The HP TouchPad for $98 seems too good to be true. "It is," your nerd friend will tell you. "It'll never get software updates. There won't be new apps for it. It's a dead platform. Don't buy it." Screw them.
Here's the thing about your nerd friends, and most of the people writing about tech: They put too much stock in the future. What a phone or tablet will be like, after a software update. Or after the developer community finally solidifies and rallies around it, building new apps to breathe life into something that might have come out a little stillborn or premature. Blame the new software culture of gadgets. What matters, though, is what something is like right now. And the TouchPad now is kind of a perfect throwback to what it was like when gadgets didn't change. They came out, and they were what they were. It's a gadget that is what it is, and will always be that, and nothing more.
And the bottom line is that the TouchPad, right now, is worth $98. Even if it never sees another ounce of code added to it, a gadget whose software soul is forever frozen in August 2011. This actually says it all. But I'll elaborate.
The TouchPad is the second best tablet you can buy, at any pricepoint. It nailed all the big ideas about what a tablet should feel like. Multitasking and notifications. Super integrated messaging. Details like an adjustable keyboard. And it's even better than when I reviewed it, thanks to the update a few weeks ago, which worked out a lot of the speed issues.
Which is dandy, but not the main point. It's that for $98, the TouchPad can do a lot of awesome stuff. It's a Kindle. For cheaper than an actual Kindle. It's got a killer Instapaper app, PaperMache. Those two things cover like 80 per cent of what I do with a $500 tablet. And they're vastly nicer than any of the Android counterparts. It's got a decent Facebook app. You can slap Epicurious on it and use it as a kitchen beater tablet for cooking with. (Or as an emergency carving board.) You can rip TV shows and watch them. And the stock apps for browsing the web and email? They're pretty solid. A cheap couch tablet for dicking around the internet while watching TV. It does basically everything you'd want a tablet to do, and pretty goddamn well, even if it never grows a single new feature after today.
Oh yeah, it does all of that (well!) and it's ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Not $500 or $400, like a lot other non-iPad tablets that suck. Or, to put it another way: I'll take a dead TouchPad over any living Android tablet in existence.