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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  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    "Give me some more (or faster) cores and an OS even better suited for notebook duty and the line between a tablet and a netbook becomes quite blurry. "

    See above, Asus EP121 (Then again, the battery life isn't that great)
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    We've actually been begging ASUS for a review sample of one for a while now, let me try again :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • ludikraut - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah, you guys definitely should get one. I've had mine for a little over a month now, and my wife's iPad has been collecting dust ever since. Apart from battery life, it outclasses, outperforms, and outdoes the iPad in every way.

    l8r)
    Reply
  • joe_dude - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    On the road, is the Transformer good enough to replace both an iPad and a laptop?

    Hmmm... article posted at 4:00 am. Late night for Anand! ;)
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    depends what you do on the laptop. Also, the fact that it still crashes for no apparent reason, and reboots spontaneously, would make me so no. Not yet. Reply
  • Matchstick - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    I have a Wifi-only version of the transformer here and it definitely does have GPS support

    http://img840.imageshack.us/i/screenshotredacted.j...
    Reply
  • SimKill - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Anand,

    I noticed in this review that you found plenty of bugs, and flaws in the Eee Pad, which could have easily been found on the QA stage. Do you think the eeepad is still not ready to market or do you think Asus is just using reviewers as another layer of QA testers?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Let me see how the tablet and dock behave with final firmware. The problem is everyone is trying desperately to push hardware out asap to avoid missing key points in the buying cycle.

    I believe the unit/firmware/software combination I have today isn't ready for prime time. Apparently there are updates less than a week away that would fix that - if that's indeed the case, then ASUS just rushed the launch for PR reasons.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    "I always remember what AMD's Eric Demers once told me: the best way to lose a fight is to not show up."

    Shame AMD has not made a showing in the ultra-mobile space. Be it cell phone or tablet. They are just now getting into the netbook space just as its dieing off.

    But back on topic, I have been waiting for a device like this. And I look forward to them maturing into a complete replacement for the netbooks we have now.
    Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Thursday, April 21, 2011 - link

    Not exactly.

    There's Acer Iconia Tab W500 with AMD C-50 APU built in. I bought one as soon as it's available in U.S. The hardware is excellent; the two x86 cores and Radeon HD6250 GPU shames Tegra 2. It can play Star Craft 2, something beyond the capability of Eee Pad, iPad or whatever pad you come up with. Windows 7 user experience isn't that bad--especially web browsing. IE9 is faster and more compatible and supports HD Flash playback. You can basically use it just as you use any laptop.

    Battery life is definitely an issue here. But that has been exaggerated by media. This thing comes with a 28Whr 3-cell battery and it lasts as long as 6 hrs in Wi-Fi browsing, or 4 hrs 1080p HD videoplayback/3 hrs 3D Gaming. That's not impressive because C-50 has a 5W TDP. Also it weighs 900g, making it not very portable.The biggest problem with this tablet is very poor build quality, not surprising because it's an Acer. It comes with a keyboard dock (included in $550 price), but the keyboard is a disaster.

    AMD not showing up in the game? Negative! APU makes a lot of sense in tablets, but current generation Ontario isn't ready yet. It offers higher performance, but the power consumption is still a serious issue. W500 is the only tablet with AMD processor and Win7 this year but I guess with Win8, Wichita APU (3W TDP) and Next-Gen Atom joining in, life will become harder for ARM based tablets with Honeycomb.
    Reply

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