Should You Buy an HP TouchPad or an iPad 2?

The HP TouchPad is out and LockerGnome’s Jake Ludington picked one up try out. Comparing the TouchPad to the iPad yielded interesting results. While design differences between the two are a world apart, the heart of their differences lie in the software.

While running the Microsoft FishIETank browser test, the Safari browser appeared very underpowered when compared to the HP TouchPad’s browser. With 20 fish on the screen, the Safari browser on the iPad choked at 2 FPS while the HP TouchPad trucked along at between 9 and 15 FPS. The Safari browser also reflected a resolution of 982×662 while the TouchPad sat at 1024×686.

The performance differences extended well past simple benchmark tests. When loading simple web pages without Flash or other intense scripting involved the HP TouchPad loaded pages faster on a consistent basis.

Then there’s the elephant in the room, Flash. The iPad doesn’t support Flash at all while the TouchPad supports it in almost all cases. Sites such as Google Analytics depend on Adobe Flash to display graphs and other tools that allow you to visualize data.

Where Safari on the iPad appears to have an edge is through smoothness of scrolling and navigating through a page. The HP Touchpad was somewhat sluggish after the page loaded while we were scrolling up and down pages. This issue is likely to be resolved during a future over-the-air update.

The operating system powering the iPad (iOS) has a clear advantage in terms of sheer number of apps currently available to support it. Just about anything you need to do on a modern tablet can be done through apps already available for the platform. WebOS currently has a smaller but growing collection of apps available for the platform.

If aesthetics are important to you, the HP TouchPad is noticeably bulkier than the iPad 2 though it would be fairer to compare it to the slightly thicker original iPad. A shiny black finger-print magnet surrounds the device where the iPad features a non-reflective aluminum body.

The iPad 2 also has the edge on battery life, allowing its user around 9-10 hours of use compared to the HP TouchPad’s 6-8 hours.

They both feature front-facing cameras. The iPad 2’s at VGA while the HP TouchPad sits at 1.3 MP. Only the iPad 2 has a rear camera allowing the user to shoot video at 720p. Admittedly, the iPad 2’s rear-facing camera leaves much to be desired in the way of quality.

Overall, the HP TouchPad is a stunning example of what is possible on the WebOS platform. It gives the user a fast browsing experience and Flash support when compared to the iPad. The iPad is still a clear leader in terms of available third-party apps and battery life. Should you buy the HP TouchPad or the iPad 2? That all depends on how much you use the browser and how many apps you’ve already invested in on iOS.