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First Look: HP TouchPad
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First Look: HP TouchPad

2:29 /

HP's TouchPad is an interesting new challenger to the iPad, but mediocre design and limited features hold back its potential.

Hey, I'm Donald Bell and this is the HP TouchPad. It's a tablet that runs Palm's webOS and uses a 9.7-inch screen just like the iPad, and the price is the same with the 16-gigabyte model going for $499 and a 32-gigabyte model going for $599. The hardware itself isn't that impressive. The thick, glossy design feels a little like a slippery imitation of the original iPad, and if finger smudges ick you out, you should know that the back of this thing looks like a crime scene just minutes after you take it out of the box. Also, there's no camera on the back, though you do get one on the front. Personally, I'm fine without it, but it's something that every other tablet offers that's in this price range. Now, there are some hardware tricks that are pretty cool. There's an optional dock that can charge the tablet regardless of how it's placed. HP also sells a Bluetooth keyboard if you prefer typing on something with real keys, and if you have one of HP's phones like the Pre 3, you can physically touch the devices together and transfer information. It's pretty cool. Really, though, it's the software that makes this tablet unique. If you're looking for something beyond the iPad or Android, this is one of the few options out there that really approach the tablet from a different point of view. One of the main differences is the home screen which is treated like a desktop. Each open task is represented as a stack of cards which you can rearrange or throw away. What's interesting is that the stacks here aren't specific to each app, it's specific to each task, so you can be reading an e-mail, opening up web links, and those e-mail and web pages are all gonna be stacked together as a single task. If you want, though, you can pull aside separate e-mails or pages by dragging them out of the stack and treating them as a separate task. It's a neat trick, and for some it's really gonna feel like a more natural way to manage your work on a tablet. One other thing that makes the TouchPad unique is that it makes a real effort to be compatible with a wide range of services. On the Accounts page, you can link the TouchPad to everything from Facebook to Skype, Dropbox, AIM, and lots more. Those linked accounts are integrated right into the apps that you'll use them with, so your photo app will pull in your Snapfish account, the messaging app will pull in your Google Talk account, and the calendar will fold together your Facebook and Google events and it all just works together. So that's a brief look at the HP TouchPad. For more details, be sure to read my full review on CNET.com.

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