Back in June, Google announced that Android 3.2 would be arriving beginning this summer for Honeycomb tablets. Motorola, being Google's launch partner for Honeycomb, was first to get the update. Next on the list was ASUS and as of late last week, Eee Pad owners in the US started getting their version of Android 3.2. I updated my Eee Pad over the weekend and the process went seamlessly. As long as you've got more than 25% left on your battery you're good to go. If you haven't updated your Eee Pad since the launch you'll need two updates to get to 3.2.

The 3.2 update on the Eee Pad brings about a new splashscreen as well as a TegraZone app. TegraZone is NVIDIA's custom marketplace that leverages the Android Market. TegraZone is used exclusively for games that are optimized for NVIDIA's Tegra 2 SoC.

The update itself is relatively minor from a feature standpoint. The version notes help explain the changes:

  • Optimizations for a wider range of tablets

    Android 3.2 includes a variety of optimizations across the system to ensure a great user experience on a wider range of tablet devices.

  • Compatibility zoom for fixed-sized apps

    Android 3.2 introduces a new compatibility zoom mode that gives users a new way to view fixed-sized apps on larger devices. The new mode provides a pixel-scaled alternative to the standard UI stretching for apps that are not designed to run on larger screen sizes, such as on tablets. The new mode is accessible to users from a menu icon in the system bar, for apps that need compatibility support.

  • Media sync from SD card

    On devices that support an SD card, users can now load media files directly from the SD card to apps that use them. A system facility makes the files accessible to apps from the system media store.

The first point is rather vague but the big news is of course the second point on the list. Modern Android smartphones run at one of three native resolutions: 800 x 480, 854 x 480 or 960 x 540. Honeycomb tablets on the other hand all run at 1280 x 800. What happens when you run an app optimized for the display resolution of an Android smartphone on a Honeycomb tablet? Many apps just expand to fit the screen. If they were optimized for one of the aforementioned resolutions, they just stretch by adding more horizontal/vertical resolution until they occupy the entire viewport. Here's an example using the SystemPanel app, an AnandTech favorite:

To the left we have SystemPanel running at 800 x 480 on an Android smartphone, and to the right we have it running at 1280 x 800 on the Eee Pad Transformer. The UI just scales up. Now take a look at the Speedtest app:

It doesn't scale up, it's hard coded to an 800 x 480 resolution and appears as such in the center of our Eee Pad. Android 3.2 addresses this very problem with its compatibility zoom feature:

Here's the same Speedtest app but with the zoom control set to...zoom:

If you click to enlarge the image above you'll see it's not particularly pretty (interpolated scaling rarely is) but it does completely fill the screen.

Performance
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  • oliwek - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    you should try to install and use Wifi analyzer : https://market.android.com/details?id=com.farproc.... Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Anand, why didn't you bring to light the other 'new' issues that the 3.2 update has brought with it? The wifi connect/disconnect issue (randomly losing your connection) which can only be fixed at the moment by setting a static IP for your tablet.

    Also, what about the 'default application' issue? Say you have multiple media players installed (Diceplayer, Rockplayer, Moboplayer, and stock player). Try to open up a video through the file browser. You will notice the screen dim, but no 'default application' choice window pop up, correct? Now rotate your tablet 90 degrees, and then back 90 degrees, and suddenly it's back. Why? Better yet, after you set a default application, reboot your tablet and repeat the above. You'll see it hasn't saved the default application!

    I'm also concerned that you haven't really reported on video playback at this point. I really would think that this should become a standard test for tablets. More importantly, try playing back a 720P high profile video with any video player (besides Diceplayer). You will notice that you get no audio and very choppy video. Now download Diceplayer (there's a trial version available) and play the same video. You get good video (as long as you play from the internal memory, or a high speed SDCard, my class 6 card couldn't do it) and audio (even if it's encoded in AC3 or Dolby Digital). I find it slightly disturbing that even the stock video player can't do this, yet a developer's player can.

    Lastly, and while this is rather unique to the Asus Transformer, you might want to keep in mind that at this point, I think it's the only tablet that you can install a full version of Ubuntu onto the tablet and essentially get a notebook out of it, even more so if you have the dock. This is a rather unique feature (while unsupported by Asus though). I think it's something that should atleast be mentioned.
    Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Completely agree about video, it should be a standard test on all tablet reviews and maybe even OS updates like this, atleast with big updates. And not just for Android but any tablet or OS.

    I'd also like to see how tablets handle all kinds of video formats, plus codec performance, and include things they cannot play at all. Maybe even image quality tests if possible, or atleast a mention of it thats done with your own eyes if theres nothing out there yet to test video image quality on the OS.

    And... it would also be great to see image quality tests with the the GPU regarding 3D rendering. Something like you often get with AMD or Nvidia card reviews. Again If possible.

    When Android Ice Cream comes out then iOS 5 should also be out, and it would be really great to see a highly detailed article comparing them both and all the things mentioned above.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    We talked about video playback in the initial Honeycomb reviews. Tegra 2 doesn't officially support High Profile H.264 which is why there are issues with the stock video player.

    I actually hadn't run into the default app issue because I haven't played with some of the other media players, I'll start doing that now though :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Great!

    I really suggest looking at Diceplayer though. I'm not sure how the dev does it, but somehow they manage to get 720P high profile to work on the tablet. This is the only media player I've found that can pull this off so far.
    Reply
  • jaysns - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Does it make the interface seem any quicker at first glance or apps load a little quicker? I know this isn't a full blown review but any initial responses on this would be appreciated if you could. Thank you. :) Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Honestly, I haven't noticed a huge difference. It's about the same as it was in the stock 3.1. There are tweaks to improve the performance, but from a purely stock perspective, nothing really has changed, sadly. I'd like to see some kind of general improvement in the UI and it's feel. That's about the only thing that I can say I feel IOS in general has gotten right. Their UI does not feel slow at all. Reply
  • IKeelU - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    There's only 1 thing that really jumps out at me in those graphs: the iPad2 is fast as hell. Android is nice, but for gpu prowess, there's really no competition it seems. Reply
  • darkhawk1980 - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    Go back and read the Ipad2 previews. Another thing to bear in mind, Ipad 2 runs at 1024 x 768 compared to 1280x800. Less pixels means less processing which means higher FPS (which stupidly, is what those graphs show....how about comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges?).

    Also bear in mind, the Ipad 2 is using the SGX543MP2. When the TI OMAP 4 4470 hits, it will seem slow in all respects. Granted Tegra 2 can't compete as well, but for Tegra 2 being NVidia's first real SOC, it's not surprising.
    Reply
  • Miggleness - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    If you do the math though, the Transformer has 24.4% more pixels than the ipad2. Add that many FPS to the transformer, the Ipad2 still beats it by a good margin. Of course, the amount of pixels being processed and gain in fps aren't directly proportional. Hope to see new hardware soon!

    Good to read that android updates are happening more frequently across different manufacturers as compared to last year.
    Reply

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