Impressions: Flash 10.2 Beta on Xoom

We take the Xoom for a spin around the Web. This time, with Flash.

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Eric Franklin
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CNETTV.com works as expected on the Xoom with Flash. Eric Franklin/CNET

One of the advantages the Xoom purportedly has over the iPad is its support for Flash. Unfortunately, Flash wasn't available for the Xoom at its release, but as of today it is. We've taken the Flash 10.2 Beta for Xoom for a spin and have lived to tell the tale.

The full Web (?)
Motorola states that this update brings "a full Web browsing experience" with it and for the most part that's true, but it really depends on how a full Web browsing experience is defined.

Yes, Flash on the Xoom does offer support for Flash Web features, including video, ads, and games. However, there are still many sites that default to their mobile versions when you navigate to them on the Xoom. In fact, going to pandora.com immediately kicks you to pandora.com/android, which suggests you download the Pandora Android app, with no navigation offered to the site proper. Not the full experience you'd expect.

Fortunately, there is a way around this, but it has nothing to do with Flash.

Follow these steps to navigate to the full version of any site.

1. Navigate to the site that kicks you to the mobile version.
2. In the address bar, type "about:debug" without quotes and tap enter.
3. Tap the settings button in the upper right corner.
4. Tap Settings. Then tap Debug, and finally UAString.
5. Select Desktop and the next time you navigate to a site that usually defaults to the mobile version, the full version should load instead.

I still don't understand why this is a "hidden" feature, as it should be something easily accessible in the settings. Hopefully Google will add a feature allowing you to easily select the mobile or desktop version of a site in a future update.

Speed changes
Earlier this week we conducted tests of Website loading speed on the iPad 2 and the Xoom without Flash installed. To determine if installing Flash made any difference in loading speeds, I retested the Xoom with Flash installed, timing how long it took to load the page proper both without and with ads taken into account.

Web site Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 Apple iPad Motorola Xoom (Flash installed) Motorola Xoom (Flash installed, ads factored)
CNET.com 5 seconds 6 seconds 12 seconds 5 seconds 11 seconds
6 seconds 10 seconds 16 seconds 6 seconds 14 seconds
5 seconds 5 seconds 6 seconds 5 seconds n/a

As you can see, sites loaded at the same speeds, with or without Flash installed; however, depending on the site and likely the ad used, CBSNews.com and CNET took longer to fully load the site with ads factored in. Giant Bomb's main page doesn't make any noticeable use of Flash.

Video and games
Sites with embedded video like CNETTV worked as expected and quickly shifted into full-screen mode when prompted.

The Facebook Flash game Dragon Age Legends performed horribly sluggishly, with the characters moving and animating much more slowly than on a desktop or notebook. Also, the "keep building" portion of the game, which requires you to drag graphics around, was practically unplayable. We were not able to drag the pieces to where we wanted with any accuracy. This was not a problem at all when we played this on our laptop, however.

That said, Flash games like Extreme Snowboarding worked flawlessly.

A little ways to go
Flash on the Xoom works. Games, video, and ads all deliver comparable experiences to what you'd have on a desktop or notebook; however, this update doesn't transform your Xoom browser into something that inherently gives you a full Web experience.

You'll have to do some tweaking and perhaps wait until Adobe releases the final version with a few much-needed optimizations to finally get the experience they've claimed is coming.