Now that the carnage from HP’s “firesale” has finally settled, HP announced that the Touchpad is officially out of stock never to be heard from again. We can go on about our normal lives of hoping for better tablets while paying a premium price for a good product. The fact that the hardware is no longer being made basically makes it impossible to to score one unless you stuble upon some old stock leftovers somewhere. Otherwise you can try your chances on Ebay or Craigslist.
There have been a fair share of crappy tablets released in the past few years, mostly third-party resistive screen tablets with some resemblance of Android as the OS. The Touchpad was slightly a different story. HP is no small company, which makes it safe to say that the TP had some thought and money put into it. The downfall of the whole project is/was WebOS. Although the OS is not really all that bad, there really isn’t much of anything to do with it. If you only want to check email, surf the web, and listen to music, then WebOS could easily be your answer. But if you want to do anything else that requires any sort of app or program, then you’re probably going to be out of luck. Either way for $150 makes this tablet a great bargain. Here’s what you get.
- 32GB built-in storage
- 9.7″ XGA capacitive, multitouch screen with 18-bit color (1024 x 768)
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR w/ A2DP stereo
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WPA, WPA2, WEP, 802.1X authentication
- Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core CPU APQ8060 1.2 GHz
- Sensors: Light sensor, accelerometer, compass (magnetometer), and gyroscope
- Front-facing 1.3 megapixel webcam
- Beats Audio Internal Speakers
Some pretty decent specs for such a low price. Dual Core, IPS display, Beats Audio, and a decent amount of space make this tablet not so crappy..Or does it. A device is only as good as the software it runs on. After using WebOS for a day or so I decided to follow some guides and tweak it to the max. The key to a better WebOS started out with an installation of PreWare, turn on developer mode, and patch a few things that should have been done in the first place. After all that new kernel allowed me to overclock to the native 1.5GHz. (yes, that is what the chipset is designed for, HP underclocked the CPU probably for better battery life and to prevent any possible issues) This takes a relatively short time and there is little worry of destroying your tablet, if anything were to happen there are some programs that will take it back to stock for you with little hassle.
All said and done my TP was running like a champ, but being used to Android the Web and Email was simply not enough. The WebOS store is quite horrible, once you get the weather, news, and Angry Birds, you really don’t have much left to choose from short of a couple of Jersey Shore Soundboards a few e-reader type things. The Preware selection is a little better, but still nothing that kept me wanting more of WebOS. At this point I had a great running tablet, with nothing to do on it. In steps the almighty CyanogenMod 7. Even though the tablet is designed for WebOS, the CM team had released an alpha version of Gingerbread that only takes a few simple steps to install. About 15 minutes later I was booting to the ever-so-familiar Android homescreen, which is where the real fun begins.
Android (CM7 alpha)
The step by step guides were easy to follow and I was up and running in a few minutes. After the installation of a few standard apps I tested everything out for proper functionality and performance. The build is still in alpha stage, meaning there are more bugs than you can possibly track and there is no further support for the build as of yet. Even after about an hour of messing around I really had no issues at all and proceeded to install everything that I usually use on a daily use Android device. All Google apps work without issues, movies, flash, youtube, twitter, and some productivity stuff were all working without a single force close or reboot. I honestly can’t believe it’s still in alpha and works this good. Even the hardware works including WiFi, Bluetooth, and some pretty great sound coming out of the “Beats” audio. I hit a brick wall then when I went to launch some of my purchased games and got an error stating that the hardware is not compatible with the program. Meaning I could not run the games I wanted to from this tablet. I’m not a huge Android gamer, but with some of the new stuff coming out, and all the travel I have been doing of recent, this was a problem.
Most Android users don’t get all the apps to show up when they launch the marketplace. There are a few reasons that this happens but mostly because there is lacking requirement in software version, hardware compatibility, or vendor control. Usually a few patches or some minor modification can fix all that and in most cases is available through an app that is openly available on the market.
Contract Killer Zombies Screenshot
Android tablets need more gaming. I must say that even though I don’t really game much on tablets (probably because of the lack of Android games) I really wanted to get a few working and most of all Shadowgun. After a quick search and a few dollars I had almost every game I wanted up and running on the TP. The key to getting the Tegra 2 games working on a non Tegra tablet was a program called Chainfire3D. This program is designed to emulate different hardware depending on the requirements of the game. Chainfire3D is available as both a free and paid version, I highly recommend the paid version as it allows you to customize each game you run with a specific profile. Plus I always like to encourage paid apps or donations for anything that is well deserved. I also read that the sixaxis controller app works well with the Android on the TP. I have yet to mess much with it but after running the compatibility checker tool (free from Android Market) it looks like you will be able to control your TP games with a standard Bluetooth PS3 controller. This ups the ante of this cheap tablet becoming a decent gaming system even more than it already is. So for under $2 you can play all your games, emulators, and shooters with a controller instead of the touchscreen.
So far, with some help from the XDA forums, a few paid apps, and some time I was able to get these games running most with zero issues:
- Air Attack HD
- NOVA 2
- Contract Killer Zombies
- Plant vs Zombies
- Angry Birds
- Gun Bros
So all said and done the TP turns out to be a pretty good ANDROID tablet after all. The fact that everything works so well in alpha form makes me believe that things will only get better as time progresses. There is really no timeline given on when the beta or final release will be available, but using what’s available now has not given really any issues at all.
HP vows that WebOS is still not dead and development will continue. One of the key features of the Cyanogen release is that it dual boots to either WebOS or Android, so you can choose what OS you want to boot to during system startup. I applaud them for this functionality, especially since the release is in such early form. So if you were one of the more fortunate geeks that picked up either a 16 or 32GB Touchpad during this year’s craziest tech sale, then your tablet still has a future. I can’t wait to see whats in store for the this cheap “Android” tablet.
Path to a Better Device
Without getting too much into a DIY here are the steps for transforming a Touchpad into a nice little Android device.
1. Get WebOS in proper fashion. The good people over at PreCentral have all the info you need in their forums. Touchpad Getting Started Guide (via PreCentral)
2. Install Android. The directions are pretty simple, and only take a few minutes to complete. Android CM Alpha 2.1 (via XDA Developers)
3. Purchase and download Chainfire3D. Chainfire3D Pro (via Android Marketplace) Some additional Plugins and drivers are needed. Links at the bottom.
4. Purchase,download, and setup the PS3 Controller App. Sixaxis Controller (via Android Marketplace) *This also works with other tablets too, make sure to use the checker tool first.
5. Find your favorite games on the Marketplace, setup each one as needed using Chainfire3D, and have some fun. I recommend ShadowGun, as it’s my favorite FPS for Android yet.
Is it worth it?
That’s the basics on how to turn the TP into a decent Android gaming machine. There are hundreds more games and programs that I have yet to try but you can get a good idea of what is playable from the few games mentioned above. The lower resolution (1024 X 768) is slightly off with some games, but not enough to really make it a problem. The sound has not been an issues and frame rates on most games is well above the acceptable level. I cannot wait for further development on the Touchpad. For such a cheap cost of ownership I think this is right up there with anything even close to the price point. Granted I’m not happy that there is really no ports or way to expand, but for the quality of device you get for the price paid, I think it’s well worth it. If you still want to find a Touchpad there are plenty on ebay and Craigslist in the $250 range. I was lucky enough to score a few of them myself during the sale and was able to give some away to some deserving friends. Keep an eye out for more WebOS and Android updates.
Total Cost of Setup
HP Touchpad 32GB $150
Cyanogen Mod 2.1 Alpha FREE
Folio Case from Amazon $20
Screen Protector $10
Chainfire3D Pro $4.27
Sixaxis Controller $1.76
Add in the $5 for Shadowgun, and you are still under $200 for a pretty solid gaming tablet.
Market Fix Guide (also market fix built into Chainfire3D)
Chainfire Plugins (CF3D Driver and Plugins Required)
Chainfire Games Settings Page (Gameloft and Others)
*Special Thanks to all the developers that made this fantastic Android port possible, don’t forget to donate to the cause.