The Technical Specs
The Xoom comes with an impressive set of specs. However, these specs will be pretty similar in a lot of new Android tablets reaching the market this year. Android's first tablet specific version of the OS, Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb) requires a dual-core processor, and most will also take advantage of Nvidia's Tegra 2 with hardware acceleration for Flash.
- A multi-touch screen display 10 inches and 1280x800 resolution
- Two cameras - a two megapixel front-facing camera for video chat and a five megapixel rear camera with flash and 720p HD video recording capability.
- 32 gigs of internal storage, which can be expanded by SD card (after an upgrade that isn't available at the time of this review.)
- Dual processor (1 gig each) and 1 gig of internal RAM
- Wi-Fi and 3G data access, which can be upgraded to 4G (the 4G upgrade is also unavailable as of this review.) It's also capable of creating a personal hotspot (although extra charges may apply.)
- Support for Adobe Flash (the dual core processor used by the Xoom is optimized for faster Flash playback.) However, Adobe hasn't released Flash for Honeycomb at the time of this review. It's anticipated to be out within a few weeks.
The Xoom in Action
The Xoom itself is light enough to hold in one hand, but heavy enough to feel substantial. The size is about right for viewing content, and the screen is very responsive. It still feels like a device that needs a case, however, and the slight difference in form factor between it and an iPad means you'll need to find a Xoom-specific accessory.
The dual processor serves the tablet well, and it zips through tasks very quickly without many locks or freezes. It handles multi-tasking like a breeze.
As mentioned earlier, Android Honeycomb was designed for tablets. It was well thought-out, and it really feels like a tablet interface that will make Android users happy. An extra bonus is that when you sign in with your Google Account, you'll start syncing most of your downloaded apps, so you won't have to go searching for those apps you've been using all along. That said, there's still a bit of a learning curve for Android phone users as they learn new gestures and button locations for Honeycomb.
Honeycomb provides a fantastic Web experience with a full tabbed Chrome experience. There are still a few quirks, such as websites that serve the mobile version instead of the full version of sites, but in many cases you may find that the apps you were using can be better replaced by simply using the website. Honeycomb also introduced a clever way to touch the side of the screen and get back, forward, refresh, and bookmark options to appear when you need them and stay out of the way when you don't.
Widgets in Honeycomb are more interactive and useful than their smaller phone cousins. You can check email, calendar dates, news items, Twitter feeds, and grocery lists without ever needing to launch the full app. Your old Android mobile widgets will still work, too.
Books, Blogs, and Email
Google integrated Google Books into the app store on Android Honeycomb tablets. Tap on the Google Market app and then switch between the Books or Apps tabs. The Google Books app itself was optimized for tablet reading as well. It still lacks annotation and highlight features found in the Kindle app, but the joy of using an open device is that you are not limited to only one bookstore and one book reading app.
Google Books allows you to read content either online or download it to your device. This is handy if you've got a huge library and would prefer to keep it online, but it means sometimes it takes a while to load book content from flaky connections.
Google Reader is more useful on a Xoom. The RSS feed reader has been optimized for tablets. The interface is easy to navigate from the thumb on your right hand while holding the tablet. Blogger and Wordpress also have apps you can use to enter content, although typing on a screen is still a bit awkward, even if it's an improvement on phone typing. Motorola sells an optional $70 keyboard for the dedicated typist, although I have not tried it out at this point.
Gmail, Email, and Google Calendar are tablet optimized and work very well. I had no problem receiving Exchange email, and it was easy to see and make appointments. Google Tasks inexplicably has not made the transition to tablets. You can either bookmark the website or download a third party app like Gtasks.