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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  • Impulses - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Yeah, heh, I use ADW and every single one of my widgets is a scrolling widget (save for the weather widget). This is where I think a lot of people reviewing Android devices miss the mark... They're too focused on the stock software experience, yet one of Android's strengths is how customizable that experience is. You don't have to hack your device or be a geek to install an alternate launcher and a couple of widgets...

    On my home screen I have a 2x2 SCROLLING widget with my to-do list and immediate appointments, flanked on the right by a 2x2 music player widget w/album art, some shortcuts on the bottom and weather up top. On a different screen I've got a 2x4 SCROLLING widget w/my facebook/email feed (super customizable), elsewhere another 2x4 SCROLLING widget w/a grid calendar, and finally a 3x4 SCROLLING widget w/my news feed.

    Those widgets even employ some basic pop-up windows when you interact with them... Hell, they're so well coded they scroll smoother than almost anything else on my phone (though they don't update instantaneously to reflect changes, fast enough tho). Stuff like this is very real and very widely used on Android, but nigh impossible on any other mobile OS, and it's just not taken into account during almost any reviews.

    Slap LauncherPro or ADW on many of these phones and half the experience changes dramatically... To review Android devices as if these things don't exist is kind of weird imo.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    While I agree that an article covering some of the customizations available (without rooting) would be useful, I think the bulk of the reviews has to carried out on primarily stock software. A lot of general consumers just want to use the device as is, not be configuring everything. Reply
  • Jinded - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    This is true to an extent, but if one of the often-quoted advantages of iOS, for example, is the plethora of downloadable apps, then the advantages of Android, such as widgets, especially scrollable and interactive ones, should be pointed out as well. Reply
  • rwei - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Embargoes, not so much Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    The third image on the Google Video Chat page says it all... (I like how you squeezed that in there Anand)

    @ $799, who would buy this?!? The Motorola Execs were smoking some strong stuff to come into the market a year late AND priced above the dominant player, Apple. If everything was perfectly executed on this device and it put the upcoming iPad2 to shame, the price would be justified. This isn't the case though as the lackluster screen, annoying charger, and (current) general instability leaves Apple ample room to upset Motorola's "attempted" market position. Upon release of the iPad2, the Xoom price must fall.

    $499 for the Wifi and 3G (with contract) would make more sense. There is simply no room in today's market for a company to compete with Apple on who can sell the highest margin products! On the other hand, perhaps Motorola expects their sales to eat their production capacity whether they are competitive with the iPad2 or not.
    Reply
  • Chudilo - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Shame on MOTO for disabling Misro-USB charging. If they wanted to provide a faster charge option, fine. I should still be able to charge it via a standard plug. If it takes 10hrs to charge over microUSB , so be it. It's still better then lugging an extra power adapter around (I just want the option) . If it's an open OS , you've gotta follow through with the hardware. This just made this thing a lot less portable. You can not carry it as a magazine anymore(you can't do it with an iPad either, but again, you shouldn't be trying to match them, you should be trying to beat them).
    Ideally leaving it plugged in overnight would give it enough juice to run for a decent amount of time. Since this isn't a productivity centered device, it will most likely be plugged in through the night, then be used for a few minuted in the morning to check latest news/weather/music, then be plugged in again for the rest of the day until evening. If you forgot to plug it in then you can always use the fast charger to charge it while you're using it.

    I'm going to have wait to see what the docking options will be.
    Reply
  • RLMb - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Great review. Very objective and detailed.
    It's funny how the dynamics of blogs playout. Sites like Engadget, Techcrunch, etc. have their writers write shallow, opinionated, many times with plain false statements. These articles draw hordes of commenters, half calling on the article, the other half defending the article because it "proves" the point they want to make. Other than that they tend to be Apple biased.

    I am going to buy the Xoom, the subsidized version with 3G.
    I am not a big fan of 2y contracts in general, but I think this one is worth it. The total cost over 2 years is 600 + 480 = 1080 and That gives me 3g access, albeit limited.

    If I could buy the same $20/1GB plan for the Ipad, that would cost me $730+480 = 1210 If I used 3g every month. This is $130 more than the Xoom price, so even if I did not use the contract for 6.5 months on the ipad (say vacation, etc.) the Xoom would still be cheaper.

    Of course, if you do not plan to use the 3G you should but the Wifi only version.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Buying any of these under contract is inane if you're already paying for a smartphone ('cept maybe if you're on AT&T and shackled w/a 2GB data cap)... Just tether them to your phone and use the data connection you're already paying for. If you're gonna be using it for hours on end chances are you're near WiFi anyway (or you can find an outlet to charge your phone and offset the power usage tethering incurs). Reply
  • darckhart - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Pricing on these tablets is all out of wack. I don't argue the functionality and convenience, but the price puts it in the tier of low to mid notebook. How is what amounts to smartphone processing capability, form factor, and touch equal to a notebook? It just isn't. Unfortunately, the ipad set the bar for pricing and people were willing to pay, thus ushering in another sorely mispriced gadget. With the current specs of tablets, they should have debuted in the 250-450$ range. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Remember, unsubsidized prices on high-end smartphones are generally in the $450-700 range as well. Add a bigger screen and battery and you end up with the unsubsidized prices we are seeing.

    Devices which try to pack lots of power in smaller spaces have always cost a premium relative to the amount of silicon inside.

    That said I think the Xoom would make a lot more sense with a $100-150 price drop in both subsidized and unsubsidized form.
    Reply

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