HP Touchpad reviews: good effort, but no iPad killer

HP’s TouchPad, the company’s response to the Apple iPad, is hitting stores tomorrow and the first reviews are in.

The TouchPad is the first iPad competitor to adopt Apple’s screen form factor (4:3, while most Android tablets are 16:9), and also the first non-Android contender, running HP’s WebOS.

HP had more than 18 months to look at Apple’s success and implement it into its own tablet, and it shows: the TouchPad matches the iPad pricing (starting at $499 for WiFi version), and has the same 10-inch screen resolution and industrial design, though the HP tablet is chubbier than the original iPad.

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No tablet is complete without the OS, and this is where HP’s TouchPad can shine by bringing a breath of fresh air with WebOS ported for tablets. But is the TouchPad as polished as the iPad, or still rough around the corners like the Android tablets? Here’s what the first reviewers had to say:

PCWorld’s Melissa J Perenson puts down six disappointments with the HP TouchPad: “Like the first Android 3.0 tablets and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook before it, the TouchPad ships with some rough, buggy spots in its software, hobbled features that need a fix through a later over-the-air update, and a lack of compelling apps that could make this tablet the one to own.”

MacWorld’s Jason Snell writes in his hands-on that “the TouchPad is the most iPad-like tablet I’ve seen. I don’t really have any complaints about the hardware. It’s bulkier than the iPad 2 but not unpleasantly so.” However, it’s no iPad match: “For now, the TouchPad is just another iPad competitor that can’t measure up.”

Technologizer’s Harry McCracken reviews the HP TouchPad for Time Magazine and thinks the “tablet bears the burden of great potential; it’ll be a real shame if it turns out to be nothing more than yet another unsatisfying, unfinished iPad alternative.”

Writing for This Is My Next, Joshua Topolsky, says “The TouchPad is far from perfect – really, not even close right now.” For him, the bottom line is “the stability and smoothness of the user experience is not up to par with the iPad or something like the Galaxy Tab 10.1.” That reason, “coupled with the minuscule number of quality apps available at launch, make this a bit of a hard sell right now.”

Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg writes the TouchPad needs more apps, and a reboot to rival the iPad, but “at least for now, I can’t recommend the TouchPad over the iPad 2,” mainly because of the lack of apps.

New York Times’ David Pogue says the TouchPad is pretty, but late for the ball: it “doesn’t come close to being as complete or mature as the iPad or the best Android tablets; you’d be shortchanging yourself by buying one right now, unless you’re some kind of rabid A.B.A. nut (Anything but Apple).”

Vincent Nguyen at SlashGear believes “WebOS itself is everything we hoped it would be on a larger touchscreen,” but “lacking the premium feel of a metal tablet, or the slender build of other recent slates, the fingerprint-magnet TouchPad runs the risk of feeling cheap and bulky.”

Reviewing for LaptopMag, Mark Spoonauer admits “this is going to sound like a broken record, but the TouchPad is yet another tablet that feels unfinished. The interface is more elegant and intuitive than what you’ll find on Android Honeycomb tablets,” but “the reason this story doesn’t have a happy ending (at least not yet) is because the TouchPad is pretty sluggish for a device that’s powered by a dual-core processor.”

ArsTechnica’s Casey Johnston says the Touchpad is the best second-best tablet: “if it were less expensive, could be an extremely strong, if slightly less polished, alternative to the iPad. But like other recently released high-profile Android tablets, it’s determined to take on the champ. And just like those Android tablets, it’s hard to recommend over an iPad at the same price.”

Will you got out and buy a TouchPad, or stick with your iPad? Or maybe an Android tablet? Sound off in the comments.

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