The Motorola Xoom is a stunning device and is easily the best tablet experience available. Although not the first Android tablet, the Xoom is the first to be designed from top to bottom, hardware to software in order to deliver the ultimate expression of Google’s tablet Android experience. The previews and brief glimpses of Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb) and the Holographic UI, though impressive, do not convey how much the experience is unified and intuitive at almost every level.
From a hardware perspective the Xoom has the best available internals starting with dual core 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 at its heart. Keeping the heart supplied are the 1 GB of DDR2 RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. It has a microSD slot for extra storage but this feature is not yet active in Honeycomb. This tablet has what it takes to be multimedia powerhouse. For creating content it features a rear 5 megapixel camera with dual LED flash and can shoot 720p HD video and a front facing camera for video chatting or just checking yourself out. It has the connectivity and movement suite of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, an accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope and even a barometer.
The internals are wrapped in a matte black or silver soft touch exterior that looks understated but appealing. It features a mini-HDMI port, micro USB, and a small dual pin dock connector and a power connector as it cannot be powered by USB. It also features a volume rocker and 2 rear speakers. With no buttons present the focus is placed solely on the crisp 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 display surrounded by 2 LED notification lights and the front camera.
In hand it appears similar in size to the iPad though wider and slightly thinner. However the Xoom feels like a more solid device with its slightly higher weight of 1.6 lb versus the iPad’s 1.4 lb.
The dual core Tegra 2 inside the Xoom provided stellar performance and most tasks took seconds. It best the iPad in both web rendering and scrolling. There was some slow down when a number of apps were running at the same time, but overall it is a truly speedy tablet. Performance should only be enhanced when Google has had more time with the OS and releases future updates as is the case with the phone OS.
Whether browsing YouTube videos, the web, or playing games the 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 was crisp and natural. The responsiveness was another strong point for the Xoom but it was a magnet for fingerprints so be prepared to be wiping it clean ever so often.
Brightness was fine when adjusted manually but, when set to automatic it tended to be a little dark in the majority of scenarios. Which is something Motorola hopefully fixes with a firmware update.
The speakers on the rear of the device were adequate but nothing to write home about, while headphone quality was on par with similar devices. The optional media dock provided the extra volume and quality needed to use this as an out-loud media device.
Although it is necessary to have a camera on mobile devices nowadays it still feels awkward taking pictures on such a large device. The positive is you also get to view your content on the large display. The 5 megapixel camera is adequate and compares to the Atrix in terms of pictures and video quality was above average.
The front-facing camera is standard issue and will do the job when using Google’s new version of Google talk present in Honeycomb.
The big story here is Honeycomb’s new camera interface which is a major improvement. It has a great deal of control options and settings and with the proper tweaking we are sure you could take some excellent photos.
The real story behind the Xoom is Android 3.0 Honeycomb and it is a reinvention of the platform specifically for tablets. The UI in look, feel, and interaction has been heavily reworked and improved. The overall impression is one of a unified visions. More so than in other Android version it feels like the team really worked to put the OS together all of the elements are cohesive and it feels much more natural and intuitive.
That stated it will take some time to get fully acquainted with the OS but it will be an easier process then learning the ins and outs of the phone version.
The above shot is the menu you get when pressing the + in the top right corner of your home screen. The five home screens are still present, with an added bonus of a dedicated visual layout mode. It allows you to preview your screens along with your available widgets and shortcuts all at once. This makes the customization process much easier by using this streamlined interface element.
The above screen is another part of the customization panel the things to notice are the three outlined icons to the right of the screen. This element takes place in other menus also where there are more icons to either side and is a new visual element letting you know that more options are available.
This is your normal home layout and with the hard buttons gone in Honeycomb you have an always present System Bar along bottom. To the left you have the back, home, and open application buttons and to the right is the clock and notification section.
Along top is the always present Google search on the left and your App drawer along with the + button mentioned earlier that brings you to the home screen customization panel. The good thing is they rotate along with the rotation from landscape to portrait mode.
The Recent App button on the system bar displays a visual preview of the state of the app when you left it. This eliminates the need to continually cycle through the back button. This addition is one that directly improves your multitasking ability.
Android 3.0 is designed to be the most usable tablet interface in the market, and touches like this build on Android’s core strength of true multitasking.
The notifications have been enhanced to make use of the increased screen real estate they now contain pictures and media like music contain widget like abilities allowing for useful controls without using any permanent screen space. you also have quick access to all your most used settings always available.
This is the new keyboard showing an example of the Google search found up top. This is a necessary addition as its not simply a matter of porting the keyboard to a larger screen. The ergonomics are completely different. Expect to see third-party attempts to accompany the stock keyboard, just as we have currently.
Gmail is obviously one of the things that the Android platform is best at with this new version it seems better even than desktop version. With the use of separate intractable pains that Google calls “Fragments” you can jump from emails and contacts to messages seamlessly.
The new browser has also been greatly enhanced and has adopted many of the features available in Google Chrome. The new features include tabbed browsing and incognito mode. In addition to that you now have the ability to have the browser automatically sign you in to any site that has Google sign-in ability. If you have the Chrome desktop browser, you can now also have your bookmarks automatically synced to your Honeycomb device.
The browser is now designed for viewing the desktop version of websites instead of cut-down mobile versions. Java and Flash apps have now gained multitouch support. Overall you can expect an experience that is almost identical to that of a desktop computer’s Chrome Browser.
The same 3D enhancements present throughout the UI have been brought over to the music app as well. The complete App suite has taken on this approach and the Holographic UI gives a unified experience across the board, while also giving a major incentive for app developers to maintain that experience.
The new YouTube app in Honeycomb is actually an improvement over the desktop experience. There seems to be a trend forming within the Google apps as the Gmail app is also an improvement over its desktop counterpart.
The new UI launches into a 3D carousel that shows popular videos that can easily be scrolled through with seamless loading. All of the features are present, from commenting to related content, it’s a complete experience. The home screen widget is just as impressive, allowing you to scroll through popular videos or through your subscribed content.
The Movie Studio app is a new addition to Android and is a welcome addition. It did function properly and had an adequate number of options and settings. Although it does feel like a first generation attempt and should receive better performance as it get updated and revisited.
The Xoom will run you $599 on a two-year contract or $799 for the standalone price. You have the option to choose a 3G data plan or opt for Verizon’s 4G LTE network. It will ship with purely 3G data but the upgrade to 4G will be free for all Xoom owners with data pricing being the only concern on which option you choose.
The larger data plans will set you back $35 a month for 3 GB, $50 a month for 5 GB, and $80 a month for 10 GB. However there is still no word on LTE pricing, at this time.
4G LTE Upgrade
The upgrade is free as was advertised and it will arrive 90 days after launch, think May if you’re holding out. The bad news is that you will have to send your device to Motorola for the speedy upgrade and will be without the device for 6 days. The upgrade will be available for 6 months from roll-out. While not shipping initially with LTE is a negative, it is a free upgrade and you can still use Wi-Fi and 3G in the meantime.
There you have it: a detailed review of the Motorola Xoom and of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. There are countless improvements in this new approach to Android and to the tablet market as a whole. This is the way tablet computing should be and this should put all the other tablet software designers on notice that Google is coming with something that has capabilities beyond anything on the market. They have taken great care in their design of the UI and kept to their promise of eliminating the need for manufacturers to create their own UI.
The Xoom features an unlocked boot loader which is a shift for Motorola. This is great news because this being the first Android tablet offers a pure Google experience and will be the desired option for developers looking to make tablet optimized apps. The whole package comes together nicely pricing will be the determining factor for most. What do you guys think of the Xoom, is this the tablet you thought Google would release? It is officially available today will you be getting one?