Sunday, September 4, 2011

HP touchpad webOS 3.0 initial impression

So I’m one of the fortunate ones who got a HP touchpad 16GB during their fire sale last week. I’ve been using this device for the weekend. And here are some of my impressions, with comparison to my phone which is powered by Android 2.2.

Overall I wasn’t super satisfied with the performance compared to my Android phone. Operations as simple as swiping between screens when multiple cards (HP’s way of multitasking) are opening. App launching speed is generally slow. Most operations require clicking the home button. There are instances when the OS prevent you from creating more cards (equivalent of force close on Android). All of these happen even after disabling logging and overclocking the device. This is very unacceptable since the hardware seems pretty good: 1.5Ghz dual core processor, 1GB memory seem all wasted. Even my 600Mhz 256MB Android phone can run multitasking very smoothly!

First about the booting time, there are two kinds of booting:
1. Normal booting, takes a long time. (My laptop with win 7 could probably boot faster)
2. LUNA restart which is required when you install patches from preware.

Wifi connection - apparently I can connect it to both 2.4G and 5G mode. Three days into using it, I figured I want to change the wifi connection, but when I’m sitting right next to my router, the damn thing cannot detect the WiFi signal (2.4g) Touchpad WiFi seems defective? Can't find any network! Sure a simple reboot will fix this problem, but it’s really not very acceptable.

The screen is 1024*768 4:3. The aspect ratio isn’t optimized for widescreen movie viewing, nor good for general web viewing. Maybe it’s just me used to the widescreen monitors… The screen is glossy, and if you look at the screen with tiliting when it’s off, you can somehow see the dots for the touch panel. The screen has a lot of backlight bleeding when viewing in the night. Overall the screen is mediocre at the best.

The storage, I got the 16GB model. When I got it, I have only around 11GB available space. The app size is usually pretty big, could be about the same size as windows program. And webOS has a limitation of 2GB file size. There’s no expandable storage option, but it seems the device does support USB host?

On the software side, first the webOS lacks support for a lot of languages. It only gives the usual English, Spanish, and French support. There’s no asian language support (IME), but it does support unicode. You can get apps from both official HP App Catalog or Preware (homebrew). Only very few apps are optimized for Touchpad, majority of them are for small screen mobile phone, if viewed under Touchpad, they will be in simulation mode which only occupies half of the screen. The useful apps on HP App Catalog are usually paid program, could range from 0.99 to over $10, averages about $5, and most don’t offer free or trial version. So you have to be fairly rich to use this device. HP has been offering some free code for the paid apps, but they run out in a few hours. The ones on Preware are mostly for older webOS, therefore they mostly don’t run well. The most useful ones are a few patches such as unthrottle the downloading speed, overclocking the device. For optimizing the device, just follow this one.

Notification system, I think the notification bar is too thin, it’s very hard to press the buttons accurately especially when it wear the ipad folio case (not fitting perfectly). The system incorporates web search, email, music, general setting (screen rotation lock, airplane mode, wifi, etc). I think it generally works OK, especially the email notifications, but I still prefer Android’s pull down style.

The power button, it doesn’t support reset, vibration, etc via long press of the power button like Android or Symbian. There is a patch on Preware, but it didn’t work for me. So to restart the device, you have to go to Settings->Device Info->Reset Options. It’s just way too long process.

Pre-loaded software are minimal at the best, includes web browser, email, calendar, contacts, Skype video, picture video browser, music player, Amazon Kindle, youtube, maps, memo, PDF, office, but none of them are perfect IMO. The web browser loads webpages very slow and almost fails loading external links EVERY SINGLE time. The browser is NOT multi-tabbed, to switch between tabs is a pain. Also there is no way to adjust text size, the text on a 10in device is just way too small IMO. The email is all right, but again since the web browser fails loading external links or emails with pictures, I can’t really check some of my emails. The calendar works OK, it syncs with Google calendar, I installed the default to month view on Preware. The contact feature is not super useful, but it does sync with Gmail. The Skype video has very inferior quality, the video just breaks up, I don’t think the either the device or the OS can handle it. The picture and video browser, I’m not sure why they combine these two together. It can sync with Photobucket and Snapfish for the online photo. I happen to use Photobucket a lot, so I definitely appreciate this feature, it’s far more convenient than the individual app on Android. But unfortunately the picture browser doesn’t support sorting, the pictures appear in random order (maybe by creation date?), while I generally want to to be in name ascending order. Sadly it doesn’t include syncing with Picasa which I use a little bit on the Android phone. The video player, I haven’t tried it yet since I don’t have any mp4 format (which is the only one that’s compatible), majority of my encoded videos are avi, wmv, and mkv. There is a 10Mbps and max 2GB limit on the video. They have a handbreak preset for Touchpad on precentral. I’m not sure if the h.264 this device support is main or high profile. The music player is good enough, it doesn’t play APE or FLAC. Amazon Kindle works fine here, but it doesn’t offer dictionary like the one on Android. Youtube, there’s no separate app, instead it’s just a website link. The device can play 720p video with adequate framerate, but chock on 1080p. Maps, I’m not sure which service it’s using, doesn’t look like google maps. There’s no GPS equipped on these WiFi only models. The only thing I’m pretty satisfied is the account management, which they call synergy, it offers a lot of services which you can manage multiple accounts easily. The and dropbox accounts are only integrated with Quickoffice though, meaning only word, excel, PDF files can be pulled. In order to have full access to every file, there is a separate app. (You get free 50GB storage for as an HP Touchpad owner). There’s no dropbox app though.

For productivity, the touchpad comes with Adobe PDF reader and Quickoffice. For the latter, the new update 8/29 enables local word and excel editing, functionality is very limited. Not as good as thinkfree office on android, my cellphone could do more than what quickoffice offers such as inserting pictures and drawing pictures.

And the system doesn't come with a native camera app, instead you have to pay .99 for an app with only a single button - capture. No zoom, no white balance, no contrast, nothing. And the camera is front only. Both the camera and the Skype video quality are very poor.

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