Five Reasons to Avoid the HP TouchPad

I’m a few days into testing out the HP TouchPad and it has its pluses and minuses. This post lists some reasons that I would avoid making a purchase at this point and is meant to accompany a post that will follow with some reasons why you might want to think about making this your next Tablet purchase. Schizophrenic? Possibly, but with the possible exception of the iPad, there isn’t a mature touch Tablet platform out there. They all offer promise, but promises aren’t hard an fast in this crazy mobile tech world we live in. So, here are five reasons to avoid the HP TouchPad.

It feels cheaply made.

At least to me it feels cheaply made and not well thought out. I’m not a fan of the plastic Tablet form factor. I’m certainly not a fan of plastic form factors where buttons feel like they aren’t secured properly. That’s the case with the volume rocker switch. On the unit I purchased it feels like it slides side to side and isn’t well seated. HP has a nice sounding sound system with the Beats Audio System. You can actually hear stereo sound through the two speakers. Except…. except when you have the device sitting in landscape mode (horizontally) in a stand with the speakers pointed up. Why is this a problem? Well the volume rocker rests in the stand if you’re not careful and too easily turns itself down or off if you touch the display. Sloppy.

I find that one of HP’s first reactions to the spate of negative and mixed negative reviews it received was that the TouchPad wasn’t aimed at consumers but instead aimed at the pot of gold that is the Enterprise. Where have we heard that one before? I’m not sure Enterprise users will be happy with the build quality I’m seeing. Also related here, I spent a lot of time out doors on my porch this weekend in hot and muggy conditions. The plastic case combined with my sweaty palms had me constantly feeling like the device was going to slip out of my hand. I could chalk that up to the weather conditions, but this was also true when I was indoors with just the slightest bit of moisture on my hands. The glossy black case is not only designed for slipping and sliding but for hanging on to more fingerprints and smudges than an FBI database. Again, (and this isn’t just HP) why come up with a device that is made to be handled with your hands and then slap a finish on it that essentially destroys what beauty you’ve put into the design three minutes out of the box? Unless you’ve got the cleaning cloth concession this just makes no sense for the consumer market or the Enterprise market.

Lack of Apps.

Look, I have to applaud HP for making the investment it did when it purchased Palm and decided to go full steam ahead with webOS for its Tablets, smartphones, and according to them, other devices as well. Had HP stuck with it’s traditional model and only tried to create a Windows 7 Tablet, well, you know what would have happened, because it did with the Slate 500. This was not just a big investment, but a big break with the past given HP and Microsoft’s long standing relationship. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll see plenty of HP and Microsoft equipped PCs in the future, but as for mobile, HP knew it needed a new direction and put its money down to go there. So, credit where credit is due. At least until the bill needs to get paid. All of that said, to criticize HP for not having a large number of Apps ready for the TouchPad launch is both valid and also stating the obvious. HP’s bet isn’t for just a Tablet, it’s for creating an ecosytem. Admittedly, HP is building on the webOS ecosystem that never caught fire when it was under Palm’s control. So, it is accurate to say there aren’t enough Apps. HP claims 300 TouchPad Apps at launch. That puts them in good company with another iPad also-ran, Android. According to AndroidCentral there are 292 Tablet optimized Android Apps available.

So, where is all that heading? As I’ve said before, it’s not quantity it’s the quality of Apps that are available. More specifically it is the quality of Apps that really take advantage of a touch Tablet experience. They just aren’t there  for the HP TouchPad yet in any numbers, or for that matter of any real quality. Yes, the webOS homebrew folks are gearing up, but unless you want to spend a lot of time in just the browser the TouchPad just can’t compete out of the box. Yet. But, if you take HP’s word for it that they are aiming for the Enterprise we’ll need to see some Enterprise quality Apps before they can make that push. I’ll give HP and QuickOffice credit here. The QuickOffice integration will allow you to edit documents and will also let you access files via Dropbox. The Android implementation of QuickOffice on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Honeycomb 3.1 only lets you view documents. HP needs to really work well with developers in a very public way if they want this webOS bet to have a chance of succeeding regardless of the market they are aiming for.

Let’s also look at what obviously was and is a major faux pax. When units went out to reviewers they included a Kindle App. TouchPads purchased in stores (and I assume online) have a link to said App on the device but it only yields a place holder screen and a promise (there’s that word again) to let us know when it is available. That’s not good on any front, and at the moment (unless I’m missing something) there isn’t a TouchPad optimized eBook reader in the HP App Store. Ouch!

Sluggish performance.

As far as I’m concerned this is just unforgivable at this point in the game. If you’re going to launch a Tablet in today’s iPad dominated world, you better have the hardware and software combination optimized so that sluggish performance doesn’t result. That’s not the case here with the TouchPad and promises of fixing it in an update just don’t cut it when you are charging between $500 and $600 for the device. Delayed reactions to touching the screen, slow loading of Apps, the rate of reaction to action feels like an early Atom Netbook in many instances.

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Keyboard Woes

At first glance the virtual keyboard looks great. It has a full number row and the layout makes sense in landscape or portrait. But, boy, I get so many errant key presses that I begin to question my skills. A lot of those mistakes come when I’m typing keys adjacent to one another. I’m not alone on this one as I’ve seen quite a few complaints on this. Again, taking HP at its word about the Enterprise (I hope you can see the tongue I have planted firmly in my cheek when I keep repeating that), you’ve got to do better with a virtual keyboard on a touch Tablet. That’s just a given.

User Experience

This is where the schizophrenia comes in. In the following article about things I like about the HP TouchPad you’ll see I list this as well. But there are things about it that drive me batty. For example, if I’m in the email program show me in the adjacent picture where I can begin a new email. There isn’t a place. I need to hit the action button, wait for the mail app to reduce to a tile, then go to Just Type, start typing then choose an email recipient or to send an email with the text I “just typed” depending on the context. This just makes no sense to me and requires too many taps and presses to do something that seems so simple.  (UPDATE: So, ask and ye shall receive. A reader pointed out that the 2nd button on the left of the bottom of the screen will open up a new email. Huzzah. I tried it out. And it works. That said, the sluggishness of the system had let me to dismiss that button after pressing it previously when trying to send a new email. That also proved true in testing this out after receiving the reader comment. ) I’m also not a fan of the very structured way that Apps are stored or accessed. I’m not a fan of the web page bookmarking (or favorites) system either. These are just three examples and I’m sure I’ll highlight more as things go on. Again, I’ll also point to some UX experiences that I think are pretty good in my next post.

To say a Tablet or a Tablet OS was released “before it was ready” has sadly become more than a cliché these days. Unfortunately if you’re looking for an out of the box, ready to go, ready to compete touch Tablet experience, I can’t say I’d recommend the HP TouchPad just yet. I can’t say the same for most of the iPad competitors either (those that admit they are and those that don’t). If you believe the rumors, I’m not sure HP has the confidence in this first effort as a real competitor either. But then that’s the subject of posts yet to come.
Other posts in this series:

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Rit says

    You can write a new email by hitting the second button from left at the bottom of the middle pane.

  2. Anonymous says

    Ask and ye shall receive. So, I went back to test Rit’s suggestion and it does work. So, I’ll make a correction in the post. The reason I wasn’t getting it, relates to another issue. I pressed the button as described. Waited. Waited. Then figured I’d go to Just Type. This happened on multiple occasions including the test I just did. The sluggishness led me to believe that button was not effective.

  3. John Destacamento says

    User adoption takes awhile.  I started with tablets a little over a year ago, my first was the iPad1, easy to use but some features took a while to figure out.  To this day forward, people still don’t know how to use the iOS4 multitasking feature by double clicking the button, they don’t know how move icons, close icons,  take screen snapshots and scroll a window with two fingers within a website window.   I bet a lot of iPad users are going to try it out now that they’ve read this. LOL.

    My next tablet was a Samsung Galaxy 7″ Tablet which was confusing as hell at first.  A lot pressing and squinting for buttons to get simple tasks done, I would not go back to 2.2 but would be interested on try Honeycomb when they polish it off.    I then purchase an iPad2, and of course no learning curve.   But now,  I have the HP TouchPad and now I’m zooming through apps and functions like lightning (unless the processor lags)  Yes, I agree it does lag sometimes, but not enough to really annoy me.  My iPad lags with the browser including my Facebook App and sometimes completely freezes on both. So I would scale the LAG Factor to 40% iPad, 60% HP Touchpad with the lower percentage being better.   

    The “Cheapy” and “Keyboard Woes” statements are subjective, I love the keyboard.  Going to put a case on the Touchpad anyway.

    Overall the Touchpad is winning me over and I rather deal with lagging hoping they will be improved with OTA updates,(like they did with the first WebOS device Palm Pre).    

  4. Anonymous says

    Rit is correct…there is a button right there (second from the left) that allows you to do this…I’m disappointed to see that you would write a paragraph about a simple complaint before you even try out what the buttons do…
     
    quite frankly, I’m dissapointed about the article in general…not very professionally written since it assumes the other users share your opinions. I don’t own a touchpad and am not sure I ever will, but this article didn’t help me in that decision at all…
     
    To your first complain: built quality….how many laptops are available in glossy plastic and few notice (even with fancier, same priced alternatives available)…it really doesn’t matter….especially since ever iPad and tablet user I know and have seen uses a case to cover it. Your volume button option makes sense, but doesn’t eclipse the audio itself, making it a net positive, not negative.
     
    To your second complaint: apps….although a valid topic to complain about, your arguements are poor. List instead the apps you see missing…numbers alone mean nothing since a large number of apps on all platforms are simply poorly made and shouldn’t account for anything except making the good ones more difficult to find. Also, in contrast, Mac OS has far fewer programs available to it, yet many overlook that due to their love of the devices and the operating system….why are tablets always viewed differently by those same people? That’s why you must list the apps missing instead of just the number of apps available. Show me that the 400+ webOS apps aren’t the ones I need and that other platforms have them instead.
     
    To your third complaint: performance….a valid complaint. Sluggish performance is not acceptable. I am sad to see you comment on the hardware, however, since it is purely software related. But I also get what you meant by having the two optomized. Since this tablet is being pushed for enterprise use, these are most likely going to be resolved before the TP is integrated, so I doubt this complaint will cause any issues for HP.
     
    To your fourth complaint: keyboard woes…. this one is new. I have only read other reviewers speaking positive about the keyboard responsiveness and use. If you are going to reference ‘quite a few [other complaints] than please link to those so that your readers and see the validity of the comment.
     
    To your fifth complaint: user experience…. as I mentioned above, please take time to fully review something before typing up and publishing a complaint about it. As Rit mentions in the comments, there is indeed a button to start a new email that is clearly visible in the screenshot you posted (although I am glad you atleast posted the screenshot as an assist to your readers).
     
    All in all, I appreciate the attempt to warn your readers, but I just can’t see your article as helpful due to the points above. Please reply if you see any error in my thinking.

    • Anonymous says

      JustKuz,

      I don’t assume anyone shares my opinion and I’m sorry if you took the article that way. In fact, I hope anyone who takes my opinion and holds on to it as one they share would do themselves the service of reading what many others write about the same topics. I’m one guy and these are my opinions, take them or leave them. I did welcome Rit’s comment and adjusted the post accordingly with an explanation of why I seemed to miss what was an obvious thing. I make errors all the time and correct them when I’m called on them. Subconsciously, and with a great deal of hindsight, I think that’s why I posed a question after complaining about the button. Note, however, that in repeated instances, the sluggishness of the system (another major flaw in my humble opinion, led me to believe what I originally wrote.)

      As to the build (not built if we’re talking professionally here) I am on record more than once abhorring the cheap glossy plastic that HP and others continue to foist on us and to say “it really doesn’t matter” makes a larger assumption about the gadget buying public than you accuse me of. That kind of comment allows companies to continue foisting that kind of shoddy approach on the public as well. And as to the sloppiness of the sound button implementation turning the sound off when it is not wanted, well, I guess we’ll over look that.

      I think I did avoid the quantity of apps argument pretty well actually. I didn’t mention specifics, you’re correct, but I will later in another post I’m planning on just that topic. I think that if this is a device aimed at the enterprise, well, I don’t need to repeat what I wrote in the post, so go back and read it.

      Error in your thinking? I don’t think that’s fair for me to say. Your thinking is yours and your entitled to it.

      • Anonymous says

        Warner,
           I appreciate the time you took to respond.Thanks for pointing out the typo too… I actually had to correct multiple after posting, and, as you pointed out, I didn’t do a complete job in doing so. I suppose that’s why I am not a journalist (amongst other reasons). In any case, it is great to see a journalist respond to their reader’s comments. I do not take that for granted as many (read most) do not. So thank you.
           I also recognized my hypocracy in several of my comments before posting them, but was too lazy to correct it since the point was still being made through them…but you are correct in poiting them out. As for your comments in response to mine: I look forward to reading your article about the apps that are missing that make the difference between tablets. That article will indeed be useful in making a decision. I currently own an iPad (and have since I pre-ordered the original and it arrived on day one- I also upgraded to the 3G version after it came out) and have been looking for much more than it has to offer without buying a PC…so these articles are an assistance to my purchasing decisions. Since many outlets now charge a restocking fee when returning tablets, I do not have the ability for a cost-free trial, so I look to you and others who do to assist…. and so again, I appreciate you attempting to do so. For those reasons I am looking forward to your article about the specific apps that the TP is missing.
           As for the original comments about others also having keyboard woes….care to share a link to them? I would be interested in reading those as well. I did read Rob’s comment below regarding his agreement.
          In the end, if I have understood your article correctly, the build quality doesn’t mean much to me since I will be using a case, which eliminates the majoirty of the issue (though not all), and the user interface comment has been negated (atleast the specific one mentioned)….leaving me to address the concerns about sluggish performance, and possible lack of apps and keyboard woes before purchasing one. Again, I would be very grateful if you could assist me with the latter two by sharing links to the comments of others regarding the keyboard issues and by completing the post about the apps.
          Please don’t interpret my comments as hostile: just honest. Ultimately your comments are saving me the 10-20% restocking fee that I would have to pay to experience what you already are, so I am grateful for any assistance.

  5. Rob Bushway says

     I can attest to the keyboard woes, Warner. They are real and happen even when I see the correct letter being pressed. This issue should have not made it passed QA.

  6. Zarko says

    My first two Touchpad cons: keyboard is slow.  There’s a delay between the typing click and the moment when the letter becomes visible on the screen. The quicker you type the more  confusing it can get.

    Second is a jerky movement when scrolling down a web article.  On iPad this is so smooth that I can read while scrolling.  This is absolutely impossible on HP Touchpad.

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