* Prices may differ from that shown
First of all, I would like to say this is the first tablet I've ever had and used and my review of it will be based on how it meets my needs, not how it compares to other tabs in the market.
I wanted to get a tablet computer for some time, mainly not to be chained to my laptop for e-mails and text typing all the time. For that reason I was looking for something rather small, like Blackberry Playbook or Galaxy Tab, and certainly cheap. A 7" tablet would be perfectly portable in a bag (although typing on it wouldn't be so great, I suspect now). Yet, all of these tablets were priced so ridiculously high for the purpose I had for them in mind that plans were going to remain only plans for the next few years...
Until HP announced it was discontinuing computers, including tablets, and was dropping the price of its TouchPad to $99 (£89 in rip-off Britain). Following my husband's advice, I tried to buy a 16Gb TouchPad. "Tried" because stocks were terribly limited and, as if I were applying for the Olympics tickets, I learned whether my order was successful or not only a few days after "buying" the tab online. Eventually, I did get it for 89 quid and it is still annoying me to see TouchPads selling for £250.
It arrived in a lovely box which suggested the tablet wouldn't be very big. But I was wrong: it was so compacted packed that inside I found the full-size 9.7" tablet I'd been expecting. With it came a few brochures, a micro-USB cable (not a very standard one, as far as I can tell) with a standard USB plug at the other end, two detachable plugs (UK and international) with built-in USB adaptors (what it actually means is that the same USB cable can be used for connecting the tablet to the computer as well as charging it up). The thing that hit me right in the heart was a lovely black cloth with the HP logo embedded on it, for wiping the screen - that looked very posh.
To avoid turning my review completely into an essay, I will now switch to enumerating pros and cons.
1. Bigger screen is more convenient for viewing and typing and makes the gadget feel like a proper tablet, not just an inflated smartphone.
2. A proper capacitive screen (for £89 you can get only resistive tablets, as far as I know).
4. Enough apps to do the most important things (for me).
5. Multitasking (I am mentioning it under number 5 only because it seems such a natural thing to expect from a computer).
6. Skype voice and video calls.
7. Apps for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
8. A great price if you managed to get it on the HP sale.
9. The Box.net app with free 50Gb of cloud space.
10. Angry Birds, in case you care (I don't, even though I have a free light version installed).
11. Switches on and off immediately unlike a full-scale PC which can take ages to boot up.
12. Quick printing. The tablet immediately found its brother HP printer and now printing documents and web pages is easier than ever.
13. The battery life seems quite reasonable, although largely depends on usage.
14. Intuitive interface and pleasant design. I love how the date changes on the calendar icon every day, for example.
15. Quick connection when there's Wi-Fi. Apps and pages load much quicker than, say, on smartphones.
1. A limited number of apps and updates since the tablet is being discontinued. Besides, many of the currently existing apps were originally made for smartphones, so won't go full-screen on the TouchPad.
2. The camera can be used only for video calls unless you buy a special app that will turn it into a proper camera (but it has a basic picture quality anyway).
3. Quick Office currently only allows you to view documents, but not create and edit them (although they claim to be working on an update and some document editing is possible if you open it with the Box.net free app, for example). I solved this problem by using TapNote (and am pretty happy with it for typing text).
4. No full synchronizing with Dropbox. The available paid Dropbox app seems to be very limited and TapNote gives access only to its own files which it keeps in the plain text format.
5. The browser doesn't have tabs, but opens separate windows for new pages (I am not sure other tablet browsers are much different in this aspect) and doesn't allow you to sort and group bookmarks.
6. Multitasking has its limits, of course, so you can't open "too many" apps at a time.
7. It is still too expensive if you buy it at the full price. The TouchPad accessories were not discounted at all.
8. With its 9.7" screen, the TouchPad is not something you can easily carry in any lady's bag or take out in the street to update your Twitter feed. It's not a very lightweigt thing either.
9. The tab is made of plastic, so will inevitably have fingerprints at the back.
10. No "back" and "forward" buttons (unless they are part of a specific app), so it can be hard to navigate around the text, as well as copy and paste information.
11. Some documents, such as big Google Docs spreadsheets that take time to load on a desktop computer may not load at all. The tablet is apparently for rather short and quick documents or plain text.
12. Wi-Fi only (although I personally see it as an advantage: no mobile monthly plans and extra expenses).
13. No SD card slot, even though the design seems to almost allow it. I suspect it was planned for later models.
Update 19 Oct 2011:
With the recent WebOS update, it is now possible to take photos and videos with the TouchPad camera. HP has issued their own free camera app which installs automatically with the update. The quality is pretty basic and the camera is on one side of the tablet only, but it's better than nothing.
I am absolutely happy that I managed to get this tab at the discounted price. For its full price, I would be nit-picking and comparing it to other gadgets, but for £89 it is the best option I could have imagined (and now I will be expecting all tablets under £100 to be of similar quality - what a silly expectation!). It allows me to do many things without sitting at the desk and waiting for Windows to boot up. In the morning, sitting propped up in bed, I can record my latest dream in Dream Catcher, check my e-mail, accept a PayPal payment and send it to my bank account, log in to Invoice Dude, create a new invoice, send it to the customer and print it out for myself. In the evening, if I have a spare minute, I can launch the WordPress app and start typing in a new blog entry. All of this is exactly what I'd been expecting from my tablet, and even a bit more.