Motorola Xoom Gets Solid Early Reviews Despite Price

Reviews for Motorola's Xoom Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet computer have been largely positive. Now Moto just has to convince people to buy it in the face of the Apple iPad 2.

Putting aside the somewhat steep $599 price tag (with a two-year Verizon Wireless contract), Motorola's Xoom has garnered solid reviews from noted industry analysts at its Feb. 24 launch.

A 10.1-inch slate computer, Xoom is the first such device to run Google's ballyhooed Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system optimized for the tablet form factor. This slate is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 1-GHz dual-core processor.

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, who believes the Xoom will be a tough sell, commented favorably about the camera, however: "When you use the camera, for example, it anticipates that you'll be holding it in landscape mode with your right thumb on the screen, and it simulates the radial control dial of a real camera under your thumb," Epps wrote. "There are no awkward moments, as there were with earlier Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Dell Streak."

Noted blogger and devout Apple iPad fan (he owns three) Robert Scoble praised the Xoom and provided this video demo of the device, noting that the Xoom's multitasking capabilities, notifications and resolution are all superior to the first-generation iPad.

Scoble was partial to the fact that the Xoom sports solid battery life, dual cameras, an HDMI connector and better speakers than the iPad.

He also said the native Google apps-including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar apps-"are WAY better than the ones on iPad," which is a good segue to one of the things Scoble dislike about the Xoom: the paucity of apps written for Honeycomb.

"There aren't any apps that are designed for it yet. I have three -secret'apps that will be out soon, but three goes against, what, 30,000+ for iPad?"

Like Scoble, GigaOm's Kevin Tofel found a lot to appreciate about the device, which will be upgradeable to Verizon's 4G LTE network later this year. Tofel also touched on the Android apps issue:

"Current Android apps aren't all suited for the big screen. The size of icons in Facebook, for example, appears to be the same size used on my Android smartphone, leaving vast amounts of empty space. It's going to take time before true tablet apps appear on Honeycomb. Even Angry Birds looks a little blocky up close at the moment."

Industry analyst Jack Gold dismissed the dearth of Honeycomb-optimized apps on the Xoom, telling eWEEK that most Android apps can be ported/optimized for Honeycomb.

"They just haven't been [ported] yet, since the [software development kit] has not been available until recently," he noted. "So it is premature, in my opinion, to say there are few apps available for Honeycomb/Xoom. It's true today, but I'll bet you'll see a very steep ramp of apps targeted at Honeycomb in the next few weeks running up to the actual release of the device, and the app wars-Android vs. Apple-will escalate."

Overall, the tenor of the early Xoom talk would bode well for the tablet. . .if it weren't for the fact that it launched one week before Apple's iPad is expected to make its much-anticipated debut at a media event in San Francisco on March 2.

At the event, tech watchers expect to see a thinner iPad with dual cameras and other new perks that polish the original device, which sold 15 million units last year.