The Honeycomb Update & Software Preload

When I reviewed the Motorola Xoom I praised Honeycomb for being a brave effort by Google to reinvent the Android UI, as well as for delivering a tabbed web browser as a part of the default software configuration. Since that review Google updated Honeycomb to 3.0.1 and enabled support for Adobe Flash 10.2.

The move to 3.0.1 fixed some obvious bugs with the OS; nearly everything I complained about in our Xoom review has been addressed either mostly or entirely. Right now the biggest issue that remains with 3.0.1 has to do with performance. From a clean boot, Honeycomb feels reasonably snappy but performance seems to degrade quicker with use than on earlier Android releases. Force quitting apps will generally restore performance but it's something I've noticed seems necessary more frequently than on phones that run Froyo or Gingerbread.

With flash enabled the Honeycomb web browser is pretty compatible with a lot of what you'll encounter on the web. There are occasionally issues, such as the reddit front page:

Performance is good on simpler pages but it can quickly get bogged down on anything more complex with a lot of Flash. Google is planning a major update to Honeycomb that should improve performance across the board but there's no skirting the issue that we'll need more CPU and GPU power in these tablets.

While the Honeycomb experience is mostly stock on the Eee Pad, ASUS does include some custom software. ASUS' MyNet app is a DLNA controller that lets you push content from the Eee Pad to DLNA compliant devices on the same network. The Eee Pad also has a couple of custom widgets enabled, mainly weather, time/date and email. As I mentioned earlier, ASUS even enabled screenshot functionality from within the OS:

The Eee Pad comes pre-loaded with an Android office suite called Polaris Office. Polaris includes a document, spreadsheet, and presentation app, all of which are compatible with Microsoft Office as well as Google Docs.

If you supply your Google login credentials you can edit/save documents stored in the cloud. It's a pretty useful set of apps that work very well with the Eee Pad in docked mode as a netbook replacement. Unfortunately several bouts of instability and the fact that Polaris doesn't auto save your documents kept me from using the apps to write too much of this review.

ASUS ships the Eee Pad with a custom live wallpaper it calls MyWater. The animated background represents battery life by a rising/falling water level in a virtual glass. The water will also slosh around depending on how you hold the tablet. Unfortunately battery life is impacted by the wallpaper on the order of 4% and animated backgrounds can reduce overall system performance so I recommend disabling it.

ASUS thankfully did away with the dreadful back/home/task icons Motorola used on the Xoom. The icons in the lower left of the screen are far more legible now.

Battery Life & Performance Final Words
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  • Elrondolio - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    None of these shots are exactly close... even something as exotic as the Noktor 50 f/0.95 (in practice, a somewhat pedestrian lens up to f/2 or so) can focus in far closer than the shots, around 2". Its certainly possible these were taken north of f/2, but the bokeh on them is very nice (north of 7 blades, I'd expect). Reply
  • whiteonline - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    I don't know. Looks like a bit of post processing effects. Look at the last photo with the power cable; the focus is a horizonal line, not radial. And very sharply changes between in and out of focus. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    as he has mentioned having Nikon SLRs in the past, I checked the minimum focus distance for 50 and 85mm lenses available for Nikon at B&H. The 50s are all in the 45-50cm range, and the 85s are 85-100cm.

    Yes I would expect the lens does was designed for nice bokeh (curved aperture blades, etc)
    Reply
  • MrCromulent - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    I guess 720p and 1080p playback via HDMI won't be a problem anymore for Honeycomb tablets, will it? Reply
  • IronPalm - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    I ordered this tablet just see how well I can use flash based dashboards on it, I then saw a Xoom and was wondering if I should cancel my order.

    Compared to what I've read recently this review was done well, a refreshing change, as others have said a great review.

    Now the only thing i'm wondering is how the user experience compares to an ipad (e.g. the touch sensitivity etc). I noticed there was a bit of lag on the Xoom, but I haven't noticed that playing with display ipad's in tech stores.

    I hope this isn't a repeat of an earlier episode in my life...I wanted an iPhone, but didn't really want one, so I got one for my wife. After playing with it (to update software of course) I was impressed by the touch screen. My resistive WM 6.5 didn't cut after that. I dropped it by accident around the time when the HTC HD2 came out with it's capacitive touch screen, great I though, just what I'd been looking for. Unfortunately not all capacitive touch screens are equal.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    The iPad does have flash, to some degree:

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/10/ipad-gets-flash...

    don't know if a flash-based apps would work, though
    Reply
  • Wanderer200 - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Very nice extended review, thumbs up!

    but i was wondering about one thing:
    "The price point alone is enough to make the Eee Pad the Honeycomb tablet to get assuming you don't need integrated GPS"

    Because on the Asus website the specs say is does have GPS and in other review i saw google maps in action... so i assume is does have GPS?

    I also read about the firmware upgrade wich is downloadable right now, it fixxes some of the issues you encountered with the transformer (like the camera green screen) did you try to upgrade your firmware?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    I've corrected the review - GPS hardware is present in the Eee Pad Transformer, although some apps require that you are actively connected via WiFi in order to use GPS.

    I updated the firmware on our review sample, however there are apparently one or two more revisions left before systems go on sale next week. I should have updated software soon.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • jbh129 - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    At this point, there is no legitimate reason to buy a tablet that is not an iPad. Reply
  • eddman - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Steve, is that you? Reply

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