Google’s iPad killer: the reviews are in

February 24, 2011, 6:17 AM UTC

The first Android OS built for tablets gets graded.

As Walt Mossberg put it, the tablet wars have begun. Before Apple (AAPL) reloads with the iPad 2 on March 2, Motorola (MMI) starts selling their XOOM tomorrow.  The reviews are mostly positive with high marks for the hardware but complaints about the finish of the software.  Also, few were happy about the Verizon (VZ) plan and prices ($800 or $600 with a two-year plan).

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Click below for the picks of the bunch:

Engadget editor Josh Topolsky gave it a 7/10 and said,

Is the Xoom a real competitor to the iPad? Absolutely. In fact, it outclasses the iPad in many ways. Still, the end user experience isn’t nearly where it needs to be, and until Google paints its tablet strategy and software picture more clearly, we’d suggest a wait-and-see approach. Honeycomb and the Xoom are spectacular — unfortunately they’re a spectacular work in progress.

Walt Mossberg who somehow got about half the battery life that other reviewers got:

Bottom line: The Xoom and Honeycomb are a promising pair that should give the iPad its stiffest competition. But price will be an obstacle, and Apple isn’t standing still.

Jonathan Gellar, from BGR who doesn’t consider himself a tablet fan overall:

I’m not sure how much better an Android tablet can get right now — and this is the first one we’ve reviewed here at BGR. The Motorola XOOM packs a serious punch, and doesn’t have room to store an ice pack. I love that Motorola has been pushing forward with innovate ideas and concepts, most notably with the ATRIX 4G, and the XOOM isn’t an exception. It features great hardware, impressive specifications, and the latest Android OS designed just for tablets. There are many things to rave about with the XOOM, though there were some annoyances and frustrations that stemmed from Google’s OS for the most part and not from Motorola’s hardware.

Self-Confessed iPad freak Robert Scoble:

For the past few days I’ve had a Motorola Xoom. I accepted a loaner because I wanted to prove that it would suck next to an iPad.

One problem: I’m falling in love with it.

Popular Science thinks it is a better laptop replacement than the iPad:

It’s only logical to think that Android converts will feel at home in Honeycomb (rhyme scheme not intentional), but all told, it may do enough to tempt iPad lovers, too. What makes Honeycomb, and thus the Xoom, stand apart from its daunting competitor is its potential to stand on its own. iOS is inherently dependent on having a desktop companion, while Android 3.0 pulls nearly all its info from the cloud.

Laptop Mag put it through a bunch of laptop tests and gave it a 3/5 star rating.

In some ways, the Motorola Xoom is a bona fide next-generation tablet. Android 3.0 feels like a thoroughly modern and thoughtful OS, and the software and hardware work well together in certain respects, such as the high-quality video chats via the front-facing camera. On the other hand, this slate was surprisingly buggy in our testing.

Wired gives it a once over and offers their glass half full/empty:

WIRED Big, widescreen display offers plenty of room for video and for reading. Fast 1-GHz processor promises great performance for future games and apps. Honeycomb simplifies and optimizes the Android interface for tablets. Dual cameras and an optional external keyboard make this a credible notebook (or at least netbook) replacement.

TIRED Rear-facing speakers don’t do justice to any kind of audio. The button thing is weird. Honeycomb seems to have some bugs to work out. No support for Adobe Flash-based content.

What’s great about good hardware is that the software can always be updated.  If the polish on Honeycomb isn’t to your liking, you know it will be getting better quickly.

The problem is that Apple, Toshiba, LG, Samsung and others will be releasing tablets in the next few months that may be more tempting.