Hands on Review of the Motorola Xoom
Mar
04

Hands on Review of the Motorola Xoom

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motorola xoom

The Motorola Xoom is the first Android 3.0 tablet to hit the retail sphere in 2011 and seems like it is a true viable contender to usurp market position away from the dominant force of Apple and their iPad. We first got our hands on this device at CES where it was running only video loops showing off the features. Even then we marveled at the overall design and CNET rated it the Best in Show. How does the latest iteration of Google Android Honeycomb stack up? Is this device a case of releasing a product too soon before the software allows the hardware to function properly? Or is it the dream device, that Android aficionados everywhere are reveling in?

Hardware

The Motorola Xoom features a 10.1 capacitive full color touchscreen with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels. It is running on a blazening fast Nvidia Tegra 2 1 GHZ dual core processor and has 1 GB of DDR2 RAM. It has 32 GB of internal memory and you can furtherly enhance it up to 32 GB more via the MicroSD card. Speaking of the MicroSD card, currently it is not enabled by a software glitch. This should be remedied in a near future update.

One of the best additions to this new Google Android 3.0 tablet is the fact it has dual cameras! It has a rear facing 5 MP camera for shooting video, taking pictures of  your friends and a front facing 2.0 MP camera for web chatting. Shooting video on the Xoom went very well, and it shoots all video on the rear camera in 720p resolution. It also has a built in flash for low light situation. We found that using this device to shoot video is a bit encumbersome and not too practical.

The device can orient itself from landscape to portrait mode very fast with its 3 axis accelerometer and we found that

Since the Xoom is a full media device you are going to find yourself inevitably watching some videos. It will display videos in full 1080P via the 16:9 wide screen aspect ratio. The supported formats are The Motorola Xoom has support for the following video (H.263, H.264, MPEG4, VP8), and audio (AAC, AAC+, AMR NB, AMRWB, MP3, XMF)

The Motorola Xoom was designed to give you all of the internet capabilities you will ever need! the device is equipped with WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Verizon’s EV-DO Rev and in the future the new LTE network. In Canada it will be available on Rogers 3G network. When the Verizon LTE network is supported you will actually have to send your device back to Motorola or Verizon to get a hardware upgrade. So if you intend on sticking with Verizon and paying your monthly dataplan bills and want to use the high-speed LTE network, buyer beware.

The battery life on the Xoom is very solid at around 8.20 hours, which beats allot of its competition in overall life, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Although the iPad still has this one beat at around 9 hours of  battery life. You can get a little bit more battery life out of the Xoom if you turn the 3G functionality off, you can get around 10 hours by just having WIFI on. If you decide to turn all connectivity off the device will last up to 3 days by just playing music and about 10 hours with just video playing.

The Motorola Xoom audio is fairly solid and will play most formats such as Mp3, AAC, WAV and so on. The dual stereo speakers do the job fairly well at mid level volumes, but once you crank it up to the max it sounds fairly distorted. We would recommend using headphones if you want to get a sound audio experience out of the Xoom.

The new tablet from Motorola also has a ton of device ports in order to maintain your device and allow it to connect up to other devices. It features a MicroUSB port to connect up to your computer to easily transfer music, video, documentation, ebooks and so on. It also features a mini HDMI port to connect it up to your television, projectors and other devices. If physical cables are not your thing, you might want to check out DLNA, but right now the Xoom does not support it.

Lastly in terms of hardware, the Xoom has a built in GPS in order to effectively use Google Maps and provide turn by turn directions with third party software. It also has a ambient light sensor to automatically dim the screen based on environmental conditions.

The Xoom seemed to have nailed the hardware right out of the gates with a high performing processor, tons of storage space and high resolution cameras. It would have been nice for the inclusion of a full USB port to accommodate portable flash drives to sideload content in. Many other tablets including the Elocity A7 have this feature, along with the Entourage Pocket Edge. Having a full USB port to load in files, videos, documents and so on would have gone a long way to making this device the best in terms of hardware. We also found that holding it in landscape mode is the only way to roll, when you flip it into portrait mode, the resolution seems to suffer a bit more and the pixel density is very high. Although in landscape mode, watching videos, shooting videos and doing your day to day tasks proves to be a tremendous experience. Also hardware wise having the power button the back to get the tablet out of standby mode takes a bit of getting used to, where most tablets have it on the top or the sides.

Software

The Motorola Xoom is the first tablet issued that is bundled with the latest Google Android 3.0 operating system. People have been clambering from a long time for a version of Android that was built from the ground up to support tablet computers, and it really does not disappoint. The Xoom flourishes under the new OS combined with its dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM.

The entire Xoom Android interface is very intuitive and allows even for new users to tablets and Android to wrap their heads around what they are doing. When you power it up for the first time you are greeted by many step by step instructions on how to configure the device and even setup your own WIFI connection. If you connect the Xoom to one WIFI network and move to another you are prompted on device boot up to establish a network.

Another neat feature of the enhanced Android OS is the deep customization of your tablet experience. You can setup live wallpapers and other advanced widgets that look better then previous versions of Android. You can even setup Google Maps to be on your background as a live updated wallpaper. You can even setup panoramic wallpapers that scroll as you go from screen to screen.

One of the things missing in Android 3.0 that is found in earlier versions of the operating system is that it lacks the pull down Android bar. People normally do this when they are checking out downloads, installed applications and notifications. Instead, this is down right on the bottom right hand corner, it gives you flags of recently done things. It also gives you the time, WIFI signal stength and gives you more details if you tap on it.

One of the things lacking on the Xoom is soft press buttons. All of the interactive functions to activate your Home, Back, Settings are entirely software based. We found that the Xoom unlike other tablets that employ this feature, such as the Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet gets it right, and is very responsive.
There are a number of baked in Android features that the Xoom is bundled with including the new Google Book application that functions as an e-reader and has a direct portal to the Android Market which has a new book category. Although the selection on the Android Market for books is quite lackluster so far, it has only been up for a week. The Book application turns pages much akin to the Apple iBooks app that allows you to peak at the next page by slowing dragging your finder. It also has quite a number of font selections to increase or decrease the text size to customize your reading experience. The one drawback is that this Book app does not allow you to sideload in your own ePub books, like iBooks does. Instead if you want to import in your own library you will have to use other programs such as Adiko. Sadly this app does not have the neat page turns that the Books application does, so I guess it is a trade off.

Another new feature that the Xoom does very well is the organization of Music files. Your library appears as a 3D panorama of album covers that you can swipe and gesture to see other albums. Music also plays very well with the built in stereo speakers.

Another application that tickled our fancy was the brand new stand alone Youtube player. It also allowed you to view videos in a pseudo 3D format that easily scroll backwards and forwards. There is no chop or lag as well with doing any of this new form of 3D browsing, which makes it a pleasant novelty. We did find with the Xoom, although it has better resolution then the Apple iPad, the Xoom videos looked a bit saturated and the colors did not POP as much. You do have tons of control over your Youtube experience, but we found you could not watch embedded videos on Blogs or websites, they instead launched in the dedicated Youtube application.

The Web Browser that the Xoom uses is basically the same Webkit edition as seen on previous iterations of Android. The one thing the browser does very well is pinches and zooms to look closer at text. It is very seamless and the responsiveness of doing the zooming and pinching is unmatched by even the iPad. What the Xoom also does well in internet browsing is quick swipes to move up and down a page. There is no distortions of text like you might find on the iPad when you quickly scroll up and down a page. One of the drawbacks of being an early adapter of technology is the fact that the Xoom is not bundled with Adobe Flash. This prevents you from enjoying a rich web experience, and makes embedded Youtube videos open in a dedicated app, rather then just watching them in the webpage. Motorola has confirmed that Flash will be fixed in an over the air update in the coming weeks.

One program we really liked but did not get a chance to work with was the Movie Editor that comes bundled with the Xoom. It has fully functional time lines the ability to edit existing videos, pictures and other content to make your own animated shorts.

There are a ton of other applications that come with the Xoom, such as a few games that really allow for a full and rich gaming experience. Dungeon Defender and Corby really accentuate the fact that the Xoom plays 3D-esque games very well! There is no lag or glitching in any of the games, even when you have 4 or 5 other things running in the multi-tasked menu. The games feature moving cameras, attack animations and rich game play. These types of games is really what Android needs in order for it to be a successful operating system for the tablet platform.

If you want to check out pictures, or movies you will have to use the gallery function in order to view content. The best way to copy data to your Xoom is by hooking it up via MicroUSB to your computer and dragging and dropping items via Windows Explorer. The Xoom does not come with any type of file management software, so you might want to download Astro or ES File Explorer to search for content on your device and launch it with the corresponding application.

Finally one of the great features of the Xoom is the ability to handle multitasking applications. It actually has a dedicated key on the main navigation pane to show you all of the running applications. This is great to easily see what you are doing without slowing you down.

Our Thoughts

The Motorola Xoom right out of the gates is one of the most amazing pieces of hardware we have ever reviewed. We review tablets almost weekly here at Good e-Reader, along with e-Readers. The Motorola Xoom right out of the box had everything working positively towards it being the premier Android tablet of 2011. Not only has it not crashed within the first few days of using it, but all of the applications and games took advantage of the dual core Tegra 2 processor.

The device itself is really slick and well designed, and is robust in doing day to day tasks without causing common errors. The Xoom is piano black and I really liked the fact that SIM card and the MicroSD card are underneath the same panel on the top of the device and stack beside each other. From top to bottom is hands down the best Android tablet we have seen to date.

The most common tasks that you would do on a day by day basis really makes it easy to do it on a tablet. Web Browsing, Games, Books, Music and Youtube have almost all been redesigned to suit this large screen tablet.

There are some drawbacks though that hamper it from being the ultimate device right out of the box. For one, it is slow to go from landscape to portrait mode. We tested it via the Apple iPad and the Elocity A7 Tablet and in both cases the other tablets switched between both prospective’s much faster. We also noticed using the built in gallery application that some pictures looked washed out. We compared the same picture on 3 or 4 different tablets and in most cases dispite the fact the Xoom has better resolution for some reason pictures did not look THAT great. Finally, Youtube videos as well did not look as slick as the iPad and the Galaxy Tab in particular. This might be the new Youtube interface and the immaturity of the new operating system by Google. We tried many different settings to try and influence better quality in the settings menu, including turning off the ambient light sensor, to no avail.

The entire concept of Android 3.0 customized and developed for tablets is tremendously intriguing. Part of me thinks my instant love of the Xoom comes from the new version of Android and discovering new features and overall enhancements to the tablet experience. Another part of me knows this is one slick piece of hardware that gives you everything you want out of a tablet; the ability to use external devices, plugging it into TV’s and projectors, blue tooth devices, tremendous resolution, very responsive touchscreen, dual cameras with high quality MP and so much more!

The one facet that may hamper the success of the Xoom is the price-point. The only place to get it right now is via Verizon and select stores in the USA, it is not available to Canadians or internationally until the end of March or early April. The cost to buy the device outright is around $799.00 or you can get a discount via Verizon on a 2 year contract for around $599.00. The price should remain consistent as it makes its way out of the USA into other countries. When you invest so much money in an item like this you want to treat it like a precious China Doll. Part of me never wants to take it out of my house in the risk of damaging it, dropping it or otherwise blemishing a great piece of hardware. Another part of me wants to show it off everywhere and anywhere! I am sure a happy medium can be found.

In the end, I really recommend the Motorola Xoom, with a few firmware updates it will really make this tablet the definitive Android device of choice.

Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming video review of the Xoom, the Xoom vs. the iPad and an advanced app review of the Xoom! In the near future we will compare the Xoom against the iPad 2 and LG G-Slate

Good e-Reader Rating 9/10


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Michael Kozlowski (4446 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to michael@goodereader.com


  • http://goodereader.com/blog/ Good E-Reader

    We are going to be uploading our hands on videos of this soon! Remember with Good e-Reader we always do HANDS on reviews of our tablets and e-readers. We just don’t review stuff without having it in our hands, unlike 90% of all the other review sites on the internet.