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Review of Motorola Xoom
Live photos of Motorola Xoom
This Android tablet from Motorola was designed in a relatively straight forward way. Its main rival in the shape of Apple iPad had been already on sale for some time and its weak points were well-known. Unfortunately, Motorola decided to follow the line of the least resistance and merely boosted the characteristics. If iPad has no camera we will add two. MicroSD slot was also included due to the same reason. Motorola engineers had similar thoughts and ignored the possible development of iPad. The down-to-Earth approach yielded a run-off-the-mill product you cannot enjoy. The convenience is missing as well. Don't you believe? Let's browse key points to discuss the prospects of this controversial device.
Motorola Xoom was the first Android 3.0 tablet shown at CES in January 2011 when Google chose this Motorola product to highlight its new tablet-based OS. In January we had only a beta version and even experts could not test the prototype. In February we received a relatively operational version, but there are some reservations. It is not completely ready yet, albeit it's not the most serious issue.
All that is allowed to Jupiter is not necessarily allowed to an ox. If many complained about the size and weight of the first Apple iPad, which made it difficult to hold in hands Motorola Xoom had no right to follow suit. Apple iPad2 was already an improvement and Motorola Xoom will compete in this respect with the first generation iPad. Dimensions are 249.1 x 167.8 x 12.9 mm with the weight of 730 g. Apple iPad2 (3G) boasts 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm and 613 g.
No matter how you look at it Apple gives a better ergonomics. Motorola hides the metal in the body of black color, while Apple offers black and white. The material was labeled soft touch, but it is not related to a similarly named material in mobile phones. To my mind it is rather a graphite. The surface is rough and retains traces of contact with other devices (traces, not scratches). The body is not easily soiled. You always feel like scratching it, but there is no such danger.
The glass protecting the screen can be easily soiled and keeps fingerprints well. The difference from Apple is the absence of the oleophobic layer. I was always harsh towards the screen of iPad, which gets soiled exceedingly quickly, but Xoom gives a more inferior impression. Even if you wash hands ten times a day the screen will be covered by greasy traces.
It was not easy to turn the gadget on as I was looking for the button on sides or near the screen. In fact it is located at the back side near the camera. The solution is unusual, but it is quite convenient in everyday usage. You hold the tablet with both hands and press the button with the left one. It works fine as I have already found out.
The left side features two volume buttons, which are heavily sunk and hard to press. I do not like them, but there was not much need as games on Android 3.0 are still non-existent, so you don't have to make the volume down.
The bottom hosts an HDMI slot (Mirror mode is supported, which is nice) together with a microUSB jack. Near the front panel we see a charger indicator. On the other side there is a 2 MP frontal camera. The right part of the screen rim hides a light sensor, which sends signals, when an event takes place. Nearby you can find a charger jack, which is sadly a proprietary one.
At the top there is a 3.5 mm headphones jack right in the middle. To the left is the SIM card slot. First shipments have no 4G support and you have to send them back to service centers. In the US it takes a week.
Inside the SIM card slot you have a microSD slot card with a stop.
I have no complaints to the build quality as all components fit well.
The back side has two stereo speakers, which is an advantage over iPad. Speakers are loud and provide decent sound quality especially in games. Owners of both iPad models know that the inbuilt speaker is not loud enough.
A 10.1″ capacitive screen offers the resolution of 1280х800 and multitouch support. Gorilla Glass protects the screen and makes it scratch resistant.
Automatic backlight adjustment does not work well and the screen is usually dim. All brightness settings must be set manually.
Quality picture is above criticism. Colors are bright and lively and Xoom can compete with Apple iPad in this department. In the sun the screen becomes blind and you have to strain your eyes even in the camera mode.
I have a largely positive impression from the screen. A TFT matrix is not the best and slightly loses to Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The tablet has a 6500 mAh Li-Ion battery and the manufacturer claims up to 10 hours of video playback and a similar amount of web surfing in WiFi networks, while the 3G connection will give you around 9 hours. Two weeks of standby performance are guaranteed s well.
I will not surprise you if I tell that the operation time is similar to major rivals like the first iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. They have screens with identical power consumption, which influences the final outcome the most. Other components are not vital in this respect as they do not require that much power. The automatic backlight adjustment boosts the operation time by 10-15%.
The tablet features 1 GB of RAM, which is a standard for Honeycomb tablets. I haven't seen models with the lower parameter so far. Initially 32 GB of inbuilt memory is available to users, which can be accompanied by a microSD slot. "Happy" owners of the model will be unpleasantly surprised, but memory cards are not detected. Motorola shifts the blame onto Google and promises to come up with a patch to solve the issue. The timeframe is unclear, but it will definitely happen. I have not experienced such an approach of empty promises for a long time. Memory cards support is usually a straightforward matter and it is unclear why not to implement it in Honeycomb from the very outset.
The device is built on Nvidia Tegra2, which gives us a dual-core processor of 1 GHz. The first question comes to the fore Ц why the boost is not used in the interface, during the video and Adobe Flash playback. There is no hardware acceleration so far. The company says it had no time to polish the product and promises an imminent update. Again it is not clear how soon it will happen. In April, May or in the middle of summer? I am sure that not all capabilities of the platform will be used anyway.
In day-to-day operations this tablet can be compared with the first version of Apple iPad and we cannot notice any performance advantage. The interface of iPad is faster than the product from Motorola.
Unfortunately, the capabilities of processors and graphic modules are used only by games created for Tegra2. There are two such games for Xoom, but they do not impress much.
Synthetic tests measurements do not show real performance and I will not quote them as such figures tell nothing.
Manufacturers of tablets do not use proper cameras in tablets. Apple iPad has a camera with the resolution, which seems not serious these days, so do not get fooled by a 5 MP camera in Xoom. It is an ordinary camera, which will not make you happy. On the other hand it is hard to imagine a person using the tablet for taking pictures all the time. The whole process looks funny.
The LED flash is powerful, but it cannot improve the quality of shots. I do not like the pictures produced by this camera. Look at samples and judge for yourself. 720p video recording is also mediocre in quality.
The device supports WiFi (a/b/g/n), finds networks, easily connects to them, but occasionally a WiFi connection can get frozen. It may be associated with my hotspots at home and in the office. The connection is on, but data are not transferred. The issue is handled with switching the tablet off and turning on. The reconnection happens quickly, while the router reload does not solve the initial issue and the same effect is produced by disconnection from the network in the menu.
Bluetooth 2.1 works well and you can use a headset of your own.
A miniHDMI jack on the body is traditional, but it offers the Mirror mode support. Connect to a TV set and see on the screen all your tablet actions.
USB connection enables the Mass Storage mode.
The basic features of Honeycomb have been reviewed in the dedicated article and this is merely a brief description of the applications without any assessment. Also the situation with additional applications for Android 3.0 as compared to Apple iPad has been reviewed in a separate article so I will simply leave links to those articles not to repeat myself.
Unfortunately, there are only two games and one utility program among the additional applications besides the standard ones in an out-of-box Motorola Xoom.
There is a game called Dungeon Defender Deluxe (an optimized for Nvidia Tegra2 version). The game is nothing outstanding and has ordinary graphics.
There is also a platformer called Cordy Ц quite ordinary, nothing special really.
A utility application called Movie Studio allows you to edit your videos on the tablet Ц it has a rather basic functionality. I do not think that a tablet is any good for video editing but someone might need it.
Unfortunately, there is no separate video player application they videos are just opened automatically. There is no out-of-box support of DivX/Xvid/AVI, but the worst part is that the players available on the Android Market that support these codecs demonstrate pitiful video quality (artifacts, laggy playback and so on). It tells us that there is no hardware acceleration for video playback. Motorola was too hasty to get this tablet out on the market and as a result we have now a semi-finished product.
What else to choose as an object of comparison but the most popular representative of the kind? To be fair we have to consider only products released in the same time frame so I leave the first iPad out of the equation. However, it will be interesting to take a look at the Samsung's rather standard tablet that will be released only in early summer. By that time there will be a lot of similar Android tablets.
If you look carefully at the table you will see that Apple iPad2 offers by far the best price to quality ratio. One may make up explanations why he needs something else but this is really a domain of psychology. Unfortunately, Motorola Xoom does not possess any advantages relevant to an average user.
I was surprised by how bad Motorola wanted to be the first with their tablet on the market at any cost. It is nice when Google chooses your company as the partner for the launch of Honeycomb. It is quite an achievement, especially, if you take into account that all the other manufacturers have refused the honor since their devices were not yet ready. The Motorola tablet was ready either but the company decided that the PR factor will pay for all the investments despite even the negative market feedback. Well, you can see how it worked out for them in terms of the reputation.
I cannot recall any other device that was released on the market so hastily Ц at any cost. In the beginning, Motorola set the sales to late February but after the iPad2 announcement the date was unprecedentedly expedited. Well, naturally, it does not really matter when you release a raw device with an unready operating system Ц sooner or later Ц all the growing pains will still be there.
See for yourself, Motorola did not include an out-of-box support for 4G Ц a Verizon client will have to send the device for servicing for a week. This procedure is free of charge but what is going to happen with all your data, applications and so on? This service will not be popular.
A malfunctioning microSD slot is so shameful that I am at a loss for words. How is that even possible? You cannot release a product that features a function that does not work Ц it is a disgrace.
I was not frustrated when I did not find Adobe Flash that was longed for by many. What we have here is a beta-version, in every sense. It is a beta OS with beta-hardware tablet with beta-applications. This is just too much.
The price for Motorola Xoom for Verizon clients with a two year contract starts from $599 or $799 without a contract. After the iPad announcement the company started offering a $100 discount coupons (for the version without a contract), but even with the coupon the price is $699 and Apple iPad2 still looks better.
In the first days of sales the Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha claimed that the sales are very good. However, independent sources are unanimous: the tablet is far from being a bestseller. Moreover, after having studied many forums for a week I learned that the return rate is overwhelming. I do not have any valid statistics but I have got a feeling that people were waiting for a real knockout that would end the hegemony of Apple on the market. Then they bought the tablet, gave it a try, got completely disappointed, returned it and bought an iPad or tried something else.
The general impression the tablet gave me is depressing. It has very good hardware that has not been sufficiently tested and which as a result is erratic. Just imagine, you have a gallery of pictures and videos but you cannot watch them Ц they simply do not open. You have to transfer them to your PC. Although, this issue of my sample only but why did this happen in the first place? I do not know. Probably, the OS is so crude so far. Instead of pictures I see the wait icon and it stays there for a long time.
The unpredictable Wi-Fi Ц the browser that was working just a moment ago suddenly freezes and makes you wait like an idiot. If you check the connection from a different device you will find that everything is ok it is just Xoom failing to perform a simple task. The included Nvidia Tegra2 is a laughable matter. Why do I have to pay for better hardware if I cannot use it anywhere?
The production of Motorola Xoom is scheduled to stop in June 2011 but I believe that the company will terminate this product much earlier and an updated version or a completely different tablet with a new name Ц it is simply impossible to sell a product that compromised critically ruined. During my reviewer carrier I have seen thousands of gadgets and many of them were prototypes at different stages of development. And I can tell you that Motorola Xoom now available in stores is a prototype and by no means can be regarded as a commercial product. It needs at least a few months of development until it is ready. Very unfortunate.
I would like to address Android fans who say that we should give Google a chance to create an excellent OS, and that we should refrain from criticizing devices under this OS and that Android will do just as good as it did on the mobile phone market.
From my point of view, a regular consumer is only concerned with the OS future only in terms of what he is getting out-of-box and in the nearest future. As of today, all Android 3.0 products are raw and it is completely and utterly the fault of Google Ц it is OS issues. Why do you think Samsung did not risk releasing their tablet as early as March despite the fact that they had everything necessary to do so? Because the company believes that Honeycomb will not be any good before June 2011. Of course, you should consider my opinion groundless and simply overheard at CTIA. As a regular consumer I do not want to be waiting tomorrow for the device I bought today. And this is the main issue with Android as compared to Apple. The Apple tablet despite all its design limitations works right out of box Ц it does not crash or reboot and it is comprehensible.
Unfortunately, Xoom has already become a heavy blow to the reputation of Motorola. This is definitely not what the company needs right now. It is better to take your time and produce good stuff instead of hurrying and getting crude prototypes on the market.
Lastly, I would like to show you the commercial of this tablet which I like. Unfortunately, the guy in the video is actually the black sheep among normals.
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Published 27 March 2011
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