July 22, 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)