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Summary:

Motorola’s Xoom tablet, the first with Google Android 3.0, arrives in stores tomorrow, but our review unit appeared today. Here’s an overview of the hardware, software and first hands on thoughts after just a few hours of use: Xoom has some hits and a few misses.

xoom-featured

The Motorola Xoom arrives in Verizon stores tomorrow, marking the first time a Google Honeycomb tablet will be available to customers. Some may grumble about the $799 price — or $599 with a 2-year contract — but the bigger question is: What do you get for your money? A Xoom review unit arrived a short while ago, so hopefully this video will begin to help you answer that question. I’ve only used the Xoom for an hour, so the first half of the video is a walk-through of the device hardware — along with a size comparison with Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab — and then a quick look at Google Android 3.0, apps and the Honeycomb interface.

After shooting the video, I spent more time using Motorola’s new tablet and have these additional first impressions to share:

Hardware Thoughts

  • As I pointed out in the video, I’m not a fan of the very small volume buttons, or the power adapter jack. The buttons I can live with, but the power brick really should be using a micro-USB interface in lieu of a proprietary end.
  • The back of the tablet is slightly rubberized and offers more rounded corners than found on the iPad: a good thing to my hands. The only sharp edges are around the display.
  • I wonder if some will find the bezel too thin. Even my small fingers only just fit and on a few occasions, I’ve unintentionally tapped the screen when I thought I was touching the bezel.
  • For the most part, the touch experience is good. Not quite “iPad good,” but still quite effective.
  • Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core processor seems up to the task of powering the Xoom, but after a few apps were running, I did see some lag here and there.
  • I do like the dock, but feel it’s angled too sharply. Perhaps that’s just a personal preference, but the image gallery shows a comparison between the Xoom dock and the iPad dock.
  • There’s a small LED notification light in the top of the right bezel, which is a great touch.
  • The power button in the back seems out-of-place to me, and if the tablet is lying down on a table — how I sometimes read Kindle books — you have to pick up the device to wake it.
 

Software Hits and Misses

  • Honeycomb still has bugs to be worked out. Aside from some third-party apps crashing, the Android Market has crashed on me twice in a short time. And after Facebook crashed, the Facebook widget became completely non-responsive.
  • The redesigned core Google apps are nice, but still could use a tweak here or there. The small calendar text I mentioned in the video, for example, is difficult to read.
  • Gmail is really solid and well done. I may actually like it more than the Gmail web client on desktops and laptops, although I’d like to see a unified inbox for multiple Google accounts — something Android for smartphones doesn’t yet offer either. Support for Priority Inbox is present.
  • Even on Wi-Fi, the Google Talk video chat isn’t as nice as Apple’s FaceTime. Video wasn’t as crisp, and there were occasional audio hiccups. And when I rotated the device to portrait mode, my image didn’t appear correctly to my caller. See the example picture in the gallery below.
  • Current Android apps aren’t all suited for the big screen. The size of icons in Facebook, for example, appear to be the same size used on my Android smartphone, leaving vast amounts of empty space. It’s going to take time before true tablet apps appear on Honeycomb. Even Angry Birds looks a little blocky up close at the moment.
  • Google Maps is a stellar experience on the Xoom, especially with the 3-D view.
  • Notifications are excellent, and competitors should take note.
  • The Honeycomb keyboard works well, as does the cut/copy/paste functionality first seen in Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).
  • I absolutely love how my Google Chrome bookmarks from my various computers can be synchronized with the browser in Honeycomb.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Gartenberg, jkOnTheRun, Kevin C. Tofel, Kevin C. Tofel, GigaOM EcoHub and others. GigaOM EcoHub said: Motorola Xoom With Honeycomb: A First Look Video: Motorola's Xoom tablet, the first with Google Android 3.0, arr… http://bit.ly/h8X9IH [...]

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  2. Holy hell, $800?! If you want something that expensive that won’t fit in your pocket and therefore spend most of it’s time at home doing nothing, why not get an iPad…last year?

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    1. A 32GB iPad with 3G runs about $730. Without the 3G, the iPad runs $600, which is what the WiFi-only Xoom is also theorized to cost. Historically, Apple has preferred to add in better components rather than commit to any large price drops. There are legitimate arguments for not getting a Xoom yet, the main one being that in very short order we’ll see what Apple has in store. However, “OMG it’s $800!” isn’t really one of them.

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      1. “However, “OMG it’s $800!” isn’t really one of them.”

        Actually, price or perceived value is a legitimate argument for many. Fortunately, like the Samsung Tab, I expect the price will plumet over the next few months as Moto/VZW won’t find the market they were hoping for.

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  3. I think in regards to hardware there is definitely an improvement, but it will be the balance of both hardware and software will ultimately decide whether Honeycomb becomes successful in the open market. I guess we just have to wait and see whether people will go with third category device after the initial buzz wears off. Because ultimately it boil downs to few key factors such as usability and “whatha the hell do I do with this after I finish reading emails and browsing the web”! But I’m sure they will sell ton of these before the market gets saturated.

    // Have few minutes to spare? help out a student with his dissertation survey! I’m researching why people prefer specific brand of smartphone (Android/iPhone/RIM/Nokia)? Here is the link http://bit.ly/flmLq6 Thank you; I truly appreciate your time and effort!

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  4. Do you get to keep review units after you’ve reviewed them? How exactly does that process work?

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    1. Nope, we get review units to “use” for a period generally ranging from 2 weeks to 30 days. I like to follow writers to see what they end up purchasing with their own money as that is a decent indication of what devices really are good, at least for their usage needs.

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      1. That’s one of the reasons that I like listening to your podcast — it’s nearly all “what we bought with our own money” type recommendations which I believe is the purest form of review.

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  5. Wow…..the Xoom totally dwarfs the Galaxy Tab. I was considering returning the GTab for a little while to get the xoom, but the size difference is making me extremely hesitant. If I couldn’t take the weight of the ipad, can’t see dealing with the Xoom.

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  6. tried the full system encryption yet?

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    1. I did not, but I have read that it takes around 50 minutes for the device to encrypt. I can kick it off right now to verify – will update if I see any significant time difference.

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      1. This has the potential to be a huge advantage for Google. Really curious about their implementation & if it will be available on all HoneyComb hardware. I wonder if it’s true system encryption, like say TrueCrypt is too Windows PC’s.

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  7. Great review. But there is a bunch of “cons”. I hope more “pros”. The software looks quite unstable. I owned and tried the Galaxy Tab and android 2.2 was more stable, right? And the problem is if this Honeycomb is not stable and iPad2 is comming within weeks the “first hit” advantage will be for nothing. I mean they lost their opportunity to make market share while waitting for the iPad2.

    Now… will see what thenew kid in town (a.k.a. WebOS TouchPad) has to show us.

    This Honeycomb/Xoom review left me a bitter taste anyway. Not your fault man, it’s Google fault.

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  8. Can you connect an external hard drive through the Xoom’s USB port?

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  9. Thanks for the XOOM review. Nice job.
    My only issue with this and other tablets soon to be on the market is how the carriers impact the experience. They are collectively putting these things out of reach of consumers. With all the bloatware and value added taxes they apply such as selling you a separate key in order to use wifi, they are making the ipad choice easy.

    Beyond that, what part of the game says I buy this untested device now, and send it back within 6 months of purchase, I’m without it for 6 – 8 weeks for the sole purpose of completing work on the damn thing? Things tend to break in the first 6 months and there is no carrier responsibility should this happen. This is the same crap Microsoft pulled with Windows Vista. They bumped up against a shipping deadline, pushed it out to market and hoped the fixes would save them. Wrong. It won’t work here either. Especially at these prices.
    This to me are a non starter. This is one jucked up money grab if you ask me and in effect is pushing me away from the Android “open source” experience.

    I never wanted to own an ipad but I want a tablet. These carrier taxes as well as the exorbitant prices they want for what is a first gen UNFINISHED device and a brand new, untested OS with almost NO applications developed for it. This is simply too foolish for words.
    I’ve decided I won’t pay to be tied to a carrier for the next 2 years nor will I pay what is the retail price.
    At this point it looks like there will be an Ipad in my future, not the XOOM or my first choice the Blackberry Playbook. At least not this year anyway.
    I’m hot and I hope I made sense.
    Good looks with the video review Kevin. Thanks.

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  10. As soon as I saw:

    1. The power adapter was not standard MicroUSB
    2. The nasty look of Facebook and Twitter (non tablet optimized)

    I said no way.

    Do you know if Verizon is allowing you to tether to this via WiFi for no additional fee or plan? They allow it on the Galaxy Tab which I find to be my primary justification for buying a tablet — as I’m able to also use it as a hotspot (up to my monthly data allotment) on a $35 / mo prepaid plan.

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    1. Wayne, the Portable Wi-Fi hotspot function is there and I’ve used it. I don’t see any mention of additional cost to use it. I too use this feature on my Galaxy Tab and Nexus One (both with T-Mobile) at no extra charge and it’s outstanding to have in a device.

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