HP Pre 3 hands-on

The Pre is back, as part of a wave of new webOS devices. The result? A powerful engine, coupled with a finely retuned operating system

Despite failing to make a dent on the mobile phone industry with its sliding QWERTY line, HP has moved on to the next-gen Pre handset, powered by the hugely under-appreciated webOS.

It's had some major under the hood improvements, like a powerful 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB RAM and a 3.6-inch WVGA screen - two and a half times the less-than-spectacular screen res of the original Palm Pre. webOS really sparkles on the 480x800 pixel display, with images, graphics and icons showing off glorious amounts of detail. The OS will be familiar to webOS users, but intuitive enough for newcomers to grasp.

As far as design goes, it hasn't really changed its stripes - aside from the replacement of the Palm logo with HP branding on its rubbery back panel.

Nonetheless, the Pre 3 is solid this time round; even the slide mechanism is reassuringly sturdy, giving it more of a premium feel than its predecessors. It's significantly larger too, but still manages to be relatively compact; plus the extra space makes more room for the QWERTY keyboard, which is much better suited for tapping out missives at top speed.

HP has thrown even more functionality into its innovative operating system, such as the ability to send tweets or Facebook updates from the photo app, voice dialling, wireless printing, and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality for up to 5 devices. It's up to its old tricks as well with its cards and stacks interface for intuitive multitasking, Just Type universal search, Touchstone wireless charging and Exhibition mode for notifications and updates when docked.

It had no problems zipping along while browsing the web, with Flash 10.1 onboard for assistance. It appeared to handle multitasking pretty well, too, running multiple apps simultaneously without any noticeable lag.

Pictures are taken care of with a 5MP snapper and LED flash, complete with 720p HD capabilities; while a front-facing VGA camera takes care of video calls, which at this stage appears to only be compatible with the newly announced TouchPad (and other Pre 3s).

Talking of Pre 3 and TouchPad compatibility, it can instantly sync information to the newly announced webOS tablet via its Touch To Share feature. Great, but utterly useless if you're not going to go the whole hog.

It's the best Pre yet. It's powerful and webOS has been finely tuned for the better, with a few neat tricks thrown in for good measure. Then there's the apps; this has always been webOS' weak suit, and despite featuring apps from key players like Facebook, Amazon Kindle and Dropbox, it's got its work cut out before being in with a real chance of making its mark in the phone industry. Even if it is just a small one.

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