Review: Motorola XOOM

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The Motorola XOOM came out at CES this year as one of the hyped tablets of the year, especially since it was seen as the Honeycomb tablet that could compete with the iPad hardware wise. Now its rival Android makers also getting their tablets out, does the Motorola XOOM stand out from the crowd of many Android tablets? The most important question, however, should be: is this an iPad competitor or not?

Terence Huynh reviews the Motorola XOOM, which you can read after the jump.

  • Score:

    7.5 / 10

  • The Good:

    Excellent design; solid performance with fast processor; Honeycomb

  • The Bad:

    Honeycomb has a learning curve; screen a bit dim; some issues with Flash

  • Bottom Line:

    A great Android-powered tablet that is fast.

Editor’s Note: the tablet is the Wi-Fi only version. If you get the 3G version, performance and quality may vary.

Design and Hardware

The Motorola XOOM looks brilliant. The body is slick and thicker at the edges – and I feel it’s a bit more sturdy than the pencil-thin iPad 2. In fact, the body does make it appear smaller despite the fact it has a much larger 10.1-inch display. The body is heavier compared to the iPad 2 – at 730g, but not that heavy to be annoying. It is, however, slightly noticeable when holding it in landscape mode but not in portrait mode.

The XOOM lacks a dedicated button to take you back home, and when you come straight from an iOS device to this, it is a minor nuisance but you’ll learn over time. Motorola opts to use the on-screen keys on the bottom of Honeycomb. The power button is actually on the back, instead of on the sides – again, if you are used to an iOS device, then you would find that a nuisance. Around the sides, you’ll see a volume rocker, several ports for microUSB and micro HDMI connectivity – pretty good for transferring and connecting up to your television – and the usual standard headphone jack.

It also has a microSD card slot, which means that you can have more storage if you already used up your 32GB of data, or just want to easily transfer music and videos to play on the device. For some reason or another, when it was originally released, the tablet was not able to read the microSD card slot, but now – with version 3.1 – it works.

Camera-wise, it has a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera with a dual LED flash. The 2-megapixel camera’s photo quality isn’t that great, but we think it’s primary focus is to be used for video conferencing. The 5-megapixel camera takes better quality shots, but it’s not the same as point-and-shoot, and some mobile phone cameras these days. The video recording quality is pretty decent, and able to record up to 720p HD. However, I would still take a digital camera or camcorder, as it does feel a bit weird using a tablet to record such moments. But at least its there, ready to be used when you need it.

Accessories, Accessories, Accessories

Remember when I said that you have a micro HDMI port and you can plug it in your television? You’ll need to get an additional accessory in order to do that since we could not get it to work – the speaker dock, which will set you back AU$149. Yes, in order to hook this tablet on your television, you’ll need to buy a speaker dock – very annoying at the very least, especially when you could have just offered a cable to do the same thing, but alas they do not.

And yes, I did check the internet in order to make sure it wasn’t just my television playing up. If you do have a different story, do tell me!

It also features several other accessories, such as a Bluetooth keyboard, a charging dock – which is just a slim-down version of the speaker dock, minus the support for a micro HDMI port – and a “portfolio” case. The case just protects and acts as a stand when you’re watching videos. They are also pretty expensive.

Performance

The tablet features a dual-core, 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and it is fast. There is very little lag and I pretty much ran concurrently a music player, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Google’s applications for its services and Feedly, switching back and forth between those apps and it handled it fine. The screen is pretty good too and images and text are vibrant and smooth. Viewing angles are excellent (we couldn’t find an area where you couldn’t see it). That said, it is a tad dim and it does become an issue when exposed to sunlight outdoors (though if you live in Melbourne, it wouldn’t be a hassle in ten months of the year because it’ll be gloomy)

Battery life is pretty decent, we got about three to four days use with medium use. Though, again, we have the Wi-Fi version on hand. Battery life does change when you add 3G to the mix, and should drain more than what the Wi-Fi version did.

Android 3.0/.1 Honeycomb

Turn on the Motorola XOOM, and the first thing you notice is that you see the stock-standard Android 3.x Honeycomb home screen. Motorola has opted to change the background rather than pushing Motoblur on the tablet, which I am thankful for because personally it would just not work. Honeycomb does support previous Android applications, like the iOS devices, but the UI is a huge departure from Android phones.

Honeycomb’s home screen follows its counterparts in which there are widgets, where you can glance on your Facebook stream, Twitter feed and even YouTube channels. Of course, you also have widgets for Calendar, your email and the clock. And of course, you can put links to applications. It is rather nice and a bit of a merger between desktop and just listing apps like the iOS does.

However, the ease of the home screen is one thing, the rest is another. Honeycomb’s biggest problem is a substantial learning curve – even previous Android users will need to relearn the tricks. It isn’t a big learning curve, but all you need to know are four keys and the occasional contextual or notification icon on the bottom bar. Plus some of the features are hidden away, in some distant menu in settings or something like that.

Also, what bugs me is there no way to close an application without going into settings. I much rather have it on a little corner, or a gesture, so I can just close it without going to applications and force quit.

The Motorola XOOM supports Adobe Flash, and with the Tegra 2 chip, it runs somewhat smoothly. You can’t really go outside of a Flash container unless you touch outside of it and then touch it again, but these are slight oddities. Plus, some design ideas made in Flash, such as a hover player controls for video, do not necessarily work on a tablet.

The web browser is pretty good – and how it handles multiple tabs is innovative and non-intrusive. Similar to Chrome, you also have an incognito tab, meaning that you can browse the web without it storing in your cache. Important if you want to hide shopping a present for your partner.

Android 3.x is great for tablets, but it does have some flaws it still needs to work out.

Conclusion

The Motorola XOOM is a good competitor around Android tablets, and most likely one of the better ones coming to Australia – since the Samsung has been banned. However, while these Android tablets  get things right and do things that the iOS does thanks to Honeycomb, the iPad still dominates the tablet realm not because of its buzz, but because of its simplicity and apps – something that Android and Motorola XOOM somewhat struggle.

The Motorola XOOM is available in retailers. The 3G version is a Telstra exclusive device.

Join the Conversation

  • Guest

    Hi, you don’t need to forcefully buy the speaker dock to synch your Xoom to your TV, you could get a standard MICRO HDMI to HDMI cable ($20 USD or less) and make it work. Greetings from a Mexico Xoom owner.