Motorola Xoom review
All the pre-production Android 3 tablets we’ve seen have sported the Google Books app, but there was no sign of it on this review sample. When we attempted to install it from the Market, the tablet informed us it was “unavailable with this operator”. Presumably this is because the Google Book Store isn’t yet available in the UK.
That wouldn’t be a problem if a decent alternative were available, but we couldn’t find anything that worked really well with the Xoom’s large screen. It’s at this juncture that we hit one of the current limitations with Android 3: there just isn’t enough tablet-specific Android software yet.
Although many of the smartphone apps we tried worked on the Xoom, most didn’t look very attractive. We also came across some that wouldn’t run stably, or at all. The standard Facebook Android app we downloaded kept crashing, Pool Master Pro exhibited odd graphical artifacts we hadn’t seen before, and the Aldiko eBook Reader fell over every time we tried to view books in portrait orientation.
This will change as more developers release HD versions of their apps, but it’ll probably take a few months before the number of good ones hits critical mass. And we think Android 3 also needs to improve the Market interface – it’s crying out for a means of sifting tablet-specific from smartphone apps.
Performance and battery life
Aside from the inevitable grumbles and gripes, after a few days of using the Xoom we came to like it very much. Subjectively, though, despite the dual-core architecture, the performance picture is mixed.
The 3D carousel animation you get when navigating between Honeycomb’s five desktop screens is smooth and responsive, and you’ll be skipping around from app to app, to the homepage and back with the sort of speed you’d hope for.
Battery life, which has proved a problem for Android tablets in the past, is great too. Motorola claims the Xoom gives ten hours of Wi-Fi browsing, and we wouldn’t argue. In fact, the Xoom lasted 12hrs 49mins in our video test, which involves playing a low resolution podcast video on loop at around one-third screen brightness until the battery dies.
That’s a touch behind the first iPad (13hrs 44mins) and a long way behind the iPad 2’s result of 16hrs 49mins, but it’ll give you a good day or more of casual use, and that’s not to be sniffed at.
Unfortunately for the Xoom, it isn’t all good news. Rotate an iPad 2 from landscape to portrait and the desktop elements flow like quicksilver; do the same on the Xoom and they judder into their new positions. Launch the main app screen and there’s a hint of hesitation as it hoves into view.
While simple sites scroll by in a blur, complex web pages can feel laggy and unresponsive: panning and zooming around the BBC desktop homepage felt like wading through treacle. Not what you expect from a tablet with this much power on tap.
The screen looks fine, with more pixels and a wider aspect ratio than the iPad 2 making it (in theory) better suited to watching movies on the go. And, in isolation at least, it looks bright enough with vibrant colours, good contrast and even decent viewing angles.
|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|