Motorola Xoom With Honeycomb: A First Look Video

The Motorola Xoom (s mmi) arrives in Verizon (s vz) stores tomorrow, marking the first time a Google Honeycomb (s goog) 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 (s aapl) 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 (s nvda) 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 (s amzn) 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.

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