Finally, right? After almost a month with the device, we’re ready to put together our thoughts on the Motorola XOOM, the world’s first Honeycomb tablet. This tablet deserved a lot more than those quickie 2-day press reviews we saw around launch time, especially since it introduced the world to a new tablet operating system. Or should I say, the only tablet operating system? We didn’t want this to come off as one of those barely-there overviews, so instead, we took our sweet time with it. We really wanted to blend the XOOM into our every day lives and see if it could keep up. Did it? Let’s find out.
- Honeycomb: Other tech sites want to hate all over Honeycomb as a product that doesn’t feel finished, but I’m going to praise it for what it is. The only real tablet operating system. This isn’t a phone OS that was stretched out to fit a bigger screen. This isn’t an app jukebox. It’s the real deal for tablets. If you want your tablet to run like a computer with multi-tasking and widgets, only in a slim-downed portable device, then a Honeycomb device is what you should be looking for. Sure it has bugs; it’s brand new! The bugs will be gone in no time, we’ll have plenty of apps to play with in the next 3-4 months, and life with an Android product in hand will just continue to get better. This is the Android team showing the world that it really is going to change the way your mobile devices work. They aren’t just taking something elastic and stretching it.
- Specs: Hard to argue with the specs on the XOOM. Dual-core processor, front and back cameras at 5MP and 2MP, 4G LTE (soon), 1GB of RAM, 32GB built-in storage, 10″ HD display, HDMI and USB ports, dual-speakers, and expandable storage. There is nothing like it on the market right now.
- Tablet Apps: There may not be 65,000 of them, but the ones we do have are pretty damn good, especially the Google apps like Gmail, the browser, Books, and Gtalk. The good news is, we’re seeing new apps on a daily basis, so by the time you finish reading this review you’ll probably have something new to download and play with.
- Flash: Flash 10.2 for Honeycomb will be out by Friday and then all of the haters in the world can shut the hell up. Yep, with the Motorola XOOM or any other Android tablet, you can view the entire web just as you would on a PC. In a “post PC” world, you’d think that you would want to experience everything the same only on a portable device. Android tablets like the XOOM are currently the only ones allowing you to do that.
- Front Camera and Google Talk: The 2MP camera on the front of the XOOM works better than I expected and paired with the new Google Talk, this is the best video chatting experience you’ll find almost anywhere. In fact, it’s worked every single time I’ve used it and without issue. Sound quality was above average, the picture quality was better than expected, and not once did I lose connection with my other participant.
- Battery Life: Hello battery life. With the XOOM, you’ll get 10-12 hours of hard usage and a lot longer than that on standby. I can’t tell you if it’s a couple of days or a week, but the battery has never been an issue at any time over the last 3 weeks. Charging without USB is a little bit of an annoyance, but it’s not going to be a factor in deciding whether or not you should buy one.
- Video Recording: The quality of video on the XOOM isn’t all that bad. In fact I’d say it does a better job of recording video than it does taking still shots. At 720p, this isn’t going to blow your mind, but it’s still better than most smartphones can do at this point.
- Gaming: Hard to express the amount of fun it is to game on a device this powerful. I’ve played a ton of different games so far on the XOOM and all of them play as well as you would expect them too. We have a whole gaming demo video below which shows just how nice this device is for gaming on.
- Ports: This could probably fit into the “Specs” section, but we still wanted to mention that we appreciate having separate charging, USB, and HDMI ports.
- Build: Standard Motorola quality which is a good thing. While the device is definitely heavy, this thing is built like a rock. There are no moving or shaking parts and the all-black finish matches up to the rest of Moto’s mobile lineup. Loving the look of the XOOM.
- 3G Coverage: This is an odd subject to review, but I had to mention this. I don’t know if they packed in a super-powered 3G radio into this thing or what, but I seriously get coverage everywhere. While cruising up and down I-5 a couple of weeks ago, I was struggling to make a call on my DROID X, but the XOOM always seemed to have 3-4 bars at all times. I know that many of you purchased the device and will use wifi only, but the 3G is no slouch if you are a big time traveler.
- Still Camera Shots: The video on the XOOM is pretty solid in the quality department, however, the still shots aren’t where you’d expect them to be. It’s a 5MP camera that does a so-so job at best. While I’m no camera guru, I still expected much cleaner results.
- Weight: The XOOM is one heavy beast. Not sure which piece of hardware is to blame, but this thing is far from a one-handed device. At 730g, it’s heavier than any other major tablet on the planet, and that’s without it’s 4G parts.
- Lack of Apps: Honeycomb is new, so it’s tough to be too critical in this category, but it has to be mentioned. Until developers start pumping out Android tablet-specific apps like they are for smartphones, it’s going to be a tough battle. And if they are doing this already, then we need to be able to find them better. The Android team is starting to do a better job of highlighting the good ones, but we really need a filter for apps that are built for tablets. You shouldn’t be worried about the lack of apps though. Apple dealt with this last year when the iPad first launched and they are doing just fine.
- Software Bugs: People keep talking about Honeycomb as an unfinished product. That’s not really fair. Sure, it has bugs, but this is the first real tablet operating system. As much as other companies want to tell you that they have one, they are lying. Google started from nothing and built an operating system that won’t be used on phones ever. It was made to give you the ultimate tablet experience and it will definitely be there. It’s just not yet. Although, the 3.0.1 update that came out sure seemed to fix a lot of stability issues.
- Fingerprints: Rubbing off fingerprints has become a daily chore with my XOOM. And I’m talking with a cloth, some heavy breathing and elbow grease. This thing attracts prints like nothing I’ve ever used before.
- Price: It’s overpriced. There is no denying that. For Motorola to sell an unfinished product for $799, it’s impossible for me to run around saying, “The price is just right!” If this launched with Flash, the SD card slot working and 4G LTE, then we might have a different story.
- Unfinished: As I just mentioned above in price, this product was clearly pushed to stores to beat the iPad 2. It’s unfinished and that’s annoying. When you are looking to enter a market that’s dominated by a product known for being of the highest quality, you probably shouldn’t release one 3 months ahead of schedule knowing that it’s missing some key features. People don’t care what your device can do in the future; they want to know what it can do for them now.
- Honeycomb: Honeycomb, just works. Being that I use my mobile devices to look for news-worthy rather than a computer, I need a device to not be a hindrance for me or it is just not worth it. The UI is smooth and standard Android fare with a fresh look and a few new tricks. One of the most noticeable things are the scrolling widgets. The lack of physical or capacitive buttons is a little strange at first but is not hard to overcome, so people new to android should have no problems getting around. I can have all my information on one screen. (Finally!) Overall this is a great start to the future of tablets and I hope that other manufacturers take note of the XOOM and work on improving upon it.
- Build: Motorola is known for great build quality. This holds true for the XOOM as well, except for one minor thing in my opinion, the charging port. I would recommend getting the dock for charging. The power and volume buttons feel solid and should hold up for quite a long time. The front glass also feels great and wipes clean easily. The rear and front cameras work well; I’ve had no issues with them.
- Kids/Autism/Ease of Use: OK, so I have this great tablet in a house full of kids; sooner or later my kids will want some time with “Dad’s” new toy. Now, my oldest son has autism and albeit he is highly functional, it is hard for him to express himself socially and sometimes in writing. Enter the XOOM. He sat down with it and was instantly wanting to know what it could do. We downloaded some apps and let him get used to using it. The XOOM kept him focused and with the ability to correct any mistakes he may have thought he made, it reduced the stress level for him. This is a big thing for kids with autism regardless of what app. Whether it be a note taking app or an art application, seeing his eyes light up and having the ability to understand what he is trying to convey brought tears to my eyes. Most any tablet should be able to help with the above mentioned things, but the XOOM did so without any annoying hiccups or limitations.
Gaming on the XOOM:
The hardest part of this review…should you buy one or not? There really is no straight forward answer for that. Is this one hell of a powerful device that I’ve enjoyed every second of? Yes. Does it accomplish everything that I expected it to? Yep. Has it replaced my laptop at times? Definitely. Will it continue to be a part of my everyday life for the foreseeable future? Indeed it will. But is it annoying that I paid $799 for a device that isn’t finished? You betcha.
The tablet world is an odd one. This really is a “luxury” item. It’s not like anyone really needs a tablet, but I’m not going to lie; it sure is nice to have one handy when you are traveling or even just relaxing at home away from your office. With the XOOM, you get a solid product, but it’s also one that isn’t 100% done yet. So as a “luxury” item, it’s sort of hard for me to scream “Go get one now!” We’re still waiting for Flash (which will be here Friday), we’re waiting for 4G LTE, and we’re waiting for SD card storage. We’re also waiting for Honeycomb to really hit its stride and show us all exactly what it can do.
I don’t want to say that the XOOM and Honeycomb together are a half-baked or beta product like many others have said, but it’s definitely one that early adopters will love and novice users may get frustrated with at times. It’s the first attempt in a long line of products. If you are expecting it to be perfect out of the gate, you might be disappointed. If you are expecting to watch the product evolve and get better and better over its first few months, then you will definitely enjoy it.