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Quick Review / Starter's Guide: HP Touchpad

Well, the HP Touchpad has been discontinues by HP and as a result the prices went massively downhill - as low as £89. I managed to pick one up after previously stating that I have no use for a tablet, even though I was impressed by iPad 2. I know plenty of other people have got one, so I’ll include tips on apps and making it better (or rather, include handy links to places the tips are from)

The Good

The Browser. There is one pretty important things that sets this apart from the iPad: Flash. In particular, flash videos. Sites like the BBC iPlayer, Gametrailers, TGWTG, etc all work within the browser extremely smoothly (depending on connection speed, obviously) without the need for an App to replace flash. Opening multiple windows is very easy and you can have different groups of windows. I’ll say more about this later.

Tip: Add to Launcher. On top of standard bookmark features, you can add a website to the launcher (where you access all other apps from). Handy for stuff like BBC iPlayer and Google+.

I’ve tested it on a range of websites and was very pleased by the browsing expedience. Everything is resized to match the resolution of the Touchpad and text looks extremely smooth on the Touchpad’s lovely screen. Shops like eBay and Amazon work perfectly in the browser, negating the need for an app to exist. The only site I was disappointed with was Gmail - the standard interface doesn’t work well with touch. While the Touchpad does have a good email client, it’s still not as good (for Gmail users) as the fancy version that iPad users get through the browser. I would hope that Google would allow access of this version of Gmail through other devices at some point in the future.

I was very impressed with forums - for some reason they look stunning on the Touchpad’s screen (the ones I tried were N-Europe, CVG and XDA Developers) and everything is really easy to read. Having access to all the Youtube vidoes from within the page is very handy too.

There are a few small nitpicks I have. First, you can’t organise the bookmarks. The latest ones are higher above the list and that’s it. Secondly, some sites give you notifications for adding the search engine to it’s search engine directory.

The Keyboard. The keys are nicely spaced out, and it has numbers above the letters for easy access. Symbols are also very easy to use, either from a separate page or by holding some of the keys. There is also a very handy tab button, making filling in forms very easy. These few slight additions puts it miles ahead of the iPad in terms of usability. I do think that giving us the option for text prediction - as seen in smartphone keyboard - would speed up typing even further. I would adore using a tablet version of Swiftkey X. The keyboard is also surprisingly easy to use while holding the Touchpad in one hand.

The Interface.The interface is rather lovely. After an app is opened you can press the Home button to return to the Home Menu. Here you’ll find the apps in windowed form. These windows update in real-time, so you can quickly see when a page is loaded, a refresh is complete, or what music is playing. If an app causes another one to open (such as opening a tab in a browser) then those will be grouped together. To close an app to simply slide it up the screen (i.e. throw it away). The action is strangely satisfying. The bottom bar gives you quick access to the Browser, Email. Calender, Chat, Photos and the All Apps button. Everything is really well presented and it makes nice use of the space available on a tablet.

The Bad

The bad stuff is really just a selection of minor flaws (like the two browser ones mentioned above), and one rather big one. The big one being app support, which, due to the discontinuation of the Touchpad, probably won’t be improving anytime soon. There are still some good apps but overall it’s very limited.

A bug with the Touchpad that I’ve encountered is headphones with controls (i.e. ones you get for phones). Some of these - like my HTC Headphones - will not stop the speakers from also playing the music. Regular headphones work as expected. Also, some apps can be rotated fully while others can’t. My preference is holding it with the Home Button on the left while some apps, and some flash videos, force me to rotate it by 180 degrees.

The Guide

One you’ve got things set up, the first thing to do is make some changes to speed up your device. This involves installing Preware - software that allows unofficial apps to be installed on the Touchpad. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it (taken from here).

1. In the search bar type in “webos20090606”.
2. Turn on Developer Mode
3. Download WebOS Quick Install on your PC from here.
4. Connect your Touchpad to your PC. Do not turn on USB Drive mode.
5. Run WebOS Quick Install, follow the instructions to install the drivers.
6. Click on the store and search for Preware. Install it.
7. That’s it.

Also in the WebOS Quick Install are things that can speed up your Touchpad. These are found under the Patches and the recommended ones are (these are taken from here):

ad blocker
remove tap ripple
Increase Touchpad Volume (lite)
faster card animations
hyper versionincrease touch sensitivity and smoothness 10
muffle system logging
quiet powered messages
remove dropped packet logging
unset cfq io scheduler
unthrottle download manager

These will make things run better, downloads faster and the touch screen much more responsive. As well as blocking ads.

There also details for overclocking in the above link, but that isn’t as neccesary.

The Apps

Spotify

For me, this is very important. Unfortunately, it’s not properly supported by the Touchpad but, with a little bit of hassle, you can get the phone WebOS version working. There’s a really good guide here to get it running. One further bit of advice for that guide is that you’ll need to get Internalz Pro (it’s free) from the WebOS Quick Install, as described above.

Once that’s all done with, it works really well. Providing you’re a Premium Subscriber, you’ll be able to access all your playlists and make them available offline. It will also sync with music stored on your PC providing they’re both on the same network (like the Android version). The app is tiny on the screen but it’s only for selecting music. The app creates a Spotify section in the Notification Bar you can pause/skip from there without having to access the app.

Facebook Tablet

While initially the tablet layout is very impressive, it’s ultimately something to look at occasionally as it’s not functional. The standard view of the app is perfectly functional, though.

Mosaic Reader

A very impressive RSS reader. It have a gorgeous tablet layout (a standard, boring list layout is also available) and you can import feeds from Google Reader. Unfortunately it doesn’t sync back read items with Google Reader but it’s still really nice to use.

TapNote Lite

Handy for when you don’t have an Internet connection to use Google Docs. TapNote is a fairly basic, yet effective, word processor app.

Robotek HD

A free game with odd gameplay. It’s a turn-based battler mixed with a slot machine. The stylised graphics are very nice and the gameplay is unique and fun. I’m not sure why, but something about it reminds me ot chick chick BOOM on WiiWare.

Epicurious

I can’t give a proper review of this as I don’t cook often, but it’s very nice to look at enyway. It’s a recipe app with thousands of recipes and some nice features, such as adding the ingredients of recipes to a shopping list.

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