Quick thoughts on the Xoom

First impressions: really lovely. It looks fantastic. The on-screen keyboard is great, much better than on my Nexus S, but probably just because it’s bigger. Copy & paste is also much better. It works the same way across all apps now, by giving you a little menu across the top of the screen when you select text.

In fact, Honeycomb is leaps and bounds beyond Gingerbread generally. The interface is seriously shiny, as well as being quick and responsive. They’ve dumped the physical buttons in favour of on-screen buttons in a bar across the bottom of the screen, which also incorporates a notifications area. There’s a new button for accessing recently-used apps as well as the normal ones for the home screen and back button. The built-in apps are lovely too — web browsing is pretty much the same as Chrome on the desktop. And Email is considerably improved.

The camera is decent, and video is really nice – 720p, and looks great in full-screen playback. I’d love to have tried the front camera with a video call on Skype but Skype for Android still doesn’t support video — seriously! Wtf?

So far, I’ve been able to do everything I knew that I’d want before I got it: show PDFs and documents to people, check email, write quick documents & browse the web. So as far as the essentials go, the app support is great. But it is certainly the case that there are fewer apps for the Xoom than there are for the Android, and that some of the apps that are designed for Android phones don’t work terribly well on the Xoom. But I’m fairly convinced that that’s temporary. In fact, I distinctly recall iPhone apps running in a teeny box in the middle of the first iPad’s screen — and it didn’t take long for that to change. And before anyone gets too much into on the Xoom vs iPad2 argument, I’ll just say that I installed Flash as soon as I got it, and it works great. And also that Hitler was an Apple fanboy, so Android must be better. Man it’s easy to win arguments on the Internet.

There are some downsides: One serious annoyance is that the Xoom has its own charger. It doesn’t charge from USB. This may not matter if the battery can withstand heavy use, as it wouldn’t then be necessary to carry the charger around. It’s been fairly widely reported that the battery life is excellent, so I have high hopes, but I’ll wait to see for myself.

Another irritation, though very minor, is that the power button is on the back of the tablet next to the camera. So when it’s lying on the table, you have to pick it up to turn it back on. It’s also a little heavier than I expected. I’d be curious to know how much the iPad2 weighs. The Xoom is 730g — not exactly heavy, but I suspect that’s a little heavier than one might like if you had to hold it on a long train journey.

Overall — it seems like a lovely bit of kit. I’ll be putting it to the test over the next few weeks, and we’ll see if more experience bears out my first impressions.