Final Words

I have to say, this is a lot better than I expected. Honeycomb feels a lot like Google’s take on iOS without sacrificing any of what makes Android unique. It’s a healthy combination of the appliance-like iOS without giving up any of the user facing customization & flexibility that Android users love. If you’re a die hard iOS user then I don’t think Honeycomb will tempt you, but if you’re undecided or you can appreciate both then Honeycomb may actually push you over towards Google.

I’m impressed with what Google has done with the UI. It’s a definite modernization of what Android is all about. There are elements of the Android UI we’re used to within Honeycomb but they aren’t all that prevalent at the surface. This looks and feels like a brand new OS for Google.

Am I more likely to use the Xoom than the iPad? Yes. The hardware is faster but more importantly, the software is better suited for multitasking. I’m a bigger fan of Honeycomb’s multitasking UI & notification system compared to the double-tap-home and passive notifications you get with the iPad and iOS. I can be more productive with the Xoom than I can be with the iPad as a result. I don’t believe Honeycomb’s UI is perfect by any means, it’s just more multitasking oriented than iOS is at this point.

There’s definitely room for improvement. The fact that there are still choppy animations within the OS is perplexing, I've asked Google for an explanation but I've yet to get an answer on that one.

I’d like to see the ability to scroll to reveal more apps in the task list for starters. I almost feel like we’re headed for an OS X dock-like setup where you have a permanent row of your active apps across a portion of the screen and you just tap to switch between them. This whole tapping twice to select a new app thing has to be short lived, it’s not an efficient use of fingers.

Elements of Honeycomb do feel rushed however. The stability of the OS/apps, the missing SD card support and random OS quirks come to mind. As a result I'd recommend waiting for at least the first Honeycomb update before pulling the trigger on one of these tablets.

As far as the Xoom itself is concerned, I like the hardware. It feels good, I’m less worried about it slipping out of my hands and onto concrete and it’s full featured. Battery life is clearly competitive with the iPad as well, which is impressive given how much faster the thing is by comparison.

The screen isn’t terrible but it’s not the most impressive thing around, which is about the only complaint I have regarding the hardware. Had this been a $499 tablet I wouldn’t be too concerned but we’re talking about $800 here - I’d expect a better quality display at this price point, especially considering the price premium is really for 32GB of cheap NAND and smartphone hardware. I appreciate that we have a higher-than-iPad resolution, but I also want a higher-than-iPad contrast ratio.

Overall I am very excited to see Honeycomb tablets hit the market. Last year was mostly a waste when it came to non-iPad tablets, but this year looks to be quite the opposite.

This conclusion is obviously unfair to Apple given the rumored impending release of the iPad 2, but if I had to buy a tablet today it’d probably be the Xoom.

If I wasn’t insane however, I’d wait to see what was being announced on March 2nd first.

Battery Life
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  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    anand writes... "I suspect the ideal tablet UI is probably not too far off what modern desktop OSes have become. While a smartphone’s UI must be dramatically different due to the lack of screen real estate, a tablet UI just needs to be more efficient than its desktop counterpart - not necessarily very different."

    this is an interesting thought, and I am wondering if you are considering the, potentially, drastically different usage models that tablets need to be built for.
    not only will people be using these things on the run, but the ways I see people using them now are really different from desktops.
    tablets really lend themselves to task integration, where you have a specific reason to use it over and over.
    for example, I have seen the subway/train information officers using them here in Japan to give people directions, and I see store clerks using them to implement inventory management software.

    that kind of usage demands quick access to a limited number of functions and a low level of file maintenance.
    If anything, I would have guessed it the other-way around, where tablets will need to be closer to a smartphone OS, but adjusted for the larger screen real estate.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    100% spot on. This is where the enthusiast niche that follows forums, and the reviewers and bloggers that server them, can't seem to "get it"

    For tech geeks, a slightly tweaked desktop metaphor is what they want from a tablet (for the ones that even want one at all). For the vast majority of the target audience, this absolutely misses the mark which is why iOS on iPad, despite all of the nerd rage towards it, has done so well.

    I'm as geek as geek gets with 20+ years in this industry, but these days as an old guy, I am also a mobile professional. On the road, which is all the time, for work, i need exactly what you describe. Quick, efficient, task focused access.

    I'm not geeking out at a Starbucks or doing proofs of concept (WoW on emu on Android on Xoom!!!) for YouTube. I'm doing email, note taking, Webex and reading/presenting on the go.

    If google inches towards a tweaked desktop UX paradigm they will be making the same mistake MSFT did (and continues to) with their tablet efforts.

    The hardcore tech crowd might be happy, but they are a micro percentage of this market.
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Did you miss the part of the review where Honeycomb was better in all of those areas? Or did you just focus on a quote taken out of context which compares this OS to a desktop OS?

    Never mind, I already know the answer.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • ccrobopid - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I was waiting for your review of the Xoom. Goog job on your part, but I must say I'm a little disappointed with the hardware. On a tablet the screen quality sure is one of the most important elements, and at this price point I don't think I'll buy it. I also don't get the 16:10 aspect. Widescreen had sense in BIG screens because we have more degrees of vision sidewards, but at this screen size I prefer a 4:3 format because I feel it's more useful for web browsing, reading and apps in general. Reply
  • ccrobopid - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Complementing my post, if it wasn't for the too boxed experience, I still feel like iPad is the device to have. Let's see if iPad2 launches and throws away some of that "boxeness" :D Reply
  • macs - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Honeycomb needs:
    - an update to solve the youth problems
    - great screen (at least as good as iPad)
    - 16gb and wifi only for 499$

    Apple needs:
    - to catch up Honeycomb on software side (multitasking,browser,... I don't think that an iPad 2 still running iOS 4.x would be enough...)
    - faster SoC (A5 dual core)
    - Facetime Camera
    - Video Out
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I have a great idea. Let's all go spend $800 (+ $50 in tax) to have a tablet that crashes constantly and cant be viewed outside. Crackhead. Reply
  • Mr Alpha - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I would really like to see minimum brightness numbers. The ability to turn the back-light way down is important in order to avoid a headache when reading something in a low light situation. The iPad for example has a too high minimum brightness. Reply
  • josephandrews222 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    ...you wrote this:

    "Things like this combined with the instability I mentioned earlier makes me feel like Honeycomb was a bit rushed, perhaps to hit the streets before one other major tablet announcement coming this year?"

    ...you referring to the iPad2 or HP's 'Pad'?

    I really enjoyed this review. A lot. Thanks.
    Reply
  • Jinded - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    On the Multitasking page, you mention the following about widgets:
    "In Gingerbread and prior version of Android, widgets were fairly constrained and two dimensional. You could display information within the widget but there was no depth and no concept of scrolling."

    I don't think this is quite true, as several launchers (like LauncherPro) support vertically scrolling widgets. I myself use Agenda Widget as a scrollable 1x4 calendar widget. The Samsung TouchWiz interface (and I'm sure others as well) also comes with several widgets set up rolodex-style, displaying maybe the last 10 or so notifications/pictures/events that can be scrolled using up/down buttons. Not quite the same thing as a scrollable widget, but I think it counts as having depth.
    Reply

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