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Motorola Xoom Android tablet eyes on: Honeycomb first impressions

The Motorola Xoom Android tablet is going to be the first to go on sale with Android 3.0 (AKA Honeycomb), the first version of the OS Google has actually designed with tablets in mind. We just clapped eyes on a prototype at CES, and although the company wouldn’t let us hold the slate, we got a good insight into what expect from the tablet, and the new version of Android. Read on for photos and details.

The Motorola Xoom itself is really rather nondescript. It looks just like you’d expect a tablet to look in 2011. It’s thin, black, and nothing unusual. What is striking however, is Android 3.0.

Based on what we saw (Which was admittedly mostly videos being played on the device of how the software should run, rather than the apps themselves – early days), Android 3.0 is radically different from Android 2.2 and 2.3 on mobiles. For one, there are no physical buttons: instead, the home, menu and back buttons sit at the bottom of the screen at all times.

But the extra screen space with the 1280×800 resolution gives you space for much more to do and see at any one time. Thumbnails in the gallery are actually large enough to make out. Gmail actually has its own widget, complete with a preview of several emails on your homescreen, and in full screen, has a two pane view, just like Gmail on the iPad.

We also got to see the new Google Maps and its swift vector based graphics in operation on the Motorola Xoom Android 3.0 tablet, and it certainly was impressive: multitouch gestures mean you can swoop through maps in three dimensions, with no load times or pixellation.

Finally, we also got a glimpse at the new on screen keyboard in Android 3.0. It actually resembles the pre Gingerbread keyboard with greyish keys, but no one could show us how responsive the keys were – perhaps not surprising, with a few months to go still until launch.

It’s too early to make judgements on Android 3.0, but from what we’ve seen today, we can see why Google has held off endorsing Android tablets until now: this could well be worth the wait, and worthy of sitting alongside such tablets as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Tablets coverage from CES 2011 powered by Dixons

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