Motorola Xoom review
To date, Apple’s rivals in the consumer tablet space have been a major disappointment. Despite a splurge of pre-Christmas launches, only a few have proved usable or worth the money, and even then the regular lament at the end of each review has been “okay, but no iPad.” Can the Motorola Xoom change all that?
It’s certainly a possibility, for where all previous Android tablets have been forced to run smartphone-focused versions of Google’s OS, the Xoom runs Android 3 (aka Honeycomb), complete with Google’s snazzy new, tablet-specific front end.
It makes a good fist of competing on the hardware front too. Prise the Xoom from its compact box and you’re met with a handsome piece of hardware. The rear is mostly clad in gunmetal grey aluminium, topped with a rubbery strip housing an 5-megapixel camera, a dual-LED flash, stereo speakers and the power button.
Flip it around, and the 10.1in 1,280 x 800 screen dominates affairs, with a 2-megapixel, front-facing video camera top-centre, a small power LED opposite it, and the Motorola logo discreetly positioned in the top-left corner. The volume buttons are on the left-hand edge, with a headphone socket in the middle at the top, while micro-USB, Micro HDMI out, charging and dock contacts are situated on the bottom.
Build quality is fantastic, and while we can’t say it bests the iPad 2 (it’s 129g heavier and 4.1mm thicker) it certainly runs it close. It’s the most physically alluring Android tablet yet, and blessed with the sort of glamour and luxurious feel the Samsung Galaxy Tab can only dream of.
Under the hood, a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU provides the horsepower, complete with 1GB of RAM plus 32GB of integrated storage (16GB and 64GB versions may eventually become available). Other specifications include Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR (supporting Bluetooth keyboards as well as audio devices), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and A-GPS. The 3G version is set to cost £100 more.
On paper the Xoom looks formidable, and with its higher resolution screen and cameras it even pulls ahead of the iPad 2 in some respects. The crucial question is whether all this exotic hardware is complemented by good software. From a usability perspective, the answer is a resounding yes.
Android 3 provides a more finely tuned front-end than the smartphone versions on previous Android tablets. It looks great, for starters – think Tron meets Minority Report – and its crisp, sci-fi style graphics provide a nice counterpoint to the soft curves and contours of the iPad’s UI.
The key improvement in Android 3 is proportion. Icons are the right size for larger screens, allowing you to squeeze much more onto the desktop than previously. A thin, permanent toolbar now runs along the bottom of all screens, with Back, Home and a Running tasks icon in the bottom left corner. A notifications area in the bottom-right displays battery life, Wi-Fi signal strength and a clock, and small icons indicate downloads and message alerts appear in the area immediately to the left of this.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||249 x 13 x 168mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1,000MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
|Built-in flash type||Dual-LED|
|Upstream USB ports||0|
|Mobile operating system||Android 3|