Now that the Motorola Xoom is available to regular people, we were able to get our initial hands-on. As with any device, there is the good and the bad. We didn't have the extensive time with it that the professional reviewers were able to get, but we think first impressions count for something.
Hit the jump to read our hands-on
The First Real iPad Competitor?
First off, let us say that this probably is the first major tablet that will compete with the iPad. It doesn't have the hype and the insane Apple PR machine, but this shows that Android can pull its weight in the tablet market.
Software and Screen Responsiveness
The screen is nice, and we think the aspect ratio actually makes it feel a good deal smaller than the iPad. Still, it's a comfortable size for toting around in your bag.
Of course we all know that where it really counts is the operating system. Will Android be able to take on iOS in the tablet market? Definitely, but it's not going to happen right away.
First, Android has never been the most user-friendly operating system. Although Honeycomb is improved, that still fact comes through a bit here. There are several pages and icons and popup menus in corners and the first use is more about discovery than really just getting down to using it. You may find your self tapping around to see what the various icons do.
Some Minor Problems
We also couldn't help but feel that some of the things it did were noticeably slower than iOS. It may not be a big deal to some, but rotation, for instance. Turning the device will rotate the screen to fit the position you are holding it in. It works well enough, but it doesn't feel as snappy as it does on the iPad.
There is also the browser. While Honeycomb's Chrome browser definitely feels more like a desktop browser than Safari on the iPad thanks to features like tabbed browing, it doesn't always feel as quick. Pages load just fine, but we have a bit of a problem with how the device handled zooming for us. We don't know if others experienced this, but when zooming into to read text, there was a bit of a refresh time before the letters sharpened up. For example, we would pinch to zoom in on a paragraph, and the letters would appear jagged for a second or two before re-rendeding and smoothing out again.
We plugged in a USB cable and received the message "USB charging not supported. Use only the supplied charger." We're guessing that means you can't charge it by plugging it into your computer. That's a bit of a bummer.
We tried to use the camera, but we took one picture and it froze up. We tried to force quit the application, but had no luck and got an error message saying "Cannot connect to camera."
The stereo speakers are definitely a nice addition, and some of the reviewers said that your hands may cover them while you hold it. That didn't seem like much of a problem for us, and we have big hands. They are placed fairly high up on the back side of the tablet, a left and a right. The only we can see our hands covering them is if we rotated it so that the tablet is actually upside down.
What can become a problem, however if you rest the tablet on your lap. The sound would be muffled by your legs or thighs, or whatever you rest it on. Either way, this is a feature where the Xoom definitely outdoes the current iPad.
Go for it, or Pass?
As we mentioned, we didn't have the extensive hands-on time that the reviewers for the major outlets were able to get. Perhaps it was the extra time they had with the device, but we feel that a lot of them were a bit too nice. It's definitely missing some things. Either way, based on our demo, we'd say it's more the tablet for those who don't want to give into Apple. Still, 2011 is truly becoming the year of the tablet, and if we were in the market for a tablet right now, we would wait to see what's coming from Apple, HP and RIM before making our purchase.