Review: Motorola Xoom Tablet
The launch of the iPad 2 may be right around the corner, but it’s not the only tablet getting some major buzz. The Motorola Xoom device — the first-ever Android 3.0 Honeycomb slate — hit the market yesterday (Feb. 24) with a fresh interface, interactive widgets and a powerful processor.
The Xoom — which is intended to be held in a landscape mode, as opposed to the iPad’s vertical portrait position — is streamlined and sturdy but not exactly elegant, according to Laptop Magazine, which recently tested the device.
Google designed the Android 3.0 operating system to be clean — so clean, in fact, that tablet makers don't need to include traditional home, back, search and menu hard key buttons found on phones. Those functions are actually built into the software. However, this can sometimes make the device more difficult to use, Laptop Magazine said.
"The power button is on the back of the device," it noted in an article. "This key isn't that difficult to find by feel, but its placement will still confuse and turn off many users."
Meanwhile, Xoom's 10.1-inch display is said to be sharper than the iPad's screen. The Xoom weighs in at 1.6 pounds, a tenth of a pound more than the iPad . This doesn't seem like a big difference, but the weight is apparently noticeable after holding it for awhile.
The back of the Xoom device is home to two powerful stereo speakers that makes audio-listening superb. The back also has a 5-megapixel camera, which comes with a dual-LED flash.
Not surprisingly, one of the key differentiators is the Android 3.0 software. Although it makes customization easier and fun for its users, it does come with a learning curve even for Android phone owners.
"Navigating Honeycomb requires a little more thought and effort than iOS," Laptop Magazine said.
However, the keyboard is said to be accurate and fast, and the cut-and-paste experience is supposed to be sharp. Even more, the browsing experience comes close to what you would get when using a desktop. Google built tabs into its browser and also optimized the bookmarks menu to make it easy to look through various sites at one time.
Surprisingly, the Xoom doesn't support Flash right now, but Motorola aims to roll out Flash Player 10.2 to the tablet in the next few weeks. Another drawback is that 4G isn’t ready yet, either. A free upgrade for this should be available by the second quarter of this year.
Laptop Magazine also noted that the powerful 1-GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor and a full 1GB of RAM weren't as fast as expected. It often took three seconds for the screen to change and at times, apps even crashed. This news doesn’t bode too well for the Xoom when it's compared against the iPad. But apparently it's still faster than the single-core Galaxy Tab.
Motorola said Xoom's battery runs for 10 hours of video playback, but Laptop Magazine got in about eight full hours after continuous web surfing over 3G. This is pretty strong endurance for the device, though, and is only a bit shy of the Verizon Galaxy Tab (eight hours and 18 minutes) and the AT&T iPad 3G (eight hours and 21 minutes) run times.
An additional downside is the price : The Xoom device costs a whopping $599 with a two-year contract ($799 without) that includes 3G connectivity. This is a lot to spend on a device that isn’t even fully complete. (Again, Flash and 4G is supposed to be added soon).
Overall, the Motorola Xoom is a strong next-generation tablet, but it still has some kinks to work out.
The verdict: Wait until the price drops and the software stabilizes before taking the plunge.