The march towards the generic Android tablet has begun. Most of the first Honeycomb tablets are indistinguishable from each other save one or two tiny differences. The Xoom hit the market first and still has arguably the best reviews while the G-Slate made a name for itself with 3D movies. Then there’s the Asus Transformer with its $150 optional keyboard dock and the Acer Iconia Tab with, well, a full size USB port.
So now the buying points come down to the minutiae. Take the Xoom and the Iconia Tab. There’s a $150 difference in price with the only major hardware difference being the Xoom rocks 32GB of flash memory rather than 16GB. Still, I’ve found several, five to be exact, notable difference between the two.
Spoiler: The Xoom isn’t worth the extra money if you don’t care about storage.
Honeycomb launched alongside the Xoom in late February and two months later, there still aren’t many quality Android tablet apps. The Android Market is as depressing place for Honeycomb tablet owners right now. The Iconia Tab has you covered, though. Where the Xoom only comes with around 20 apps, the Iconia Tab is loaded with nearly 30. The difference is huge, too.
The Iconia Tabs is loaded with quality games such as Heros of Sparta and Let’s Golf by Gameloft along with NFS Shift from EA then ereading apps and media playback apps with LumiRead and neoPlayer. These still won’t counter iOS app envy but they’ll certainly delay it for a while.
The Xoom just looks and feels like a nicer device. The Acer feels, well, cheap in comparison. It’s notable larger all the around than the Xoom and the buttons and ports are scattered around like on a PC notebook. The Xoom on the other hand is very iPad-ish with a wrap-around bezel and minium seam lines. The Xoom is pretty, but the Iconia Tab is easier to hold.
The Xoom’s contoured back makes it sort of hard to hold. You have to really grip it with the tips of your finger. That’s not the case with the Iconia Tab. The flat back and perhaps better weight distribution makes it easier to hold. It also sits on a desk nicer and the side-mounted power switch is more convenient than the Xoom’s back-mounted button. (I still don’t get why it’s on the back)
The Xoom is still shipping with a disabled microSD card slot. Motorola promised that it would enable the slot sometime, but that still hasn’t happened. What did happen, though, is several Honeycomb tablets started shipping with a working slot and that includes the Iconia Tab, which also has an enabled full size USB port.
As far as I can tell, the Iconia Tab does not ship with a program that can browse the file strucure on either the flash drives or internal memory. The Iconia Tab relies on programs such as neoPlayer to automatically load compatible files. The USB port does auto-recognize keyboards and flash drives, which is a big pro in favor of the Acer tablet.
Surprise, surprise. The Xoom actually has a major feature set not found on the Iconia Tab. The Xoom loves media formats where the Iconia Tab is a bit picky. The major difference are the video formats with the Iconia Tab only supporting the two major mobile file packages of .3gp and .mp4. The Xoom on the other hand can play most formats: AAC, H.263, H.264, MP3, MPEG-4, ACC+ Enhanced, OGG, MIDI, AMR NB, AAC+. Of course since the Xoom’s microSD card slot is broken, owners will need to transfer files onto the tablet’s 32GB flash memory via the microUSB port – and then download an app to locate and play the files, too.
Both tablets have nearly identical specs with an 1GHz Nvidia Tegra II chipset and 1GB of RAM. Yet the Iconia feels faster. The browser, unlocking it, loading the app menu – it’s all just slightly more snappy. Quadrant agrees and scored the Iconia Tab higher than the Xoom after both received a factory refresh.
The Iconia Tab is without question a better buy than the Xoom. The smaller internal storage is a moot point thanks to the working micrSD card slot and Handbreak effectively counters the lack of media file support. There’s still a valid reason to buy the Xoom, though: Verizon. Right now it’s the only Honeycomb tablet on the best network in the States. However, T-Mobile does offer the G-Slate for slightly less than VZW sells the Xoom so the selling point might come down to your network of choice. WiFi-only though? Yeah, I would look long and hard at the Acer Iconia Tab.