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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Laptops

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs Motorola Xoom vs LG Optimus Pad in Honeycomb hands-on hoedown

There are so many cool tablets running Android 3.0 Honeycomb on the horizon, it's getting tough to figure out which one is best. We put the three frontrunners through their paces.

What with CES and now Mobile World Congress, the last few weeks have seen an unholy flood of new tablets pouring into our lives in a touchscreen torrent of terror. Three of the most promising are the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Motorola Xoom and the LG Optimus Pad -- all run Android 3.0, also known as Honeycomb, which is Google's operating system tailor-made for tablets. But which of these Honeycomb honeys is head honcho? Read on for the skinny on each device...

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to be your tablet of choice if you want a spacious 10-inch screen but can't be bothered lugging a great heavy lump of metal around. It's very light, you see, at a mere 599g, making it the lightest of our three contenders. But there's more to making a tablet portable than its weight -- the Galaxy Tab 10.1 looks rather natty too, and it's slim. Its back is quite striking, and it puts us in mind of a steering wheel somehow, with a chrome disk bearing the Samsung logo slap bang in the middle.

We were really impressed with the Tab 10.1's display, which has all of 1,280x800 pixels. It's packing some more neat hardware inside too, with a dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz. There's also 802.11n Wi-Fi, HSPA+ and Bluetooth 3.0. An 8-megapixel camera is stuck on the back for good measure, with a 3-megapixel snapper sitting pretty on the front of the tablet.

Honeycomb makes for a great Web-surfing experience thanks to tabbed browsing, which lets you keep several webpages open at the same time, and flick between them quickly.

The Tab 10.1's portability comes at a cost. Samsung has equipped it with no standard ports, only a proprietary charging port. That means it's not as impressive in terms of connectivity as...

Motorola Xoom

The Xoom is also 10.1 inches on the diagonal, making it almost the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It's a rather different machine though, even though it too is running Honeycomb. The main difference is connectivity -- Motorola's blessed the horribly named Xoom with a number of ports.

There's a micro-USB port for charging or quick connection to a computer, which will make it simple to drag and drop files. There's a microSD card slot too, so you won't be limited by the 32GB of on-board storage offered. Honeycomb isn't going to support microSD cards to start with, but an imminent update should make that port usable.

Finally, and most importantly, the Xoom has a mini-HDMI port so you can plug the tablet into a hi-def telly and watch your videos or observe your photos on a really big screen. Majestic. There's a 5-megapixel camera stuck round the rear, and a 2-megapixel camera up front.

The thing is, all that extra connectivity means the Xoom is the heaviest of the three tablets, weighing 730g. That's about the same as the 3G iPad, which we reckon is too hefty to comfortably hold in one hand. Still, the Xoom is quite slim, measuring in at 250 by 168 by 13mm. It's feature-heavy, but it's also the usual kind of heavy.

LG Optimus Pad

With an 8.9-inch display, the Optimus Pad is a smaller tablet than the other two. At least in terms of diagonal screen size. In reality, the Pad has a distinctive shape that sets it apart from other tablets we've seen. It has a 15:9 aspect ratio, which will come in handy when you're watching videos, because you'll get something closer to a widescreen experience. The display has a 1,280x768-pixel resolution, which to us looked really sharp and bright.

The Pad features connectivity much like the Xoom -- there's a port for USB connection for charging and file transfer, and an HDMI port too, so you can watch what's showing on the Pad's screen on a big-screen TV. There's no microSD card slot though.

It has the same connectivity options, but the Pad manages to be lighter than the Xoom at 630g, which puts it in the middleweight category. We found it comfortable to hold with one hand, though realistically you're going to need two for typing.

There's one more surprise in store with the Pad -- there are two, count 'em, two 5-megapixel cameras on the back, which you can use to take 3D photos, or shoot 3D video in 720p. You can't actually watch that footage in 3D on the Pad itself, but if plug it into a 3D TV and you'll be able to see it in all three gloriousdimensions, even if you will have to wear the dorky glasses.

So which is sweetest?

All of these tablets are looking terrific, and we don't want to call a winner until we've had each one in for the full review treatment. But we reckon the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the most portable, while the Xoom is for those who want a tonne of connectivity options and have excellent upper-body strength. The LG Optimus Pad, meanwhile, offers a quirky look, and some cool gimmicks features, especially the 3D cameras on the back.

Stay tuned for our full reviews.