Most of the excitement in the custom ROM world is circling around Ice Cream Sandwich at the moment, but we haven’t forgotten about the best tablet deal of the year. In the latest incremental update to the HP TouchPad version of popular custom ROM CyanogenMod 7.2, the team has focused on UI and gaming improvements, allowing the TouchPad to be at least as capable at 3D gaming as a modern mid-range Android smartphone. Alpha version 3.5 is available for download at RootzWiki now.

The 3.5 update includes improved video for local and streaming, speed and fluidity improvements in 3D rendering, better compatibility for high-end games and a small tweak to the WiFi settings. It’s not much, but if you’re using your Android TouchPad as a media consumption device it’s definitely worth an upgrade. According to the developers in charge of the project a final version is still a long way off, though more stable beta versions may be closer.

There’s two developments in the technology world that should be of interest to TouchPad owners: the release of the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich source code, and HP’s decision to make WebOS (you know, that thing that the TouchPad ran before Android) open source. The former means that Ice Cream Sandwich should be available for the TouchPad when the CyanogenMod team releases CM9 next year. The latter means that WebOS will soon see all sorts of Android-style custom ROMs, and may even begin appearing on other hardware. WebOS-specific hardware may be dead, but thanks mostly in part to HP’s TouchPad fire sale, interest in the OS has never been higher.