Launched at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011, in Las Vegas, the Motorola Xoom wowed the world with its slick new operating system ‘Google Honeycomb’ and its class leading specifications. Besides being the flagship Honeycomb tablet, it was the first one to feature dual cameras and a dual-core processor, even before the iPad 2 was launched.
Hardware and Styling
On the face of it, you are welcomed by the large 10.1-inch display, which has a resolution of 1280×800, making it compatible with high definition content at 720p. The device has no buttons on the front of the device. The only thing other than the screen is a 2-megapixel front facing camera for video chats. There are no hardware Android buttons as the Honeycomb OS houses these inside the operating system user interface.
At 12.9 mm and 730 grams, it will not give the iPad 2 any jitters when it comes down to sheer volume, but the Xoom does pack a few punches of its own. For starters, the bottom end of the device is home to a micro-USB slot and the charger port. The top of the device houses the micro-SD card slot and the sim-card slot covered by a plastic flip out cover. None of these facilities are available on Apple’s tablet.
The left edge of the device contains the volume rockers.
The back of the device houses two important things – a 5-megapixel camera and the power button.
The placement of the power button could put off people at first but it is actually quite clever. Whenever one holds the device in landscape mode it will always be close to one’s fingers providing quick ergonomic access to the button.
Overall, the design of the device is very frugal but it does give a sense of immense solidity. In comparison to fellow Honeycomb graduate – the Acer Iconia A500 – it feels a tad lighter and has less prominent bezel saving space and reducing the excess bulk.
Google used the Motorola Xoom as a hardware template for the development of Android 3.0 Honeycomb and aptly the Honeycomb OS performs very well on the Motorola Xoom.
With Honeycomb, Google has introduced a brand new tablet interface, which is enhanced with widgets. The whole operating system feels more like a desktop class operating system rather than a mobile operating system as seen on Apple’s iOS.
There are different kinds of widgets for apps and some of them can also be flipped around like cards. The user will be able to resize the widgets in the Android 3.1 update.
While the operating system itself is very snappy and responsive it does have a steep learning curve unlike the Apple’s iOS.
Also, in its current form, Android 3.0 does not have a library of applications which can match the iPad’s. But, the Honeycomb OS does manage to scale standard Android apps very impressively with minimal pixelation.
Apart from this, currently Google is not allowing manufacturers to provide skins for Android 3.0 Honeycomb. At this point almost all Android Honeycomb tablets are going to provide similar feature sets and experiences.
Google has really stepped up their game as far as multimedia goes and Motorola has also provided a hardware template which is ideal for multimedia consumption.
The 10.1-inch display is very crisp. In our opinion, it’s a tad brighter than the Acer Iconia A500, which also featured a similar display. In comparison to the iPad, the display is quite superior as the Xoom boasts of higher resolution.
Google has improved the in-built audio player by leaps and bounds, which now welcomes the user with an Applisqué cover-flow type interface which moves in a carousel format. The audio quality is crystal clear with crunchy mid-range, tight bass and articulates highs. It’s right up there with an iPod, so kudos to Google and Motorola for improving the overall interface and also improving the in-built digital processing simulation.
Even when it comes down to photography, the Xoom is quite impressive packing in a 5 megapixel snapper in the rear with 720p recording capabilities and a front 2 megapixel snapper which is good for video chats.
A tablet form factor is not ideal for photography and tablet manufactures are not helping their cause by packing poor image sensors in their devices. The iPad 2 has a very underwhelming 2 megapixel image sensor, for instance. The Xoom’s 5 megapixel snapper is much better than the iPad 2’s 2 megapixel rear camera. But, the images were still pretty grainy and noisy. One would need to click with a very steady hand to click usable pictures. The same can be said of the 720p video but holding a large device with minimal shake is next to impossible.
The Xoom is primarily designed as a media consumption device and it features a very usable 32 gigabyte inbuilt memory and a micro-SD expansion slot, which at present does not work.
According to Motorola, this functionality will come with the Android 3.1 update, which will also provide USB-host functionality. Motorola should tread carefully as the Acer Iconia tab included all these features at launch. The Acer Iconia also provides a full USB port while the Xoom only provides micro-USB functionality.
Mac users will have to download an app call Android File Manager if they want to sync their device with any Android powered tablet.
The Xoom comes with Google’s standard suite of apps, which include Gtalk, Google Maps, YouTube, Latitude, Email and Gmail.
GTalk on Honeycomb is a desktop class experience with support for video chats as well. It’s a very seamless experience and is like an extension of the desktop app.
Google has opted to provide different apps for Email and Gmail which is somewhat dysfunctional as users cannot aggregate email content under one application. The Gmail app is quite similar to Mail on the iPad. It is divided into two different panes providing detailed information for the user. Anyone who has used Gmail on the web will be instantly familiar with the application.
Email is also very similar apart from being exclusively for non-Gmail accounts.
Google has integrated a new version of maps on Honeycomb, which is vector based providing faster triangulation of one’s position and more detailed 3D street view maps. It’s faster than its iOS cousins and the vector graphics are probably going to remain exclusive to Honeycomb for sometime as Apple is already planning a mapping service of its own for the iOS.
Latitude is basically a social extension of the maps application and it works seamlessly in tandem with one’s Google contacts.
While all this is fine, the major problem the Xoom will confront is the dearth of Honeycomb specific applications versus the iPad’s 90,000 plus strong library. At the moment, Android Honeycomb has less than 500 apps.
When the Xoom was launched it stunned everyone with its formidable feature set. The Nvidia’s state of the art Tegra 2 dual core processor clocked at 1 GHz and 1GB of DDR2 RAM.
On the Linpack Pro test, the Nvidia Tegra 2 proved its muscle clocking 51.486 MFLOPS in 3.28 seconds in comparison to the Acer Iconia’s 41.957 MFLOPs in 2.3 seconds.
On the Quadrant Standard test, the Xoom scored 2087 points besting the Iconia’s 2000 marginally. The minute difference in performance is due to the fact both the devices share similar internals.
The Benchmark Pi was also calculated in only 536 milliseconds and on the Antu Benchmark the Xoom scored an impressive 3611.
When Honeycomb was launched, Google claimed it would provide a superior web browsing experience than that on the iPad as well as full Flash support. Adobe recently released Flash Player 10.3 for Android devices, including tablets.
Xoom also features an immensely capable web browser, which seems like an offspring of Google Chrome. Besides providing tabbed browsing capabilities, the Honeycomb browser is insanely fast. In the Browsermark test it scored a highly impressive 87662 pipping the iPad 2 by a good 18000.
When it was launched back in January everyone thought the Xoom was the iPad killer incarnate but at the moment, sans the Android 3.1 update, it is not even king among its Honeycomb brethren. The Acer Iconia A500 provides similar features at a much lower price point.
While it boasts of immense speed and a slick new operating system, the lack of native applications on Honeycomb and Apple’s first mover’s advantage are the two things that it has to contend with.
Buy it if you want an extremely good Honeycomb experience. If you want more apps, turn your attention to the iPad 2.
Inbuilt Google apps
Good Build quality
Lack of third party apps
Buggy operating system
· Performance: 4
· Price: 3
· Ease of Setup: 4
· Ergonomics: 3
· Wow Factor: 3