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HP TouchPad webOS Update Tested: Better But Still Not Great

Some aspects of the HP's first webOS tablet impressed in our TouchPad review, but ultimately we couldn't recommend the tablet because of its sluggish performance and buggy behavior. With the latest over-the-air update--webOS 3.0.2--the TouchPad acts more like a finished product. But is it enough? Here are our impressions.

Screen Rotation

We had two complaints about the TouchPad's accelerometer the first time around. First, it was too slow to react. But even more frustrating was that this tablet switched screen orientations when we didn't want it to. The accelerometer was so sensitive that the TouchPad often changed between portrait and landscape modes while typing. Based on our testing thus far, webOS 3.0.2 seems to fix the latter issue. However, the screen still takes too long to switch orientations. It took as long as 7 seconds in the browser.

Text Assist

webOS 3.0.2 promises to improve the speed and accuracy of auto corrections when typing. Sure enough, when we tried to type "Thia is the HP Touchoad" the software automatically corrected "This" and "TouchPad." This tablet's keyboard is already great, especially the dedicated number row, so this enhancement makes it that much better.

Email

Faster scrolling, improved message content and image display, and improved management of multiple emails in Draft and Outbox views. Those are the improvements webOS 3.0.2 bring to the table in email. Once the inbox recognizes your finger input, scrolling is pretty smooth now. But it sometimes takes the app a few seconds to get going. The TouchPad is indeed a little quicker on the draw when displaying messages, too.

Web

As promised, webOS 3.0.2 does improve scrolling in the browser, which was pretty sluggish previously while a page was loading. On the other hand, scrolling on the TouchPad isn't as smooth on the iPad, and it takes longer for the pixels to fill in when pinching to zoom.

Overall Performance

All of the other tweaks to the OS are welcome--from the ability to set wallpapers from the photos app to faster Just Type event searches--but how much better does the TouchPad perform overall? Based on our testing, we don't see enough of a boost. Apps are still slow to load, and there are still times when the tablet doesn't respond to our touches right away. At one point many of the activity cards on the home screen went black for a few seconds. The TouchPad certainly doesn't feel like a slate equipped with a dual-core processor.

Bottom Line

Overall, we continue to like a lot of things about the TouchPad, including Just Type, the multitasking-friendly interface, the notification system, and recent additions to the App Catalog like the HP Movie Store. But HP still has some work to do.

Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.