Motorola Xoom Android 3.1 Tablet Review

The Apple iPad may still reign supreme in the world of consumer tablets, but the Android side of the equation is quickly picking up steam. While early Android tablets only ran on blown-up versions of the smartphone OS, Android 3.0 Honeycomb introduced a tablet-centric version of the platform with several tablet-centric optimizations. And the first to take advantage of these optimizations was the Motorola Xoom.

Now that it’s been officially updated to Android 3.1 (some have even gotten up to 3.2) and it’s competing against several other Honeycomb tablets, how does the Xoom stack up? Let’s have a look.

Key Features and Specifications

The version of the Motorola Xoom that I had to review as the Xoom MZ604. This comes with 32GB of internal storage capacity and Wi-Fi connectivity, but there is no 3G radio to be seen. The juice comes by way of an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a ULP GeForce GPU and 1GB of RAM.

As has become the norm for so many tablets in this range, the Motorola Xoom comes with a 10.1-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen with an effective resolution of 800×1280 pixels. That works out to 149 ppi pixel density, which is a touch higher than the 132ppi that you find on the current iPad 2. Other key specs include the 730 grams of weight, stereo speakers, gyroscope, accelerometer, microSD expansion, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP support, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, mini-HDMI out, and microUSB port.

Overall Design and Usability

It won the award at CES 2011 and Motorola is quick to point that out on the packaging for the Xoom.

In terms of the device itself, you get a series of high quality plastics with a very smooth back. The screen is extremely glossy, so like so many other touchscreens, it gets riddled with greasy fingerprints very quickly. Since it is Honeycomb, most of what you’ll be doing is in landscape mode and everything has been laid out accordingly.

The (unlabeled) connection ports are on the bottom. Strangely, while there is a microUSB port, it cannot be used for charging; you have to use the provided wall charger to top up the internal battery. That takes away from a fair bit of versatility, especially when you’re on the road. The microSD card slot is on the top (which didn’t work until Android 3.1 update), as well as the 3.5mm headset jack. Volume buttons are along the left edge.

One thing that I didn’t like was the placement of the power button. It’s on the back of the Xoom, in the same part of the housing as the camera, flash, and one of the speakers. I suppose this makes for a more natural movement when holding the tablet, but I would have preferred they stuck to an edge like nearly everyone else.

General Performance and Battery Life

I can’t say that I was terribly displeased with the Xoom, but there really wasn’t much else going on that would make me choose the Xoom over the several other Honeycomb alternatives out there. It is on the heavier side of things at 730 grams, which is 50 grams more than the Asus Eee Pad Transformer (sans keyboard dock, of course) and nearly 200 grams more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. That’s some serious extra heft.

The orientation sensor seemed to be a bit on the laggy side, as it could take some time before the screen would switch between landscape and portrait modes. Similarly, swiping between the different homescreens wasn’t quite as smooth as I had hoped. This seems to be a common concern with several Android tablets and it’s something that I hope is addressed in future updates; maybe it’s just a software/firmware thing.

As far as battery life is concerned, your mileage will certainly vary. Under moderate usage, I was able to get a little more than a day out of the Xoom. This is with Wi-Fi turned on and a couple of apps constantly running in the background. Lighter usage could see about three days.

Quadrant Benchmark Score

To test the performance of the Motorola Xoom, I ran the full benchmark on Quadrant Standard v1.1.7. This benchmark measures the performance of the CPU, memory, graphics, and other related areas. The overall score achieved by the Xoom on the first try was just 1593 (as pictured), but I ran the test again after rebooting the device and got a score of 1739.

Some people have argued that benchmarks for Android devices can be a little unreliable, but that’s what we have to go with. That range of scores puts the Xoom right in line with other Tegra2-powered Honeycomb tablets; I ran the benchmark on an LG Optimus Pad for comparison and got a score of 1700 even.

Conclusion

The Motorola Xoom is a solid product, but it is difficult to recommend it over similar Honeycomb tablets. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a lot lighter and the Eee Pad Transformer has that optional keyboard dock, for instance. I do like the slightly smaller footprint that the Xoom has (compared to the Eee Pad), but if you wanted smaller, you likely would be considering an 8.9 or even 7.0 inch tablet instead.

The placement of the power button will be hit and miss, depending on your preferences, but I really dislike the lack of support for USB charging. The speakers are reasonably loud, but because they are in the back, the directionality of the sound may not be ideal. I like Android tablets and I think they have a bright future, but the Xoom is very middle of the road for me right now… which is pretty much the story of most $399-$599 Honeycomb tablets these days.


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10 Comments

  1. peacefrog1963 says:

    The tablet is perfect for my use and I have no problems with it..I actually love it…the only problem I have is the charger. I have had to have the charger replaced three times. Motorola does replace it for free because it is covered under the warranty.. My question is who in their right mind would design a charger that is so delicate and that breaks easily.. I asked Motorola if I have a problem with this charger for the lifetime of the tablet will they be replacing it for free? they said yes…to me that means they have sold this tablet with some crappy charger. Did they not test this out…and then Verizon has the nerve to sell me a replacement charger instead of telling me to call Motorola and see if it is covered under the warranty. These big companies always trying to make a buck off of us!! Hopefully they have come up with a new charger for this tablet cause the original one sucks!

  2. vivek shah says:

    fgfdgmfdg’jdhjprtojph

  3. The Motorola Xoom is the first Android 3.0 tablet to hit the market.
    That makes it the first Android tablet to ship with an OS that’s
    designed especially for big screens, and that’s why it’s so exciting.

  4. The very svelteness of the Motorola Razr could be the reason of this
    design switch, which affords the handset the title of the world’s
    slimmest phone and takes the title away to the 8.7mm thin Sony Ericsson
    arc S.

  5. What about flash support? My Xoom with Android 3.0 insisted on an
    upgrade to Flash 10.3. When I tried that upgrade, Adobe insisted on an
    OS upgrade.
     

  6. Anonymous says:

    Would’nt it be nice if Android could also standardise on the charging connector so we consumers could go out and buy a standard cradle that’ll work with any tablet?

    Why do these things always take years to achieve?

  7. Johnteal says:

    “…the Xoom is very middle of the road for me right now… which is pretty much the story of most $399-$599 Honeycomb tablets these days.”
    – Well, please let us know about any other Honeycomb tablets you do like in the sub-$399 or above $599 ranges. Eager to hear! Thanks

  8. Johnteal says:

    “…the Xoom is very middle of the road for me right now… which is pretty much the story of most $399-$599 Honeycomb tablets these days.”
    – Well, please let us know about any other Honeycomb tablets you do like in the sub-$399 or above $599 ranges. Eager to hear! Thanks

    • What I meant is that all the Android tablets in that price range are very similar and there’s not much to differentiate them. I like the keyboard dock for the Eee Pad and I appreciate the slimness of the Tab 10.1, but there is very little about the Xoom that makes me want it over the alternatives in that range. The $299 7-inch Acer with Honeycomb could get some traction, if only on price. I want to get my hands on the Sony P2 to see how the dual-screen configuration feels/works in a real life, day-to-day situation.

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