Pictures and Movies
Movie playback was limited at this point by the delayed Flash player, but YouTube videos played back smoothly. One very slick feature of the tablet is a built-in movie editing app. It's not Final Cut Studio, but you can edit together clips you've filmed from your tablet, add transitions, and upload the finished movie to YouTube or share on another site. This is a video blogger's best friend.
The Xoom can connect to TVs using an HDMI cable or optional dock, though at this point that's only useful for showing home movies.
The camera app on the Xoom is easy to use and mostly familiar for Android users. You can easily switch between front and rear facing cameras and control flash and effects pretty easily. The images aren't terrible, but they're certainly not SLR quality. This is adequate for taking a quick snapshot.
The front-facing video camera works very well with Google Talk. The advantage of Google Talk over Apple's FaceTime is that Google Talk is both free and multi-platform. You can chat with friends on laptops by having them log into Gmail and download a small, free browser extension. FaceTime costs $.99 and only runs on Apple hardware as of this review.
As mentioned before, the Motorola Xoom still has plenty of features that weren't quite ready at launch. Adobe Flash, 4G data access, SD card support, and a long list of apps. Android fans had to wait for a year past the iPad launch for a device that still has a few features they're promising will be available later.
There are also not a huge number of tablet specific apps available at this point. In some cases, that doesn't matter. Using the website is better than using an app. In other cases, that's a crying shame. It would be fantastic to see apps like ArtRage for Android, but the developers told me at CES that they were scared of market fragmentation on Android and didn't want to deal with the hassle of developing for it. I'm sure they're not alone, and that's a problem Google will have to solve before Android tablets take over market share the way Android phones did.
When those apps do work, they can be quite impressive. Take tower defense game Dungeon Defenders for example. You can play a multi-player game alongside real players on Playstations and desktop computers. That's impressive, but the real reason it's on the Xoom is because Nvidia paid the developers to optimize the game for the Tegra 2 chip.
Meanwhile, the price of a Xoom 3G without contract is $799 (or $599 with a contract,) which does not make it a value compared to the slightly less expensive unlocked iPad 3G at $729 for a 32 gig model. The iPad 2 was announced, and it has slightly less powerful specs, but it still sports two cameras and a dual-core processor. Here's a comparison of the iPad 2 vs the Xoom.
The Bottom Line
I bought my Xoom. I write about Android, and I'd been waiting for this specific device. I'm happy with my decision. However, that's not my buying advice for others.
If you don't want 3G (and at some later date 4G), wait for the Wi-Fi only version, which should be around $600 and available within a month or two. If you're not mad at Apple and don't need to play Flash, the iPad 2 is a device with an established app market and a lot of accessories. If you use a wireless network other than Verizon, wait for the AT&T and T-Mobile versions, which will be available sometime this year, probably this summer.
The Xoom is the device I'd recommend for developers and Android enthusiasts. It's far better than my netbook, it's usable without any extra installed apps, and it's more powerful than first generation iPads. I give it four stars for being beautiful hardware with a great OS. However, the price and missing-at-launch features end up taking a star away. The iPad still owns the tablet space, dominates in apps, and has a huge selection of accessories, and that's not likely to change with the iPad 2.