Motorola Xoom review: Android Honeycomb details out

Thursday, February 3, 2011, 7:51 by Tech Correspondent

Trials of Android 3.0 aka Honeycomb running on Motorola’s Xoom tablet were carried out by tech journalists and enthusiasts at the recently concluded Google party at the company’s headquarters in California.

Developers of Honeycomb apps, including Disney and CNN, along with Google employees demonstrated the software on Xoom, and many people got to play around with the tablet. Motorola’s Honeycomb tablet is expected to be released next month on Verizon Wireless and through online retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon. Related: Motorola Xoom on Best Buy

Motorola’s 10-inch Honeycomb tablet has a display resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. It uses an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor clocked at 1GHz; has 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory which can be expanded further. Also see: Xoom 3G in May

motorola xoom honeycomb tablet photo

Photo: Motorola Xoom Honeycomb tablet

Android 3.0 aka Honeycomb, the latest in the Android OS lineup, will work on smartphones, says Google, which always adds that developers should optimize their apps for tablets or smartphones nevertheless.

Motorola Xoom body

Though it is 0.1lb heavier than the Apple iPad at 1.7 lbs, Xoom is said to be comfortable to hold. The tablet measures 9.8 x 6.6 x 0.5 inches and is about as thick as the iPad and a little larger than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. It has a front-facing camera top centre when the device is held in landscape mode, which is the ideal way to hold it. Held horizontally too are mini USB and mini HDMI ports and a volume control at the bottom of the device. Along the edges is also a covered micro SD card slot.

Motorola Xoom’s display

Popular consensus has it that images look great on the Motorola Xoom’s full HD resolution display, though text could have been better. Motorola hasn’t spoken of the display’s pixel density to there’s still the chance that things will improve in the shipped product. Xoom uses a 3D processing engine which enables the screen to seem less constricted than it is by allowing series of objects such as multiple running apps to be displayed in cascades.

Navigation around Honeycomb on Xoom

Xoom uses a multitouch capacitive touchscreen that understands different finger movements such as flicks for page turns, pinching with two fingers for zooming in and pinching in reverse for zooming out, etc. PCWorld.com says Xoom is partial to light touches. Unlike Android 2.2 aka Froyo tablets such as Galaxy Tab, Xoom doesn’t have buttons on the bezel, which consequently don’t get in the way – something people often complain about.

There can be multiple home screens and navigation among them is said to be smooth. There’s a 3D turntable for music, books and video, images of which have frequently appeared in connection with Honeycomb.

motorola xoom honeycomb photo

Photo: Xoom doesn’t have buttons on the bezel

There is a main menu along the bottom of the screen, and a multitasking button that displays the currently running apps. And there is a bar along the top that has action menus for each running app.

Honeycomb accepts voice commands to find routes to get to a place, or play specific songs. To activate voice commands there’s a small microphone icon on the Xoom’s home screen.

The improvements to software that Google has made in Honeycomb are mostly experimental ways of browsing a lot of content. There is, for instance, a feature that lays out bookmarked websites in a grid that can be explored in any direction; and a method of flipping through YouTube videos and digital books.

Xoom’s virtual keyboard is smaller than the iPads, and according to reviewers, though it is responsive it feels less comfortable than the iPad’s keypad.

At the Google party, the company announced a new Web version of its App Store call WebStore. Each user will maintain all his Android apps on his WebStore page, irrespective of how many Android devices he wants to use a single purchased or free app on. This feature isn’t new, but is more pertinent now, for people would have to pay twice for an app to use it on their Android tablet and smartphone.

Motorola Xoom’s camera

Some reviewers complain of the Xoom’s camera app saying that the buttons are placed in an uncomfortable position, but it does have some new features such as the ability to record time-lapse video. Xoom has a 2-megapixel front camera for video chats and a 5-megapixel camera at the back for taking high-resolution pictures.

Android Honeycomb OS security

Honeycomb allows the device it is running on to be encrypted, which would secure private data with a password login system. Since this is a Honeycomb feature, rather than a Motorola feature, it should exist on other Honeycomb tablets too. The Encrypt Tablet option in the settings page also lets system administrators of companies control encryption on the devices they’ve deployed among employees.

Xoom Web browser

Xoom uses a tabbed Web browser, with form auto-fill feature, private browsing, and the ability to sync bookmarks with Google Chrome browser. The browser accesses Google Maps 5 which has 3D interactive maps and can be used offline. It also has Google Talk built in for video chats.