Thoughts About Honeycomb Tablets & the Moto Xoom

Motorola’s PR firm provided a 14-day loan of a WiFi-only Xoom tablet with Android 3.1 (Honeycomb).

Motorola Xoom

Reviewing the Motorola Xoom takes a different mindset than reviewing the iPad. The iPad’s hardware and software are essentially one and the same from a product point of view. The fragmented Android picture provides extra dimensions. The Xoom, for example, uses the current Android OS 3.1 (Honeycomb) while other tablets use much older versions of Android that were not designed for use with a tablet Then, there’s the hardware itself which is, of course, different than other manufacturer’s Android tablets. So, I’ll split my impressions list to try to separate the two (hardware from Honeycomb).

– Great looking display

– Xoom’s front and rear multimegapixel cameras (2 and 5, respectively) are far better than the iPad’s sub-megapixel cameras in both resolution and overall image quality.

– Feels significantly heavier than the iPad even though there is only a third-of-pound difference (129g). This small difference made it less comfortable to use in a “lean back” experience on a reclining chair.

– The iPad does not “suggest” whether its preferred orientation is portrait or landscape. The Xoom, however, tells you it is a landscape device with the “Motorola” branding best visible in that mode. Volume controls and the hard to find on-off switch on the rear tells you that it is primarily a landscape device.

– While Apple has made the 10-inch display a standard size (the iPad is 9.7 inches while the Xoom is 10.1), the Xoom would probably be a more attractive device if it were lighter with an 8-inch display. It would also benefit from better control placement (on/off switch and volume controls) that would leave the viewing orientation up to the user’s personal preference.

  • Android OS 3.1 (Honeycomb) looks reasonably good but, as others have commented, does not feel fully baked. For example, switching between landscape and portraint viewing modes takes a much longer time than on the iPad. Then, there’s the lack of apps tuned for tablets in general and Honeycomb in particular. The Movie Studio app failed to launch until the last day of the loan. So, I never got a chance to test it.

    That said, there are aspects of Honeycomb that I really liked. The most important feature to me is one that has been an Android feature since the beginning but simply works best on tablet with a large screen: Enhanced widget on multiple home screens. I nearly filled the primary (center) home screen with widgets after the first day. This turned the Xoom in my primary device to quickly scan for news, Facebook status updates, weather, notes and search.

    I will, however, wait for slightly smaller Android Honeycomb (or Ice Cream Sandwich) tablets to emerge before buying one for myself.