A week with CyanogenMod on the HP TouchPad [Video]

October 25, 2011
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Like many out there, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an HP TouchPad during its initial $99 fire sale specifically for the purpose of running Android on it. It's a very similar motive for when I bought a Barnes & Noble Nook Color, though in this case, I got a whole lot more tablet for the money. Like the Nook Color, the best (but not the first) option for running a full version of Android is the venerated CyanogenMod, now on its seventh version. I've spent the last week or so installing, customizing and generally playing with the one-two hardware and software combination - here are my impressions.

For those of you who were hoping for a full-on competitor to the XOOM or Galaxy Tab 10.1 for a single C-note plus shipping and handling, lower your expectations now. The TouchPad was made to the standard of the original iPad, and as such, is a little behind the times, with just 16GB of on-board memory (no SD card) and a relatively low-res 1024 x 768 screen. What's more, since Google has declined to open-source Honeycomb, the best that the CyanogenMod team can do is the latest version of Gingerbread, a useful and stable OS that is nonetheless designed for a much smaller screen.

All that said, there's definitely a lot of fun and utility to be squeezed out of Android on the TouchPad. In my experience just about all of my standard apps work without a hitch, and the small number of issues I have had are nags at worst. For example, the YouTube app cannot display video in portrait mode, but the more desirable landscape mode works just fine. There are some formatting issues stemming from the TouchPad's resolution, which is a rarity for Android phones and tablets - a few apps scrunched up to smartphone dimensions, leaving huge areas of blank space on the 10-inch screen. But in most cases it, dare I say, just works.

Tablets were made for information consumption, and on that score CyanogenMod and the TouchPad are a wonderful combination. Using Dolphin Browser HD I had a web browsing experience that's the rival of any Honeycomb tablet, and apps like Kindle or Pulse were a joy to use on such a large screen. The hardware itself helps here - the TouchPad's screen is an IPS LCD, making for decent reading even in outdoor light at the brightest setting. Video from Netflix and HBO GO was equally impressive, though Flash videos could not properly display full-screen.  With a little adjustment using Thumb Keyboard, I was typing even faster than I do on my smartphone.

With a few notable exceptions, Cyanogen works wonderfully on the hardware. Audio, Bluetooth, even the TouchPad's vibration feature all work without complaint. Basic functions like the face button (which defaults to a Home button) and power and volume keys behave just as you'd expect them to. Even the notification light and light sensor are working, along with the camera, though the later is so poor you probably won't make use of it. It's a shame that the voice recognition is too muddled to be of any use, but the only practical exception is Wifi - more on that later.

Ever since it was ported to the Nook Color, CyanogenMod has included a section in its menu called "Tablet Tweaks," and they are indeed quite useful. The most important addition is moving the notification bar to the bottom of the screen and adding the standard menu/back/home/search buttons, which would be tricky on the TouchPad's spartan button layout. The effect is definitely reminiscent of Honeycomb, if not quite so pretty. The notification bar is permanent by default, but can be hidden and returned for full-screen video or games.

Performance is good, not great. There's noticeable slowdown in the transitions between screens, but strangely, videos and live wallpapers seem to do just fine. A great part of the TouchPad's hardware is the Beats-certified speaker that points directly out from the screen, turning the tablet into a connected boombox in a pinch. It's louder and clearer than any smartphone speaker, and listening to Pandora or Google Music is a satisfying experience.

It's not all sunshine and roses. There are some serious Wifi connection issues present, usually resolved by a reboot, and the battery lasts only about half as long as it does on the TouchPad's native WebOS. It's a good thing, then, that the complicated install process leaves WebOS intact - you can choose between Android and WebOS every time you boot up. While this isn't as elegant as some of the virtualized solutions proposed, it allows you to take advantage of the rock-solid and beautiful interface of WebOS while still having access to the Android apps you've grown accustomed to.

CyanogenMod for the TuochPad is still in early alpha 2.1, and given their reputation, I fully expect the dev team to iron out the Wifi and power issues eventually. Though the install process is not for the faint of heart (command lines - ugh) it shouldn't present a major challenge to anyone who can install a custom ROM on a standard Android phone.

What's really exciting is the prospect of an open-sourced Ice Cream Sandwich, which I have no doubt will make it onto the TouchPad eventually via the CyanogenMod team or someone else. For those lucky enough to get in on the early sales and skilled enough to install it, that means a mid-range Ice Cream Sandwich tablet for just a hundred dollars. Keep your eyes peeled for the inevitable TouchPad ports after the AOSP Ice Cream Sandwich source code drops.

Check out CyanogenMod 7.1 in action on the HP TouchPad below:


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  • Anonymous

    soooo cool. damn it, should jumped on the sale.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2I2X4VAQKQFSQKSW3237S6P44U Iura

    good job cgm team!

  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

    Although the install of CM on the Touchpad requires the *gasp* command line, it’s anything but complicated. It will get easier, but it’s pretty straightforward compared to what it could be like.

    The other thing people should note, although it’s not related to CM7, is that the Touchpad is heavy. Like, *really* heavy. I find it less than ideal as a gaming platform or e-book reader for this reason – too sore on the wrists. 

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Michael Crider

      I had a hell of a time getting the Novacom drivers to behave on my PC. It doesn’t help that the only way to get them is a 200+ MB download of the WebOS SDK. Eventually I placed the install files in the same Program Files folder as the Novacom executable and ran them from there via command, and basically on a whim – I’m not the only one who’s encountered these issues.

      • Monty Waggoner

        That isn’t the only way. You only need the drivers and they’re posted separately on many forums. They’re a very small download. 

  • Kennyhwx1996

    Where can I find the HP touchpad android download link? And is there still bugs when you install it in? Can any kind soul email me when the android is stable for the touchpad? Here’s my email:[email protected] thanks for your help.

  • Anonymous

    Wifi issues and short battery life? Sounds like you’re still using Alpha1. Alpha2 fixes both of these issues. Honestly, you should have waited  until release (or at least an RC) before posting this review. It unfairly shows some of the flaws in the Alpha that are being fixed in development right now. 

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      just because it is alpha doesn’t mean people don’t want to see how it works. While I understand your point about not posting until its an RC build people are still enjoying the post and video. This wasn’t a review — more so just hands-on so people could see the potential.

      Thanks for reading

    • Eluno

      Alpha 2 better but not perfect…Still drops wifi in high traffic areas and battery still not optimal but some apps help…but it is definitely a great release.  I am very impressed with the release and for 99$ this tablet rocks with dual boot Android, WebOS and Ubuntu Linux on WebOS.  WebOS definitely a better OS than I thought it would be.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_T3NRV5OOEQS5Y52QG6WG6SMTEU ML

    Hopefully, we can get ICS on the touchpad in the not too distant future.

  • jack yang

    Totobay.com——Wholesale-China Mobile Phones,and
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  • Drfuzzy1

    installed Alpha2,

    left it over night. in the morning would wont boot up, had to do
    (power+home+volume up) then usb showed up, then had to do reboot and it
    worked,

    then left it sitting for a few hours and had to do it again.

    is there a way to fix the problem so it would work normally, instead of
    doing all this. is there a patch that i can download and install.

    HELP!!!!

    • JG

      I had the same problem.  SoftLocker seems to solved the issue.  It’s been running fine for 3 days now.

  • Anonymous

    very promising. i jumped on the TouchPad during the firesale like everyone else figuring it would be awesome for fantasy football and general couch surfing (better than my buggy Chinese Android tablet). the thing is great and all but for it to really reach it’s potential, it’s going to need Android because the webOS support is just not there, as nice of an OS as it is. i’m holding off for a stable ICS port but it’s good to see Android in general running well on it.

  • DMACK

    I installed the 2.1 version and have been very impressed. Very few issues. An occasional app crash, but beyond that not much. Battery life is definately shortened, but not a bad trade off for a $99 tablet that plays flash and runs android. It took me about 15 minutes from start to finish installing android. Not for the faint of heart, but any decent user will do it with 1 hand while drinking a beer…

  • http://twitter.com/bkslate Brien Slate

    If only HP and Android would work together…

  • AK

    Hi guys, i installed the 2.1 version too  installation is smooth but many apps cant be run after installing.
    Even if is running it tends to hang halfway playtime around 30mins and worse touchpad will auto reboot halfway at times. Any idea why this is happening? Do i have to uninstall and re do everything again?Or this is a normal being at the alpha stage.Pls advice. 

  • Nathan Scott

    Just a correction, the Touchpad has the same or better specs than the iPad2 (more ram).

    • Anonymous

      lol im not sure if trolling or just stupid.

      • Nathan Scott

        Unfortunately you are both.

  • Wow

    Been running 2.1 since released. With exception of losing wifi every now and then, virtually everything else works.
    Totally impressed. Posted on a touchpad right now

  • http://www.linuxrants.com Linux Rants

    Now that Google has Open Sourced ICS, I’m looking forward to seeing a similar article from Michael in January (or around) with ICS running on the TouchPad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stan-Faustino/100000114952790 Stan Faustino

    Installation instruction here http://goo.gl/aFAe1

    • Anonymous

      You fucking idiot..the link installs a trojan..was stopped by my virus sw….

  • http://twitter.com/marzy57 Charles S. Martell

    Running CyanogenMod-7.1.0-tenderloin-alpha3 Rom (upgraded from initial install of alpha-2) for well over a week now with Very few issues. Netflix, YouTube, SPB Shell 3D, Market and latest Google Maps with Street View as well as a half dozen utilities and loads of games all work great ! Even installed ICS Launcher, Music Player, Wallpapers, Boot Animations, Keyboard, Clock Widges and Google+ App; to give them a try. Can’t wait for Full ICS Rom.
    In the meantime I’m REALLY enjoying my rooted 32GB, $149.00  touchpad.

  • bubbah

    sorry it brok hp apps store and preware …for now I took it off

  • shawn gormley

    I just installed Alpha 3 yesterday and in the same day, when I play games or any app that I have downloaded, My screen will freeze.  I have to black out the screen and turn it back on.  

    Anyone else having these problems?

  • Josh

    Youtube is jerky. otherwise running great.