a saving of $300 on the 16 GB model and $350 for the 32 GB certainly qualifies. And for browsing the Internet - with flash capabilities - , checking email, Facebook and Twitter, watching videos, viewing photos and reading eBooks, the HP TouchPad is more than capable.

While HP has said it is looking to license webOS to third-parties, offering hope that webOS isn't completely dead yet, others are pinning their hopes on hackers coming up with a way to run Android and Ubuntu Linux on the TouchPad. With various projects already underway to replace webOS on the TouchPad, and developers already having success with getting Ubuntu Linux up and running on the tablet, such efforts will likely breathe life into the TouchPad and extend its current capabilities.

To buy or not to buy?

So if the existing capabilities of the TouchPad suit your tablet needs, or if you're willing to pin your hopes on replacing webOS with another operating system in the future, the TouchPad is definitely worth considering - ironically that's something that we would have been reluctant to say last week when the 16 GB model was retailing for $400 and the 32 GB was going for $600. The trick will be to find a store that still has stock as people have been snapping up the TouchPad like hotcakes since it was reduced to $99 and $149 for the 16 GB and 32 GB models respectively. If, however, like those who purchased the TouchPad before last week's announcement, you were considering a purchase based on the device's potential with the expectation of a steady flow of new apps and webOS upgrades from HP, it's definitely time to reconsider.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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16 Comments

HP IS CRAP, so the answer is NO, we have their printer at work, it takes eight clicks to print a page in draft mode so it will not spray 100.00 of ink on the page, My Epson RX580 just takes two clicks, HP is CRAP DIE, go away

Bill Bennett
22nd August, 2011 @ 11:32 pm PDT

OMG, what a failure! Though it was a DOA from the very begining - who would fall for a WebOS when we have Green Robot and Shiny Apple on the shelves? Sorry, HP, but you sucked =)

Михаил Финогенов
23rd August, 2011 @ 06:14 am PDT

If they manage to get Android running on the device (and they will), it will make a cheap Android tablet. The fact that this wasn't mentioned in the article hints at the Apple bias I always feel on this site.

Stradric
23rd August, 2011 @ 07:15 am PDT

What's the point of this article - the supply was stripped within hours of price-down. The question is - can you get one anywhere.

Mott
23rd August, 2011 @ 08:45 am PDT

No it's not worth it to me...it might be worth it if the android cross over works. But...ehh seems like a crappy pad. It's still available near me and I'm passing.

Jonathan Hockaday
23rd August, 2011 @ 09:57 am PDT

Absolutely it's worth it. regardless of your (apparently, largely emotional) perception of HP, this is a lot of contemporary hardware for a relative pittance; which can then be turned to better uses, i.e. Android, and or Ubuntu. Cheer up! ;)

promet
23rd August, 2011 @ 12:30 pm PDT

I think it is worth it. One gets a deeply discounted tablet pc that works great. With HP still developing WebOS, there will be support for the OS. There will still be apps for it. I really like using my Touchpad. The UI is similar to my Palm Pre; which means I don't have to learn a totally new OS.

BigWarpGuy
23rd August, 2011 @ 12:38 pm PDT

everyone focuses on the zillions of iPhone apps and says how can you compete with that.

Well 99.9% of those apps are completely crap and a waste of time.

Who uses even 8000 apps? Nobody. Most people use maybe 10.

So as long as the 10 you need are within the 8000, who cares if there are another 417000 apps you don't want on another platform. Do you even have time to spend 1 minute looking at each one? No.

The fact is, all these tablets sold out in hours. The market has already spoken on this, and in fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if this turns things around for it. Anyone know how many are now in the hands of customers? If enough, it makes it a more viable platform.

Devs want to target a platform that has support (in terms of users using it).

Adrien
23rd August, 2011 @ 03:18 pm PDT

It is definitely worth it! I bought two of them for $149 each, then sold one on ebay for $380... So it was effectively free! It isn't an ipad but performs well on nearly everything I want to use it for. Photos, web browsing and twitter all perform well.

Andrew Brown
23rd August, 2011 @ 07:03 pm PDT

There's an effort underway to port recent versions of Android to the Touchpad. Unless HP has done something extremely convoluted to the device, it shouldn't take the hackers very long to get it working. I'd be surprised if they needed more than a month.

Also, as others have pointed out, if the few apps you most need are among the ones already available, then this is a steal at $99.

And if it runs Angry Birds, then it's definitely worth buying for the kids so they don't keep stealing Dad's iPad to play their fave game.

Nick Huggins
24th August, 2011 @ 12:06 am PDT

interesting article. it would definitely be good for those people who ran out to buy the HP TouchPad to read this! the HP TouchPad has now sold out across stores in the UK, so it seems people just love a bargain....http://blog.parcel2go.com/are-you-lured-by-bargain-prices-hp-touchpad-attracts-the-masses/

Sarah Parker
24th August, 2011 @ 08:29 am PDT

Buy it as a throwaway item as tech support which is already marginal at HP (and Dell) is only going to get much worse. If you need a new driver or firmware update or other fix HP is not going to be there.

To bad as the other options are really not that much better. One can pay twice as much for the same stuff from Apple or buy from Samsung and others and get little or no support.

Calson
24th August, 2011 @ 03:51 pm PDT

I bought one for myself and my son. I was planning to swap WebOS for Android once there's a rom available.

But now that I've played with it for a couple days, I'm considering developing an app or two on WebOS. I was lucky, in that the HP app store had the apps for the functions I wanted. But there are plenty of gaps to fill. I spent some time looking over the SDK and think that while it isn't a trivial thing to do, coding for WebOS looks fairly routine.

I doubt if it will make me a million bucks, but I'm betting it could pay for the tablets.

flink
25th August, 2011 @ 04:41 am PDT

If Touchpads are sold out across the UK and pretty much the US...thats alot of Touchpads in userhands which may be a pretty good motivation for app developers to make new apps for it, wether its supported or not.

Facebook User
28th August, 2011 @ 03:59 pm PDT

@Mott - It was reported that, due to the demand, HP WILL be doing AT LEAST one more production run of at least 100,000 more units. Soooo....

Who knows... this fire sale may turn out to be one of the greatest (accidental) marketing feats of all time. It's possible, as Reliant Aviation Justin intimates, with enough units in the field, enough user enthusiasm, and enough developer motivation, WebOS and the HP Touchpad may rise like a phoenix due to even greater consumer demand. (Look for the souped up HP Phoenix, coming Q2 2012, sporting an upgraded WebOS. :D Hey... it's possible.) Further, if HP can get in on the software game and sell some premium software products, they might just recoup some of their manufacturing and marketing losses--maybe even enough to truly resurrect their tablet/WebOS foray.

kalqlate
1st September, 2011 @ 05:14 pm PDT

OMG Update! My phone is the latest PalmPre available now, my tablet, yeah the hp 32GB, I just hate their printers, love the phone (free), and the tablet works well, it is bitchin' Best

Bill Bennett
7th September, 2012 @ 10:17 pm PDT
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