Tech test | Verizon Motorola Xoom tablet Android iPad competitor needs upgrades, bug fixes

What it does

Running on Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system, this touch-screen tablet computer has a 10.1-inch high-definition display, weighing about 1.6 pounds. It has a dual-core 1-GHz processor, an HDMI port, 32 GB of storage memory, and two cameras: a 2-megapixel one on the front, and a 5-megapixel one on the back with optional flash. The system also comes with video editing software. By Friday, software available via download from the Android app store will make it possible to view Adobe Flash videos. It uses Verizon’s 3G wireless speeds, but in a few weeks customers have the option to upgrade it to 4G for free. (The upgrade does require extra hardware.)

What it costs

$799.99, or $599.99 with a two-year Verizon contract. Data plans start at $20 a month for 1 GB.

Ups

Battery life is great, the touch screen has a smooth response, and the back camera is better than the iPad 2’s. The Honeycomb interface makes it exceptionally easy to add shortcuts and widgets to the five home screens. The e-book reader app is easy to use. With Google’s bookstore, users can view books through an Internet connection to save memory space, or they can download a hard copy to the tablet for offline viewing.

Downs

There were a few quirks with the design, such as not having the search tool in my e-mail (only Gmail has it). The e-book reader does not offer options to highlight or make notes on the texts.

I also tested a version that had a few bugs and lacked the ability to view Flash videos. Neither the Facebook’s application nor video-chatting app Qik are available yet for this version of Android.

Bottom line

Motorola and Verizon pushed out this tablet before getting out all the kinks and making sure major programs had updated versions. Though the companies promise those features will be working eventually, these shortcomings do cause concern.

For example, apps like Facebook, video-chat service Qik and an Adobe Flash 10 player didn’t work during my test. And Verizon is promising free upgrades to its faster 4G Internet connection speeds, which will be available in a few weeks.

But why make customers go through the hassle of getting a new chip installed and waiting for applications to get fixed? The Xoom should launch after these shortcomings are resolved, instead of hoping that early customers will have patience.

But even with my flawed experience, it’s obvious the Xoom is a powerful tablet. If it is compared to the equivalent version of the iPad 2 ($729 with 32 gigs of memory and on Verizon’s 3G network), the Xoom wins out for costing less at the two-year data contract price and having better features 4G speeds, Adobe Flash player, a better camera with a flash. If you need a constant Internet connection and lots of storage space, then the Xoom is a good buy — if you don’t mind waiting for all the upgrades.

McClatchy Newspapers

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