But when you move away from those machines into computers that are more like appliances, you get the sort of clunkers that now clog the ultrabook market. They’re cheaper than the Air, they have better specs than the Air, and yet—because of things like terrible trackpads—they fall far short of the Air.
Let’s be honest here: as many have said time and time again, there is no tablet market, only an iPad one. For reasons unbeknownst to myself, I (still) don’t own an iPad. It’s not that I don’t want one, it’s that an iPad is a pretty sizeable outlay1 for a product that has an unknown usage ratio. Irrespective of the reason I don’t (yet) own an iPad, I do own just one tablet; the HP TouchPad.
The TouchPad is a pretty basic tablet, really. No fancy bells or whistles here. It looks almost exactly like the original iPad does, only with a few more curves at the edges instead of the bevelled edge of the iPad 1, and with a few side ornaments re-arranged.
If you’re holding it in the correct portrait orientation (home button on the bottom of the face of the device), the speakers are on the left hand side. Yeah, speakers, as in plural: the TouchPad features two speakers with Beats(TM) audio. I’m not entirely sure whether the Beats(TM) audio is a hardware thing or a software one — perhaps even a combination of both — although my suspicion leans towards the latter, due to the presence of a toggle in Sound preferences to turn Beats(TM) audio on or off. In any case, the resultant audio emanating from those tiny but stereo speakers is pleasant enough, even above-average. Like all small speakers, they lack only in any real bass; more than capable of getting the job done, certainly, but no aural pleasure device. I wouldn’t go so far as I call the sound quality of the TouchPad “tinny”, but it’s definitely nothing to write home about.
The rest of the TouchPad is pretty standard: there’s a sleep/wake switch on the top right just like the iPad, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top left, also just like the iPad. On the right side (when held in the correct portrait position as before), there’s even a volume rocker, just like the iPad. Notably absent from the TouchPad is a physical silent switch.
What’s interesting is that the side with the volume rocker has an equal-spaced slot on the bottom part of the device. Pushing the slot in pops out some little sliding tray — presumably this is the SIM card tray for the mythical 4G version of the TouchPad that never saw the light of day (officially, anyway).
Moving on to the front of the device: up the top you’ve got a truly mediocre front-facing camera (that, somewhat surprisingly, ranks in at 1.3 on the megapixel scale), something Apple didn’t think about putting in the iPad until the second version. A peanut-sized “home” button (which actually glows when you’ve got new notifications on the device, acting as a notification LED — something no iOS device has) and a 9.7-inch, 1024×768 resolution LED-backlit IPS display (pretty much identical to the display on the first iPad) round out the front of the most discontinued tablet with the shortest availability period by the company with more misdirection than not you’ve never seen.
Now there are many things Mac OS X does better than Windows 7 and vice-versa. I’m not taking advantage of either OS and it’s features. I’m sure Windows 7 has lots more up it’s sleeve than I know about. Ditto Mac OS X – I know I don’t use all the things in Mac OS X like I should because I’m too lazy to seek it out. The aim of this experiment isn’t to choose a winner, or declare Mac OS X THE BEST OS EVAR SCREW YOU MICRO$OFT! It’s to see what Windows is, how it works, what it does and what it does differently. Everyone’s computer use is different, so you need to make up your own mind as to whether Windows 7 or Mac OS X is for you. It’s great to have competition and choice. Windows 7 is way better than I expected and very competent.
So while the HP is much cheaper, has better specs, a built in card reader, HDMI and digital TV, loads more ports and a snazzy webcam, it has some real livability faults. The LCD is rubbish and even a layman can tell it looks awful, it’s that poor. The trackpad is virtually useless with it’s total lack of glide. If the screen was slightly higher quality and the trackpad not so crappy, it would be a vastly better experience. I’m actually confused as to why HP sent me this laptop to replace the MBP. The MBP retails for $3,199 – you’d think they’d send something a bit more upmarket.
I don’t know how you feel, but I think the world is ready for a new and improved iPhone. Yes, it was the best phone that 2008 brought out but with the likes of the Palm Pre, HTC Touch Diamond2 and HTC Magic about to hit town, the title for Best Phone of 2009 may just go elsewhere.
UPDATE 1: Oops, forget the all-important specs… Kudos to iLounge.
Palm today introduced its latest handset, named the Pre. Featuring a 3.1-inch, 480×320 touchscreen, a dedicated gesture area below the display, a vertical slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and more, the device is aimed at the same market as the iPhone. Other technical features include high-speed wireless (EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, depending on the model and carrier), GPS, Wi-Fi, a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB connector, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP, 8GB of internal storage, an accelerometer, ambient light and proximity sensors, a removable rechargeable battery, and an optional wireless charger. Pre is exclusive at launch to Sprint.
Folks, I’m not going to kid you on this one – Apple actually have a real fight on their hands here, for these three reasons:
Firstly, it runs Linux. This, in and of itself, will silence all those “the iPhone is locked down, proprietary, user’s can’t do what they want without jailbreaking, etc, etc” people who think Apple is the worst thing since the drop toilet. SQLite features as the database here.
Secondly – it has all the “wow” features needed to knock the iPhone of it’s most gigantic pedestal. The menu bar *cough*DOCK*cough* apparently has this cool feature where you slide your finger up from below the screen, and the dock pops up with your finger. This is possible because the touchscreen (with built-in) multitouch actually extends BELOW the actual LCD – which makes for cool features like this. And you thought Shazam was cool… this feature blows Shazam out of the water. Like Shazam, it’s one of those “OMGZ THATS AWESOME” times when words escape you and you’re left with nothing but pure adoration.
And finally, Facebook and Gmail – the integration is said to be “top notch”. None of this “have facebook as a seperate app on another home screen” business like the iPhone – instead, imagine being able to send a photo or text to Facebook from withthin every photo management app, every mail application, every web page, with the same features being applied to Gmail. PLus, you can choose to pull down your contact’s Facebook’s profile pic, so that when they call you, you can see their lovely face as it shows on Facebook. ZOMG! AWESOME!
…and I lied, there are actually four things. System-wide COPY and PASTE is the last feature that will make this a serious “iPhone Killer”.
Hopefully, it’ll have the hardware to match up to the software. The only way I can see this becoming a massive fail is due to a sloppy processor, or a battery life that just doesn’t quite cut it.
It’s for these four reasons that Apple had better make iPhone OS 3.0 a dammmmed good release. A couple of things for them to work on: MobileMe (integration? Don’t make me laugh), iWork.Com (a mobile version is a good start, now we need more integration), App Store (it’s far from perfect), Push Notifications (please don’t make this into another MobileMe fiasco…), and FRIGGIN COPY AND PASTE! SRSLY!
…and hopefully, something awesome that will blow us all away, like battery life that doesn’t actually suck, full-bluetooth capabilities, a user-accessible file system (instead of each file storeage app having it’s own… wtf) or even a dash of multi-core iPhones…
I’m scared. Scared at how badly Apple could have just lost the smartphone war, especially after it was doing so well… Scared at how easily it was to expose and exploit the disadvantages of the iPhone… Scared at how much of a contender Palm have come back as. Scared of how Android will respond to this new opponent.