Motorola Xoom falls short in HTML5 test

One evaluation of how well the browser on Motorola’s spiffy new Xoom tablet supports HTML5 and other modern Web standards reaches a disappointing conclusion.

“The Xoom browser is not ready for prime-time — even for ‘HTML4,'” writes Aditya Bansod, a software engineer with Sencha, a vendor that created the Sencha Touch HTML5 application framework for mobile Web apps. “And it urgently needs a patch update if Motorola wants the product to succeed.”

Bansod’s conclusion comes in a blog post that details the results of a series of tests to see how the Xoom browser conforms to, and performs with, emerging Web standards such as HTML5 and Cascading Style Sheets 3 (CSS 3). The results, for both developers and consumers, are not encouraging.

It’s a surprising result, because Motorola has been touting the Xoom, the first to deploy Android 3.0 (or “Honeycomb”), as the first “real” Android tablet. The 3.0 version was specifically designed for the tablet device class.

The complete evaluation is online at Sencha’s blog.

Sencha ran four tests with a Xoom tablet: evaluating Web standards using Acid3, features using a tool called Modernizr, performance using the SunSpider test tool, and a set of real-world tests that the company devised itself.

The Acid3 results are counterintuitive because the tablet scores 100 out a possible 100 in the battery of tests, the first Android tablet to do so. In part, that reflects the addition of some features for the first time, such as support for Scaleable Vector Graphics (SVG), a group of W3C specifications for describing 2-D vector graphics in an XML file format.

But comparing the browser’s Acid3 rendering with the official reference rendering shows two “noticeable rendering bugs,” Bansod notes. First, the letters “Acid3” are the wrong color and lack the “shadow” effect visible in the reference image. Second, in the top right hand corner of the browser’s rendering, there is an outline in red of a very small box, almost invisible in the resolution of the screenshot.

Bansod concludes that the two bugs are enough to warrant saying the Xoom “fails Acid3.”

Using Modernizr, Bansod finds that Xoom adds a “fairly complete range of HTML5 features.” Besides SVG, these include Inline Scaleable Vector Graphics and CSS 3 3D transformations. Still missing are Web-based Graphics Language, or WebGL, which extends JavaScript to create 3D graphics within compatible Web browsers; Web Sockets; and Web Workers.

CSS 3 animations, both simple and advanced, were deeply flawed on the Xoom. “We often found even for the most basic animations the browser skipped frames, incorrectly rendered elements, or didn’t run the animation to completion,” Bansod writes.

More advanced CSS 3 animations, created with Sencha Animator, did render but “text sometimes doesn’t appear, parts of the artwork are clipped incorrectly, fonts are rendered poorly, and frames of the animation are dropped. For some of the 3D effects, the browser simply drops the 3D or tries and fails to render the effects.”

Bansod concludes, “For anything but the most basic CSS transitions and animations the Xoom does not make the grade.”

Embedded HTML5 audio and video was also problematic. “We are able to get HTML5 audio to work, although we find that sometimes the audio plays even after we left the page or even closed the browser,” Bansod writes. “We were unable to get HTML5 video to work at all.” Xoom doesn’t ship with Adobe Flash embedded.

In terms of raw performance, the Xoom browser is outstanding. Bansod notes that the tablet runs the Nvidia Tegra 2, a dual-core chip with each core running at 1GHz. And the browser uses the very recent WebKit version 534.13 rendering engine. The Sunspider tests confirmed that Xoom’s browser handily outperforms both the Galaxy Tab browser and Safari on Apple’s current iPad with version 4.2 of iOS.

“Until Google and Motorola ship a patch to update the browser to production quality, don’t expect good results from the Motorola Xoom,” Bansod concludes. “We said it in the Galaxy Tab review [by Sencha], and we’ll say it again now: we’re still waiting for the first awesome Android tablet.”

But he left a hint that someone is getting HTML5 right: Next week, Sencha will post a review of RIM’s PlayBook tablet. Bansod’s one-word sneak-peak: “awesomeness.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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