HP TouchPad: really a tablet gamechanger?

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HP TouchPad: really a tablet gamechanger?

The tablet market is filling up with me-too products that are similar in specs and features. Then there's the HP webOS TouchPad.

We recently suggested that now's probably not the best time to go running out and splurging on a new tablet, without at least first considering upcoming devices like the Xoom, Toshiba Tablet, Blackberry Playbook. Now you can add HP's TouchPad to that list.

With several of these devices sporting dual facing cameras, SD card slots, Flash compatiblity, dual core ARM CPUs and Android, in some cases differences come down to look and feel, or things like removeable batteries. The dark horse has been HP's TouchPad. There was virtually no news about it on our trip to the CES gadget expo in Las Vegas, but it's now public and making headlines.

Magazine subscriptions that don't require the iPad


Big on the list of standout features is not actually a hardware feature at all. Sports Illustrated, Time and People as well as Fortunewill be available for  the HP TouchPad. While Time has already made titles available for Android, HP's TouchPad has an advantage here - with only one screen size it at least will avoid some of publishing difficulties associated with different screens. Also, there are reports of plans to allow TouchPad users to get a tablet subscription with their print edition. Would you want both? If you still enjoy reading the hardcopy, we can't see why it wouldn't be handy to also have the ability to read on your tablet too. But as iPad owners know too well, having a tablet edition is one thing - whether it takes advantage of the tablet format r is simply an electronic copy of the printed publication is another.

Bigger is better for reading right?


One of the big decisions to make when choosing at tablet is size. Manufacturers are split into two camps - those that think a smaller 7in tablet is easier to carry, and those that prefer 9.7in or bigger screens. At 9.7in HP's TouchPad screen is the same size as the iPad, which means plenty of real estate for web sites and apps (though also a tad heavier than the iPad at 740g). This makes sense, especially if you're getting the TouchPad with magazine apps in mind.

Your phone to become your tablet's best friend


It seems obvious, but having your tablet and phone aware of each other and able to share information seamlessly isn't always as smooth as it might be. There are various apps for syncing your data across different devices, and Android lets you use Google's cloud based email and calendar to keep everything in order, but TouchPad promises to take this to the next level. It's possible to share data by physically touching the TouchPad with the Pre 3 phone - to open a url on the bigger screen, but also potentially useful if you want to takle advantage of the laregr keyboard to write extended emails or engage in a long text chat (that's if this is how this function actually works). The TouchPad also uses a function called Synergy to sync up your data across multitple devices. Basic stuff, but knowing this is built-in is comforting, though you'll need a Palm device.  Oh, and WebOS is also coming to the PC - possibly the biggest news of all.

Good, but good enough to stand out from Apple?


As we've seen time and time again, all the features in the world don't necessarily provide enough reasons for users to look beyond the top selling product. If webOS stands up to scrutiny as an easy to use interface, and if features like Synergy , wireless printing, VPN, magazine subscriptions and the smartphone integration work as well as hoped, then the TouchPad has a shot at putting a dent in the iPad's mindshare. Mind you, Android has a serious headstart in Australia thanks to phones, and with the next generation of Android 3.0 tablets on the way this year, it might be a while before the TouchPad becomes a household name.

 

At this stage there's no confirmation on whether we'll even see the HP TouchPad in Australia. We've asked HP about this and will let you know as soon as we hear anything.

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