Fondle: HP Touchpad

Editor's Note: I can't find a local store that will let me put my hands on the new Touchpad, and given the bad early reviews I'm not throwing away $500. So here is Mike Cane's take on it.

All photos taken July 1, 2011.

My first encounter with an HP TouchPad yesterday was at J&R:
While it was great to see they had it in stock first day, there wasn’t a demo model for fondling.

So I went to Best Buy and behold:


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Cards!!!!!1111two That’s as I encountered it.

Now, there’s something you absolutely should not do before picking up an HP TouchPad. But no one told me this and I had to find out on my own.

That thing is: Never, ever handle an iPad 2 just before!

Holy shit! The HP TouchPad is not just a brick in weight, it’s also morbidly obese compared to the iPad 2.

And when I said that Gizmodo’s review made it sound like a Cruz Tablet, well, guess what it felt like in my hand?

A Cruz Tablet!

Really, WTF, HP? This is the best industrial design you can do?

A damn bookseller — Barnes & Noble! — kicks your ass out of the industry in comparison!

Also: That screen. It might be IPS, but it’s absolutely no iPad screen. Are supplies so tight that you’re getting screens that fail Apple’s Quality Control? Text is just not as sharp as even the lo-res iPad (lo-res compared to higher-res Android tablets, the NookColor, and Apple’s own Retina Display). Some text, in fact, is just aesthetically offensive to look at, with a blur around it. Is this a software or hardware issue?

The first test, of course, is the traditional YouTube one. And mine is always a clip from a Gerry Anderson production. Being in Best Buy — which lacks the relaxed Zen of an Apple Store for fondling — I settled for the first color clip I could get (otherwise I would have tried my usual torture test regimen), this one.

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It played smoothly. And since it’s not a hi-res clip, the image roughness was to be expected. I’m ambivalent about whether it’s better to play YouTube directly from its site or via an app. I’m for whichever method has the less friction. So, no points plus or minus here.

Next, I called up my blog…

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Wait. WTF? Where is it?

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Oh, there it is.

WTF? HP, your ass was just kicked again. The shitty unofficial browser in an eInk device — the Barnes & Noble Nook Touch — built my site like five times faster than that! And I don’t think I can blame the WiFi network at Best Buy for this, because that YouTube clip would have been all choppy in playback, and it wasn’t. So, the reviewers were right when they said this was the slowest browser they’ve ever encountered on a mobile device. Really, didn’t anyone at all of HP ever notice this? Out of thousands of employees, not one?

How I was now feeling:

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Pinch-zoom, by the way, also isn’t as good as the iPad. There was a mismatch between the geometry of my fingers and the image beneath it. How is it only Apple seems to be able to get this right? Do they have special Unicorns to do that algorithm?

Next was the real meat of my test. I wanted to test PDF handling for myself, despite the assistance I got yesterday from Jonathan Ezor. I’m just like the U.S. in arms talks with the old Soviet Union: Trust but verify.

Here I am pulling down the PDF for Success: A Novel from Google. Again, there was nothing wrong with Best Buy’s WiFi network to excuse the poor browser performance. This download came down very nicely at the speed I expected.


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Let me pause here to note one difficulty in using that Google Books CAPTCHA with an iPad 2. The damn iPad 2 will auto-capitalize the first letter of the CAPTCHA! It was driving me nuts, trying to figure out why my CAPTCHA entries were failing until I finally looked and saw the initial cap. So, score a point for the HP TouchPad, which did not auto-cap my CAPTCHA entry.

One thing about the browser too. This:


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You know how iOS has you go into Global Settings to do things like purge History, Cookies, and such for Mobile Safari? Apparently that’s not the case with the TouchPad. I couldn’t find anything under Settings for the browser. What I did find was in the browser itself, shown in the above picture. That right column had all the pages I’d opened that I wanted to wipe out so others couldn’t go to them. I had to select each one to delete! I couldn’t find any bulk delete. I had to swipe my finger over each one to get the choice of buttons shown above. Not. Fun. Very. In. Eff. Icient.

Now back to the test …

After it was downloaded I got a strange thing I did not take a picture of. The PDF opened and I got a dialog box stating Quick Office couldn’t handle it. Which was bizarre, because Adobe Reader was showing in the upper right corner as the open program! Anyway, I canceled it. Then found the file and told it to open with Adobe Reader (the steps I’m describing here might not be exact, but the result was I got it to open in Adobe Reader).

And lo:


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And lo:

And like, where the fuck is it?

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Finally, after the glaciers had melted:

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Oh my god. What torment. OK, now I know PDF is a pain in the ass format the way it’s used by Google Books and others to digitize image scans of documents, but, my god, where the hell was the snap in the Snapdragon?

It took five seconds to go from PDF page to PDF page. Five bloody miserable seconds. During which I would have forgotten what I had just read, have to go back a page, and wait another five goddammed seconds to see it again.

I am not blaming HP or webOS for this. Maybe I should? But the software is from Adobe. You know, that company that thinks clogtastic Flash is a good thing for the iPhone to have? Adobe, that tentacled monster sucking the life out of the eBook market.

So, anyway, my hopes for the HP TouchPad as a kick-ass killer PDF viewer for Google Books and Internet Archive things is just not happening here. It’s just too damned slow.

Now maybe there will come a third-party app that will do better. But, you know, if someone ever claims that, I want to see a damn YouTube video of it being used live. You start from downloading Success: A Novel to paging through the damn thing live. Then I’ll be inclined to believe.

Not pictured, I also downloaded that test issue of Processed World magazine. This was my first time seeing it on a tablet screen. Ah, now that is what I want. But I Do Not Want the Adobe Reader spinning spinning spinning spinning spinning spinning wheel and the seconds seconds seconds seconds seconds of delay while it opens and then moves from page to page.

I decided I wanted to get a screensnap of that Processed World to email to myself for this post. Holding down Power and Home just like the iPad will do a screensnap. Then came the fun of Where The Fuck Did It Go?

Navigating the Photos/Video app is not as straightforward as the iPad’s Photos app. Finally, I got to it, as shown in this blurtastic photo:

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Unreadable here, what’s highlighted in the left column is where the TouchPad puts screen captures. In a folder called, um, Screen captures. But finding that took too much time.

I hit the Share icon which called up email — also not pictured — filled in my address, and thought I sent the photo.

But it has never arrived.

I don’t know what happened there. But I have never had that happen with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod at an Apple Store — unless the email account has not been set up, in which case it will stop you from stupidly even creating an email that will never arrive.

By this time, some of you are wondering if the TouchPad was running a lot of apps and that was bogging things down. Puhleeze. I know how to call up Cards and how to flick them away. Only one app at any time was running here.

And here’s one more thing: Taps aren’t registered 100%. I had to press a button in the Photo app. I pressed the button. The button measured like 0.25? x 0.5? It was not too small to touch and not easy to miss. I got the confirming “splash” of circles verifying I touched the button. Nothing happened. I touched again. Again, the circles acknowledging my touch. Nothing. I did it a third time. Finally the goddammed thing woke up and reacted!

That was the same damn experience I had with a Cruz Tablet!

Scary, innit?

Let me show you how much I was pulling for HP here. I even went to see if there was a software update for the TouchPad. Because that’s how Palm rolled the day the original Pre went on sale. People powered it up and BAM! Software update to squish all the bugs they’d shipped it with.

Look:

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I stood there like an idiot for a minute waiting for a response to that. All I got was that circle doing its fucking whirring.

I got fed up and left.

The bottom line is this: The HP TouchPad is just not good enough.

I would put up with the thickness and weight if the software experience was there.

But it’s not.

That browser is as bad as Firefox 4 runs on my desktop. I don’t need more slow shit like that in my life (I am using Opera again for its speed, thank you very much).

Touches that don’t get acted upon should never, ever happen.

PDF handling is too damn slow. Yes, it’s slow on the iPad 2 as well using iOS 4 (I repeated the Success: A Novel test with iBooks during my iPad 2 fondle), but at least iBooks gives me a frikkin indication that the pages are being rendered. Far too slowly, yes, but at least I know there’s progress going on. Adobe Reader on the HP TouchPad is like being trapped in an isolation tank by a madman, wondering what the hell the outcome will be and if it will ever end.

I really, really wanted this to be a living, breathing competitor to the iPad. webOS has a lot of things to like — in principle. In practice, that software is just not finished. And how many years have they been working on it?

I hope HP has not committed itself to a massive production run of this model. I’d ditch it after a run of 100,000.

Let supplies dry up. It deserves to go away like a bad dream.

Meanwhile, they had better have a TouchPad 2 to release later this year. One that is lighter, thinner, without Cruz Tablet Plastic from Hell, with some CPU horsepower, and with no damn sensation of webOS being unfinished.

I cannot recommend the HP TouchPad at all.

And despite HP telling everyone an update is coming that will Make It All Right, I’m in no hurry to run out and give this a second fondle when that happens.

9 thoughts on “Fondle: HP Touchpad

  1. its sad to hear this review but not unexpected from a 1st generation device. to date as far as im aware nobody made the jump the 1st time except apple and technically they didn’t either if you include the early years of tablet/pda’s.
    (yes yes it is a matrix reference)
    i do still have hope for the toshiba thrive though it looks like it has alot of winning combinations

  2. Ah. you seriously need your mouth washed with water and soap. All this swearing is very puerile and unbecoming for journalist.

    nice review though.

    1. Eh. This is Mike Cane. He does color commentary like this all the time.

      (the following is a joke) Eventually I realized that he is most of the reason why NYC has a terrible reputation for rudeness. Fortunately the rest of NYC know what he did and that’s why he was exiled to Staten Island.

    2. >>>mouth washed with water and soap

      You moron. I TYPED those words. But an eejit like you can’t tell the difference. Die from your IQ deficit and improve the human race!

  3. I found your review when looking for solutions to the pdf problems on the touchpad. I have a ipad2 and just bought a Hp touchpad as I work for the company. But I must agree with everything you say here. This thing is a disapointment and I’ll be sending it back. The pdf viewing is impossible. Slow, very slow no features like goto a page #, etc. Plus scrolling thru pages is not smooth. Lastly, the zoom does not zoom very much and when you do zoom you then cant turn pages. How could this get released like this?

  4. lol i had forgotten about this review mike did 2 months ago i wonder if he was in line like the rest of us fighting for a chance at 1 of the $99 wonder machines lol. oh well maybe the updates over the past few months have improved the speed and reliability of this device otherwise i may have to flip this thing a week after i get it(if it actually ships)

  5. do you get paid by apple? If no ask for a cut. For a first operating system Web Os, the HP TP is not a bad product. Your reference to iPad 2 at every comment is shallow and I’ll inform.

    It is because of unfavourable partial comments like yours that we will not see a follow up on updates to fix problems that were peculiar to apple in the early days of their product in the web is family.

    the HP to next generation would have had improvements in all aspects just as iPad did.

    would I be right I assuming that you a very unhappy critic-not good for the industry.

    good luck to you any way.pb

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