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MOBILE DEVICES

Tablet Review: HP TouchPad and the Toshiba Thrive
By: wubayou
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    2011-08-22

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    The HP TouchPad is a new entry into the tablet market that offers a breath of fresh air for those who are looking for something outside of the Apple and Google umbrella. The TouchPad is available in a 16GB version for $449.99 and a 32GB version for $549.99.

    In terms of design, the gloss black HP TouchPad is not exactly the best that the tablet market has to offer.  The plastic backing does nothing but accumulate smudges and fingerprints.  Not only does it look bad after a few minutes of usage, but it lacks a comfortable grip that you would come to expect from a device that is meant for handheld usage.  The TouchPad measures 9.5 inches tall by 7.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 1.6 pounds.  Its thickness is a bit bulkier than one would ideally want out of a tablet, but the device does appear to be solidly built and sturdy.

    The 9.7-inch LED backlit multi-touch display dominates the TouchPadís landscape.  It has a resolution of 1,024 x 768 and has a special coating to protect from everyday nicks and scratches.  While the display is very responsive and a joy to use, its graphics are on the decent side of the spectrum.  You do get wide viewing angles, but the overall brightness and contrast is better in competing tablets like the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab.  Beyond the display, the TouchPad offers a large home screen button, buttons for screen lock and volume control, a headphone jack, and a Micro-USB port for charging/syncing.  Unfortunately, there is no dedicated button to lock the screen rotation, so youíll have to do so via an on-screen menu instead.

    For internet connectivity, you are limited to Wi-Fi, which could turn many tablet shoppers off.  Once connected, you can surf the web using the Webkit browser thatís Flash-compatible.  You get a nice assortment of browser options in the form of pop-up blocking and more, but surfing does seem a tad sluggish at times.

    Messaging is one of the TouchPadís strongest departments.  You can send and receive text messages on the tablet by pairing it with a HP webOS phone via Bluetooth.  Most popular IM clients are included in the messaging app as well, and you have the option to consolidate your conversations regardless of the format used.  Skype video calls are another option thanks to the front-facing webcam and microphone.  Email is particularly impressive, with support for POP3/IMAP accounts and Microsoft Exchange.  You can view emails from different accounts in a unified inbox for easier use.  The Just Type feature is fun to use and lets you start an email or create a message by simply typing.

    Entertainment options include a music player that allows you to sync the TouchPad with your PC's music library.  The tablet boasts integrated Beats audio speakers which sound great, especially when you plug in headphones.  You can view video content via YouTube, or download movies from the HP MovieStore app.  Books and newspapers are available through the Kindle for webOS app.  The HP app catalog offers a decent collection of apps across a variety of genres as well, but it does lack the quantity of the Android Market and App Store.  The photos app is worth a mention as well, especially regarding the way in which it pulls all your photos from online accounts for easy viewing.  Unfortunately, the TouchPad does not have an integrated camera on the back for taking your own photos.

    The HP TouchPad is not just for fun, as the tablet also offers plenty of productivity options too.  You can connect it to your PC or Mac to transfer important documents, and it comes with the Quickoffice HD suite for viewing Microsoft Office files.  Adobe Reader is onboard as well.  As an added bonus, you can print wirelessly to compatible HP printers.  The Calendar app does a good job of syncing calendars from various sources like Exchange and Google into a streamlined view.

    Although the TouchPad does have plenty of features to keep you busy, you may find yourself frustrated with its performance.  The 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor isnít bad, but itís lacking when compared to some of its competitors.  Launching apps can take some time, and you might experience lethargic performance while multitasking.  Other than that, the user interface is easy to use, and the card stacks layout offers logical organization of applications you are running.

    The HP TouchPad may not be the most refined tablet on the market, but it is a solid alternative to the host of tablets from Apple and Google.  It does lack a sexy design and top-notch performance, but its interface and host of features make it at least worthy of a strong look as you shop for your first or next tablet.

    Toshiba Thrive

    The Toshiba Thrive is a bulky Android tablet that offers impressive performance and a full set of features.  The Thrive comes in three versions: 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB, which are priced at $429.99, $479.99, and $579.99, respectively.

    Bulk is the name of the game when it comes to the Thriveís design, so if youíre looking for a super-slim tablet, look elsewhere.  Measuring 10.8 inches tall by 7 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and weighing 1.7 pounds, the Thrive is not as portable as its competitors in the tablet market.  In terms of thickness, itís nearly twice as large as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the iPad 2. 

    While such dimensions may turn some people off, the overall design is very good and the build is solid.  The grooved back panel features a rubberized Easy Grip Finish that provides a comfortable grip.  The panel can be removed if you wish to replace its standard black color scheme with a customized one.  Removing the back panel gives you access to replace the battery, which is a plus for those who want to keep an extra one handy for increased usage on the road.  Toshiba can justify the Thriveís bulk somewhat, as it does offer some connectivity options that other tablets may lack.  Thereís a full-size HDMI output and SD card reader, a full USB port, and a Mini-USB port.  Other physical features include a power button, volume rocker, and rotation lock.

    The 10.1-inch multi-touch LED backlit display is larger than what youíll find on the iPad 2, so you get some extra real estate for browsing the web, enjoying videos, and more.  The 1,280 x 800 display is very responsive to the touch and offers excellent viewing angles.  An ambient light sensor automatically adjusts brightness and contrast according to environmental brightness to give you the best lighting possible.  The Thriveís combination of the large display, Android 3.1 Honeycomb, and a snappy interface offer an enjoyable user experience.  You can customize the tablet to your liking with five customizable home screens as well. 

    The 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2, which is the first mobile dual-core processor, supplies the Thrive with superb performance across various applications.  Apps launch quickly, web browsing is seamless, and even games are executed without any real hiccups.

    Toshiba equips the Thrive with a boatload of features.  Internet connectivity is supplied via integrated Wi-Fi.  Once connected, you can surf the net using the web browser with Flash support.  Navigational help comes in the form of built-in GPS and a compass.  Bluetooth is onboard for when you want to connect to other devices wirelessly. 

    As far as entertainment and productivity goes, the Thrive has you covered.  You can listen to music or watch videos on the large, bright display.  The integrated speakers supply good sound quality overall, but youíll want to use headphones for the best results.  You can communicate with others via instant messaging, social networking, and a host of email options.  The Thriveís large, responsive display and virtual keyboard makes it great for messaging.

    The Thrive also comes with a plethora of apps to keep you busy.  Toshiba File Manager is especially helpful, and you also get Quickoffice, Printer Share, and more.  The Toshiba App Place offers additional options for download, including games.  If you are more of an Android loyalist, you can enjoy the host of Google apps that come pre-installed, or download more from the Android Market.

    The Thrive is strong in terms of its camera options.  The 2-megapixel front-facing camera can be used for video chatting, and the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera is ideal for snapping HD photo and video.  The quality of the photos and videos is surprisingly good, especially for a tablet. 

    If you can get beyond its bulk, the Toshiba Thrive is a very appealing tablet.  Its performance and variety of features should please most tablet users, and its full connectivity options and competitive pricing are icing on the cake.


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