Sencha, a provider of HTML5 frameworks and tools for developers both on desktop and mobile, has put the new HP TouchPad tablet computer to the test in terms of HTML5 browser performance, and found it somewhat lacking. “The TouchPad looks quite promising, but still seems rough around the edges,” notes the company while detailing the battery of browser tests it used to determine the TouchPad’s HTML5 scorecard.

Promising, but Needs Work

A less-than-stellar review regarding HTML5 performance is an interesting result for the OS behind the TouchPad. The mobile operating system webOS had previously excited the developer community because it was built on top of HTML5 and modern Web technologies, including Node.js, for example.

But after running tests on the TouchPad’s implementation of WebKit (version 534.6, a recent build) to determine its worthiness as an HTML5 app platform, Sencha says the results were mixed.

“We found different behavior depending whether we used the browser directly or if we installed the app as a ‘native’ web app using webOS’ packaging capability,” writes Sencha’s Aditya Bansod. “And while the browser has very mixed CSS3 and JavaScript results, it has the fastest Canvas implementation we’ve ever seen. Overall, the TouchPad looks quite promising, but it still seems like there is room for improvement from a Web developer’s point of view.”

The Findings

The TouchPad’s HTML5 scorecard came from a series of tests in areas like JavaScript performance, HTML5/CSS3 feature, rendering performance and rendering accuracy. Sencha used a variety of standard tests including  Modernizr, Acid3, SunSpider and the company’s own Sencha Animator demos and Sencha Touch Kitchen Sink.

Here is a summary of the findings (more detail here):

  • The TouchPad scored 92/100 on the Acid3 tests. The failures were due to the lack of SVG support in the browser.
  • The Modernizr suite failed after 241 tests were attempted (out of a total of 276). The failed test results were compared to caniuse data, and it was unclear if this was really a browser issue, or incorrect data used for the assertions. For comparison purposes, the iPad scores 273 and Honeycomb 240 on this test.
  • Modernizr also reported SVG, CSS 3D Transforms, and the HTML5 history API were not supported.
  • The TouchPad uses a non-standard accelerometer API.
  • The SunSpider tests saw the TouchPad fall behind competitors like Xoom, iPad 2 and the PlayBook. It was, on average, 70% slower in terms of JavaScript execution.
  • Only the Xoom finished the V8 Benchmark Suite. The iPad 2 quit after 4 out of 7 tests and the TouchPad finished just 2 out of 7.
  • CSS performance on the TouchPad was mixed. The browser had serious issues rending more complex and sophisticated CSS.
  • The TouchPad has the fastest Canvas implementation yet. For example, on the Mobile Speed Reading test, the TouchPad got 16 FPS (PlayBook got 10 FPS, iPad 2 got 3 FPS and the Xoom failed to load the test).
  • In audio and video tests, the TouchPad could not play HTML5 audio or video inline.
  • The Sencha Touch Kitchen Sink found that webkit-mask is not supported, and there were issues with scrolling and touch events.

Tips for the HTML5 App Developer

Sencha concludes its review with a handful of tips for the HTML5 app developer, beginning with a suggestion to build Sencha apps, of course. But as it turns, out, that may not be a bad idea.

The company found that when a Sencha Touch app was packaged as an IPK (the webOS packaging format) using the Palm Developer tools, and the app was run in the native shell, overall performance was “significantly better.” What this means is that the core software stack is very capable, explains Bansod, but the browser itself needs improvement.

More simply put, what he’s saying is that native apps run better on the TouchPad than Web apps.

Some other tips for app developers include the following:

  • Avoid SVG: “Not only is it not supported,” said Bansod, “but when the browser encounters it, it does strange things.”
  • Audio and video cannot be played inline. The browser tries to download files it doesn’t recognize or passes them to another app.
  • Be wary of complex CSS transitions and animations because, at certain zoom states, or when combined with other CSS effects, results are unpredictable.

sarah perez

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