Ars Technica reviews Motorola Xoom: For the best tablet available today, look no further than Apple

Motorola’s Xoom “feels very incomplete. A surprising number of promised hardware and software features are not functional at launch and will have to be enabled in future updates. The Xoom’s quality is also diminished by some of the early technical issues and limitations that we encountered in Honeycomb. Google’s nascent tablet software has a ton of potential, but it also has some feature gaps and rough edges that reflect its lack of maturity,” Ryan Paul reports for Ars Technica.

“LTE isn’t the only hardware feature that’s not working right out of the box. The Xoom’s microSD card slot is also non-functional, due to software issues that are attributed to Honeycomb. Motorola says that the feature will be fixed soon in an over-the-air update,” Paul reports. “The Xoom’s much-touted support for Adobe Flash is also absent at launch and will similarly be delivered in an upcoming software update.”

MacDailyNews Take: But, not until initial reviews report battery life figures and cement first impressions. Afterwards, Xoom batteries can be drained at will by Adobe’s archaic Flash (if it decides to work at all).

Paul continues, “Our Xoom review unit was provided by Verizon and came with 3G enabled, so we were able to test it on the company’s EVDO network. Browsing performance was excellent over WiFi and reasonably good over 3G. We had no trouble playing streaming videos or using other bandwidth-intensive features. Although the Xoom performs well, its reliability leaves a lot to be desired. During a week of very heavy use, I had between 5 and 8 incidents of applications force-closing every day. The issue wasn’t isolated to third-party applications—Google’s own software crashed pretty regularly.”

MacDailyNews Take: The perpetual promise of future improvements = Microsoft redux.

Paul continues, “Android in general is not especially robust, but the stability issues I encountered on the Xoom seem worse than the relatively minor stability problems I’ve had over the past few years with my various Android phones. I imagine that the stability problems will be ironed out as Google improves the platform.”

MacDailyNews Take: See previous take. Stockholm Syndrome is insidious.

Paul continues, “Professional Web developers seem to be disappointed with some of the technical weaknesses of Honeycomb’s HTML rendering engine. Sencha’s Aditya Bansod wrote up a particularly scathing critique after evaluating the browser’s performance and standards support. He indicates that the Honeycomb browser falls short of Apple’s mobile version of Safari in some key areas, particularly in its handling of CSS animations. Bansod characterizes the Xoom’s browser as being below production quality and contends that the browser’s rendering engine is simply ‘not ready for prime-time’ on a tablet device… In light of Google’s vocal enthusiasm for using the Web as an application platform, it’s a bit surprising that the company is so far behind Apple in supporting that vision on a mobile device. When I tested toolkits like JQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch on the Xoom, the gaps in the Honeycomb browser’s rendering engine were painfully apparent. Animated transitions stuttered and certain visual elements were not rendered correctly.”

MacDailyNews Take: Disappointed; technical weaknesses; falls short of Apple; below production quality; not ready for prime time; so far behind Apple; painful gaps; stuttering animations; and elements not rendered correctly. Where do we line up, or should we just light $800 on fire and spare ourselves the frustration?

Paul continues, “Google’s ongoing failure to provide decent e-mail support on Android continues to be a major disappointment in Honeycomb. Prospective Xoom buyers who care a lot about IMAP or Exchange e-mail support should probably pass on the Xoom or wait until third-party applications like Touchdown and K-9 have proper tablet interfaces.”

MacDailyNews Take: Email? Who needs email? (smirk)

Paul continues, “The Xoom comes with the standard Google applications, including a calendar and address book that synchronize with the company’s popular Web services. The user interfaces are simplistic, however, and didn’t impress me very much.”

MacDailyNews Take: This is the sort of reviews that a marketing exec dreams of – right after eating a 5-pound burrito and washing it down with half a gallon of rum-spiked eggnog.

Paul continues, “If you are an Android enthusiast and regard e-book reading as an important feature in a tablet, you might be better off getting a Nook Color and modifying it to run additional software.”

MacDailyNews Take: Or, if you’re lucky, you might grow a brain before this Friday and instead hop on line for iPad 2.

Paul continues, “Getting music onto the device wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. Most Android phones have limited internal storage capacity and are built with the assumption that the user will store media on a microSD card. The Xoom, however, has lots of internal storage and, at the present time, no working microSD slot. This is an issue because Android typically doesn’t allow the user to mount the system’s internal flash memory as a conventional mass storage device. You can’t just plug the Xoom into a USB port to drag and drop your music onto the filesystem.”

MacDailyNews Take: Music? Who needs music? (smirk) Just use your iPod.

Paul continues, “Google has created a more tablet-friendly version of the Android Market for Honeycomb.”

MacDailyNews Take: Oh, goody, they made the malware dispensary more “tablet-friendly.”

Paul continues, “The large graphical marquee on the landing page gives it a cluttered feeling. It’s especially annoying because it will slide down from the top several seconds after the market is opened, which means it often intercepts a tap by accident when I’m trying to hit something else. Another minor inconvenience is the Market’s lack of support for portrait orientation. When you rotate the tablet, the market remains stuck in landscape mode.”

MacDailyNews Take: Sounds really “tablet-friendly,” huh?

Paul continues, “There is a scant handful of third-party Android applications available today that are a good fit for the tablet form factor.”

MacDailyNews Take: Gee, should we line up for a superior device with a vibrant third-party ecosystem and a well-designed App Store with 65,000+ apps designed for “the tablet form factor” or should we dick around with a “scant handful” while sewing together our own cases?

Paul continues, “The Xoom’s impressive hardware specifications and ambitious feature lineup are intriguing, but the product falls short of its full potential due to a general lack of completeness. It feels like it was rushed to market and delivered to consumers prematurely. The number of headline features that are simply absent at launch is emblematic of the device’s deficiencies… While I was testing the device and studying the documentation, I was confronted repeatedly with disclaimers which explained that various features will arrive later in updates. There are so many of these disclaimers that it soon became absurd. The device, in its current state, is like a parade of promising placeholders.”

MacDailyNews Take: Google. Our Lady of Perpetual Beta. It’s just so Microsoftian. Promises, promises, promises:

Paul continues, “The Xoom’s assortment of absent features will likely all be available this Summer, but the launch configuration feels like a beta release. Consumers who buy it today will have to send it back in for a week at some point before they can get the complete product. I think bringing it to market in this condition was a pretty dubious move… If you compare the Xoom against the iPad 2 today, there isn’t much of a case to be made in favor of the Xoom… If you are looking for the best tablet available today, then look no further than Cupertino.”

Full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you listen closely, you might be able to actually hear the peals of laughter ringing throughout the hallowed halls of the palatial MacDailyNews headquarters.

One final word: Bloodbath.

64 Comments

  1. When Apple released the 1st iPhone, they told us all of the things that it actually did, not even mentioning the potential for apps, etc. When the iPad was released, it didn’t print and wasn’t promised to.

    Apple is meticulous to announce features that are working, and omit features — even ones we know are coming — until they are actually on the way (like multitasking and folders for the iPad, after they were already available on the iPhone).

    With the obvious exception of the white iPhone 4 boondoggle, a very rare example of  vaporware.

      1. And hidden in that hilarious remark is that the ‘Mayonnaise” would then be five versions away from today’s Honeycomb (beginning with H; with versions beginning with I, J, K and L in between…). And not necessarily 3.7; the way Google assigns version numbers, it may well be 6.1, and appear in the fall of 2015…

  2. “rum spiked eggnog”?
    I ALWAYS make my eggnog with rum and brandy. If it ain’t spiked with rum, is it actually eggnog?

    That said – this review, these MDN takes, sweet music to my Applecentric ears.

      1. Prez Camacho had me trying to fix the crops, but I doesn’t know nothin’ about no crops. He got Not Sure to do it now, so’s I got some free time agin! Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

  3. Apple could’ve announce the camera feature of the iPad 1 that would’ve been available in a future update… called the iPad 2. But, then Apple separates itself from the rest by being a reputable company.

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