Android Honeycomb review

Google's new Android Honeycomb OS has a lot to offer, but it also has a long way to go before it can deliver the full tablet experience.

When you power up an Android Honeycomb tablet like the Xoom , you'll find yourself on one of the device's five available home screens. These home screens and the functionality they provide are among the most significant advantages Honeycomb offers over competing tablet platforms.

Where the iPad's operating system is basically a blown-up version of what you get on the iPhone -- static rows of square-shaped icons -- Honeycomb includes several features that take full advantage of the tablet's ample screen real estate.

Among Honeycomb's most useful features are the widgets -- effectively live, functioning apps that run right on your home screen. You can have a widget for your e-mail inbox, your calendar, news stories or weather without having to actually open an app.

Honeycomb's all-in-one home screen customization tool shows thumbnails for your five home screens, along with lists of every widget, app shortcut and wallpaper on your tablet.

Instead of the top-of-screen notification bar found on Android phones, Honeycomb uses an area in the bottom-right corner of the tablet to keep you apprised of incoming e-mails, tweets and other items.

The quick-settings menu lets you perform basic tasks, like changing your network configuration or adjusting the brightness of your screen. You can also tap a link to jump to the full system-settings panel.

An icon in the bottom-left corner of the display leads to a list of your most recently used applications, allowing you to toggle to another program without closing any others.

A Google search icon at the top-left corner of the Honeycomb home screen allows you to simultaneously search the Web and your device -- contacts, applications, multimedia files and so on.

Android Honeycomb offers a full-fledged multitasking and desktop-like browsing experience -- thanks to tab support, native Chrome syncing and eventual Flash functionality.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.