December 18, 2014

The Motorola XOOM Revisited: When Crow Tastes Like Chicken

Maybe it was all the late night viewings of this year’s Google I/O on YouTube AND the Honeycomb 3.1 update, but for some inexplicable reason I started longing, nay needing another Honeycomb tablet.  To the Faithful, you know that my initial reaction and review was not altogether kind to the XOOM, and I could be wrong after reading Scott’s glowing review.  But like everything else, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

 

Especially, after this week’s AndroidGuys regular podcast where I heard high praise for the new Samsung Tab 10.1, that was given out at I/O.  But I don’t want the super-slim Sammy (say that five times fast) largely because it will come with their proprietary TouchWiz UI and I want pure Android updates as soon as possible.  After having a brief fling with a Verizon XOOM, three days to be exact, I decided to get the WiFi version without the carrier strings attached for data and updates, from my local WalMart.  It was even on sale, so I guess that was a sign!

* Disclaimer from an Apple device purchaser: I have now lived with the iPad 2 since the day it was released and I owned the 1st-gen version for six months until I sold it to purchase a T-Mobile Galaxy Tab.  Whew, got that out of the way!

 

Not since my first Windows 98 PC has one update made such a difference.  Last week’s bump to 3.1 is definitely what the doctor ordered.  Sure it didn’t add 50,000 apps to the Market or give me an HC version of Netflix, but it did make my first fractured experience with Honeycomb forgotten.  The software is slowly moving towards a true Alpha status and will be completely emancipated with the future Ice Cream Sandwich release.  The browser is stable and the Android Market while still a little sketchy, is very usable and almost a pleasure to browse…almost.  But since we can browse online now, that’s a non-issue for some folks.  After getting my new XOOM set up with the new re-sizable Google apps widgets, Gmail now sits loud and proud on it’s own desktop.  The same can be said for my work email inbox as well.  Grabbed the new Flash update for a true Web 2.0 experience and tested it on a few sites, and not a single browser or even a tab crash.  Like it or not Flash is kind of like the national speed limit: we don’t have to like it, but we do have to live with it.  Google Talk looks and works great and I can’t wait for Skype to issue a proper Honeycomb version.  Seesmic now looks “tablety” since I increased the font size and it now fills the screen to mimic a native tablet app.  And based on a recent TWiT episode, the Seesmic app for Honeycomb will be released very soon.  I wish the same could be said about Android’s Facebook app but the web version works in a pinch.  No reason to list each and every thing since most of you have either bought/seen/used Honeycomb, but I am very happy to use the XOOM as my daily driver while relegating the iPad to my kids (they already stole it from me anyway).

 

While I still prefer speakers to be either on the top or bottom of a tablet device, I have made my peace with the rear-facing ones.  And I actually don’t mind them anymore after purchasing my Jawbone Jambox which should be the constant companion of any tablet.  My fatal mistake when reviewing my first XOOM was comparing it to the iPad. By the way, that can be said for about 99.9% of the Honeycomb reviews out there.  And I was a little deflated by what I saw as the “finished product”.  I wanted Google to totally knock it out of the park and not let the “i” devices make it into the comparison conversation, so I was a little hurt.  And by me not giving Honeycomb a chance would be an understatement.  This time, I looked at and used the Xoom as an Android tablet that is trying to be different than the iPad and not compete with it.  Competition and numbers sold are unfortunately realities for sales, but for the consumer base and usability it is largely irrelevant.  Remember Beta vs VHS, and CD vs. MiniDisc?  There were ardent supporters for both formats but only one will eventually win out because of sales and sustainability.  OR you have a powerhouse like Google who can be a loving benefactor who can create markets until they are eventually followed.

 

But I digress.  With just the first Honeycomb update on the first 3.0 device, I truly believe that Honeycomb is alive and kickin’.  Without getting into the “Yeah, but is it open source?” argument, this is just the beginning and I for one, am happy that I chose to give it another chance.  Mmmmm, crow really does taste like chicken!

 

The Good:

  • Android 3.1 and Beyond
  • Awesome battery life just under iPad’s
  • Fast WiFi connectivity, fast charging to full battery
  • Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 1GB of internal RAM, and 32GB storage onboard
  • Wonderful screen and great viewing angles via Corning’s Gorilla Glass
  • With the recent release of the Asus Eee Transformer, the Acer Iconia A500, the LG G-Slate, and Samsung Galaxy editions the future looks very bright for proper Android tablets
  • The price points of Android tablets are starting at $350 and should only get more affordable
  • Looks like the updates will be coming more regularly based on Google’s announcements of a supposed ODM consortium, not to mention more tablets being released all the time
  • Solid hardware chassis
  • Capable of viewing up to eighteen applications that are running in a true multi-task fashion
  • Desktop widgets and the ability to customize the home screens
  • An almost true (but not quite) desktop PC experience

 

The Bad:

  • Still a little buggy but so are all of my other gadgets
  • The lack of Android 3.0 apps but they will come and more are coming every week
  • Can’t use microSD slot yet
  • Heavy and even more awkward to hold than an iPad (No biggie since I use it more in landscape now and it’s much more comfortable because it was designed to use this way.  I’m just a very slow learner)

 

 

 

 

 

 



  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=57902506 Jason Brian Chapa

     If you want a nice Honeycomb Twitter app, check out Plume.  The free version in the market is tablet optimized!

    • Herren Sam

      Nice! Thanks Jason.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/dboftlp dboftlp

         So is tweetcomb, it dropped just before Plume and they look darned similar, except with tweetcomb you can add list streams besides just the timeline, mentions and DMs.  Nice to have.

    • Herren Sam

      Nice! Thanks Jason.

    • http://twitter.com/herrensam Sam Herren

      Just downloaded Plume…it’s zing!  thanks again 

    • http://twitter.com/schwiz Nathan Schwermann

      ahh beat me to it!  Plume is very nice on the tablet.  Also I LOVE that it has a listener for twitter profile URIs so you can open plume directly from email notification when someone follows you and follow them back easily.  

  • sansenoy

    Am i the only one completely unphased by these devices? Screw tablets and bring on the android netbooks already! Who needs expensive digitizers and screen protection, just pack as much battery into the case and leave an empty slot for a hard drive, 2 USB ports, I’m sold…

  • Anonymous

     “1GB of internal RAM, and 32GB ROM onboard”
    Incorrect, 1GB of RAM 32GB of Storage not “ROM”

    • http://twitter.com/herrensam Sam Herren

       Got it!  Correcting now…thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/herrensam Sam Herren

       Got it!  Correcting now…thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Andriod tablet os is great all it needs some apps

  • http://twitter.com/schwiz Nathan Schwermann

     if you want a good tablet twitter client, try out plume while you wait for the seesmic update!

  • Anonymous

    You forgot one “Bad”: Not open source.  So instead of 500,000 or 1M devices out there using 3.0 or 3.1, there are 100,000.  This is sorely disappointing for many reasons (especially for a Nook Color owner) but it’s seriously slowing down the Android tablet market – the audience could be 10 times as large as it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pliaw Peter Liaw

     “Wonderful screen…”

    You aren’t talking about the Xoom, are you?  That screen is terribly dark. 

  • Anonymous

     This has come down in price on Amazon for those in the UK – http://amzn.to/l6St6V

  • http://youthgen.net Tsbackup Kcorps

    hmm, finally Honeycomb kicks it’s best…
    i mean the patch n update…
    let’s see, how often the kick will be there…
     

  • http://www.gmachine.net GMachine.net

    Honestly, I feel as if you wanted to play both sides of the field to get readers attention. First you say it sucks, then you say it rocks. I’ve had it since day 1 and haven’t had any problems. I believe there is some misconception on the issues with the Xoom. The single BIGGEST issue that anyone has is using apps that weren’t designed for the tablet which can cause them not to function as intended and sometimes end up in a force close. This gives people who don’t understand the impression that it sucks and that its not designed well. I myself Have stayed clear of these apps and I feel the Motorola Xoom has been an awesome creation from the beginning. I’d also like to point out that you can’t compare the Xoom to an iPad simply because the iPad is a of a lesser design. You wouldn’t compare the Motorola Razor to the iPhone, so in reverse you wouldn’t compare the iPad to the Motorola Xoom. iPad is just simply behind the times, still no flash, no USB, no expandable storage, no opportunity to upgrade to 4G. The iPad 2 was a smaller version of an old device. Just like when Sony recreated the PS2 and made it smaller, its still the same device just packaged different. I will agree that the apps designed for Honeycomb are limited, but Honeycomb hasn’t been out all that long, developers are working at it. Honeycomb is definitely building steam..  
    If you get a chance take a look at GMachine.net, I wrote about a few of my favorite apps on Honeycomb.

    • ejf9

        wow! you are an absolute moron. you clearly have a perverted love affair with google. From a design standpoint, the ipad 2 is clearly SUPERIOR. can you say unibody? As far as flash, usb, and sd card technology, they are all behind the times. Apple is not afraid to buck inadequate aging technologies, like the floppy. Have you ever heard of cloud computing? This is the future and Apple knows it. Ports are for idiots who don’t know any better. As for flash, ever heard of html5? probably not. Of course you undoubtedly drool at the sight of irritating animated web ads. FYI, the only reason Google (who supposedly support open web standards) supports flash is because of the revenue these annoying ads generates for them. Google and all Manufacturers of Android products produce clearly INFERIOR products to that of Apple’s. Android is nothing but a cheap ad supported platform.

    • Ctaya

      Most iPad2 users are for fun: web browsers, e-mails, movies, music, photo, reading, … Basically, a device that they can carry around and share with others easily (e.g. photo taken during vacations). Anything more than that, I would go for a computer (notebook or desktop). iPad2 can provide satisfaction to this group of people quite well. I think most of them have computers in addition to their tablets.
      I went to a shop and display photo on both Xoom and iPad2. I am sorry to say that I went for the iPad2.
      Things not so good about iPad are that for many activities, you need a computer and then everything has to go through the App Store. These would make a lot of people unhappy, especially people with good technical knowledge. But I can see an “advantage” of going through the App Store. The chance of getting nasty stuff is much reduced (hopefully Apple is doing a good job in guarding its gate). When tablets are getting popular, I would expect nasty things like virus would grow. For people with technical knowledge, this may not be a problem. For ordinary folks, this is not good.
      I am also a technical guy. I use the iPad for fun stuff and the computers for more serious work.
      As for external storage, I managed to get the HyperDrive for iPad. I need the HyperDrive as a backup for my photo during vacation (one copy on iPad and another copy on the HyperDrive). Back home, it will be download to my computer. I keep selected photo in the iPad2 for sharing with my relatives and friends. Therefore, a good display is very important. The display of iPad2 is not perfect but comparing it side by side with the Xoom, it is my preference.

  • http://www.gmachine.net GMachine.net

    I forgot to mention, they were both good articles.. just felt like your playing both sides.

    • http://twitter.com/herrensam Sam Herren

      Hey Greg,

      Just read your site and your recent XOOM reviews and observations…spot on sir!  Actually, I had no intention of returning my first XOOM and especially did not want to get another one.  But after buying the iPad 2, I kept having this nagging feeling that there was more to Honeycomb and I had kinda blown it by only giving the XOOM just a couple of days to prove itself.  

      I definitely had issues with my first one because I did load a bunch of Android 2.2 apps and that was probably a large reason why mine was so crash phone but it actually never felt right out of the box…maybe mine was built on a Friday ;-)

      This newest WiFi version is great!  What with the latest Flash 10.3 update, I can actually use it for work purposes.  

      Anyway, great comments and great site.  I will be keeping up with your site via RSS.

      thanks,
      Sam

      • http://www.gmachine.net GMachine.net

         those Friday builds will get you every time, haha.  Thanks much appreciated!

  • XoominNow

    Another “good” for more advanced users is the ability to tweak the Xoom. For instance, my Xoom is over locked to 1.6Ghz and my SD card works thanks to running custom kernels.

    • XoominNow

      Overclocked*

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post and the outline of improvements since the update. I still haven’t made the tablet plunge and am on the fence between Android and iPad 2, so this info definitely helps when it comes time for me to make the choice.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QZ4LJZ4VXNAGQIWB4KTPUVDXNY Robert

     Great article. I have the same impression. I can’t tear the iPad away from the kids and I’m loving my Xoom. I think both OS’s have their place. I’d rather hand an iPad to my mother or anyone non-technical. But Honeycomb screams CUSTOMIZE ME! I don’t feel as comfortable sharing my Android device, it’s a more personal experience. 

    • http://twitter.com/herrensam Sam Herren

      AGREED!

  • http://www.facebook.com/yourwrist Robert Norris Hills

     If you enjoy the honeycomb experience but find the hardware of the Xoom a letdown feel free to try a GalaxyTAB 10.1

  • Nory82688sn

    Hey man.just got done reading article, great piece by the way,and I agree with you 100%.I was disappointed in honeycomb with the first release, but 3.1 just made everything better to me. Much more reliable and polished. I’m glad you gave honeycomb and the xoom another chance, because it’ll just get better.

  • http://jameswilliams.be/blog James Williams

     It might not be the case for the retail version but the limited edition tabs given out at IO were not TouchWiz-ified. They have a stock Android Honeycomb experience just like the Xoom.

    • Herren Sam

      Yep but word on the street is that retail version sold next month will have TouchWiz. Bummer. When will the ODM’s learn that all we want is plain Android?

      • http://jameswilliams.be/blog James Williams

        Sigh. That’s the reason I give people of why I haven’t gotten a Thunderbolt or Evo and have stuck with my Nexus One, can’t stand the crapware or waiting forever for updates.