on February 27, 2011
I have been following the Motorola Xoom ever since it was codenamed "stingray," so when a date was announced for when I would be able to pick up this beauty of a tablet, I couldn't wait. I won't talk about the Verizon service (which as it stands right now does not compare to my T-Mobile speeds) all I will talk about is the hardware.
I've owned two iPads, and the Xoom is head and shoulders above it. First thing's first: it has a Tegra2 DualCore processor which means this thing is blazing fast. The 10.1 HD screen means beautiful videos and pictures. The micro-HDMI out plug means you can hook your Xoom up to a TV. Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" is amazing (though don't kid yourself, even hardcore Android users will have an adapting period in terms of navigating the device and carrying out tasks)
I bought this for 799.99 off-contract, but you can purchase it for 599.99 at Verizon Wireless, with a 2-year contract. Also, (rumored in May) you will be able to send in your Xoom to receive a free hardware upgrade to 4g. You won't pay anything at all, and Verizon has stated you won't have to change your plan in order to access the 4g speeds (assuming your city is LTE-enabled).
Flash 10.2 will be available in a few short weeks as will support for microSD cards, so don't let that keep you from purchasing the Xoom.
Also, you cannot charge this via USB like you would with your phone. This isn't because Motorola wants to sell you another charger, but rather the max amount of voltage that a USB puts out and how much a micro-USB port can handle. A Xoom will go from 0 to 100 percent battery life in about 3 hours, and that's incredible when you think about the batteries inside (Two 3250 mAH batteries, though it reads as one)
The Xoom's screen is made from Gorilla Glass which means you won't be neeeding a screen protector anytime soon (unless you don't like a glassy feel). I've always been paranoid about my phones and other electronics with screens and thus have always put a screen protector on them. Having said that, I HAVE NOT put one on the Xoom, because Gorilla Glass is THAT good.
Now for the negatives:
The volume rocker is too flush with the Xoom, and thus it can be incredibly hard to push the buttons sometimes. You'll have your finger on the volume up or down button and swear you're pressing it, but you're not pressing it in the right spot.
The speakers are good, not great.
All in all, I give the Xoom 5 stars. Sure I could knock off a star for the volume rocker or the lack of flash and microSD card support on launch, but the fact is that the latter two will be fixed with a software update, and the volume rocker you learn to live with.
A lot of people will complain about price and how the iPad is only 500. What you have to remember is that when you take a comparable iPad model the Xoom is only 70.00 more expensive, and with that 70.00 you get more RAM, a faster processor, bigger screen, microSD support (via software update) thus enabling your storage up to 64GB, Flash (again via software update), and an operating system designed for a tablet.
If you don't feel like spending the money, a wi-fi only tablet will be out at some point for 599.99. What's nice about the wi-fi model is that the only thing different from the Verizon model, is the 3g/4g, as opposed to the iPad which takes out the GPS as well if you only buy the wi-fi version.
on February 28, 2011
I own an iPad and like it - but the lack of Flash and the "closed" iTunes irritates me to no end, so have been waiting for a decent Android tablet that isn't a glorified mobile phone.
Xoom is a nice tablet. Feels a bit heavy, although supposedly same weight as the iPad. Screen is nice and despite not being as bright as the iPad, is more than acceptable - the bright setting is way too bright and the auto dim feature is quite good. Very solid feel. Cameras work, but I can't ever see myself using them. Haven't tested the 3G as all I plan to use it is for WiFi - and WiFi works flawlessly - saw my network immediately with excellent d/l speeds.
Honeycomb Android OS is nice - much better than iOS IF you have the slightest inclination to have control over your own device - if that's too much, stick to Apple - you're in a cradle-to-grave environment set up for the lowest common denominator intellect (and that my friends, is pretty low).
Chrome's tablet optimized browser is very nice - tabbed browsing and well integrated that feels much more like a desktop experience than iPads weak Safari browser. The nice browser experience is one of the most appealing features of the tablet.
Gmail is easy to use, if only offering the typically basic features one expects - but better than previous mobile phone versions. Anyone suggesting Apple's email is better is nothing more than a complete charlatan/poseur/fanboy.
Took an hour or so to learn all the features (should have read the small manual), but now use them like I've always used them. Reasonably intuitive. A week later and using the Xoom is seamless.
Only limited apps at the moment - fine with me - I don't use many apps - email/browsing/music is 95% of my use - without the Bluetooth keyboard, can't see this (or any tablet) as viable replacement for a laptop as the onscreen keyboard is too difficult to use (although perfectly acceptable for basic email/web browsing). If silly/pointless/useless apps are what you like - forget the Xoom.
One irritant is some websites see Xoom as a phone and load the mobile versions of their content. There is a simple work around to force "most" websites to load as "full" versions - do a bit of googling on the various Xoom discussion boards and you'll find them - Android Forums has a few links on how to do it. Takes a few keystrokes and 15 seconds to fix - surely someone will make an app that does this, or Motorola will update the software.
I like the Xoom as it is fast - very little difference btw my higher-end desk top and this for basic apps (email/browsing/pdf reading etc) - obviously it can't compete with cpu-intensive apps, but nobody should expect a tablet to do that - at least not yet. The only time I found it bogs down is if you load a half dozen pages at once - something I never do but did it for giggles.
I give the Xoom a solid 4.5/5 (upping my rating half a point as I've seen what the so-called competition (iP2) is offering. However, the current lack of Flash is annoying (a software download is promised in the next few weeks from Adobe). Plus the lack of 4G hardware (has to be shipped to Moto to get installed) and a few quirks (like surprising weak speakers from a company like Motorola is strange). The power button is also poorly placed - the iPad is more intuitive. That said, after a while, you don't really think about it. The volume buttons are too small - why not an onscreen volume control using touch? Doesn't make much sense to me why neither the Xoom nor iPad have touch volume controls. I'd have preferred a full size HDMI port, but not a deal breaker - can use to connect to TV with good results. Haven't played video to my TV yet (just photos).
By comparison, I'd give the iPad a 3. I am very interested what Apple will deliver with the iPad2, but I doubt it will overtake Xoom's hardware/software lead - probably take iPad3 to do that (and a few days after the iP2 launch, that's clear - iP2 isn't up to par with the Xoom - lacks features, smaller screen, is still slower). Of course, the app selection for the iPad is significantly bigger, although the vast majority of them are pure junk anyway, so who cares (other than fanboys to use as a silly talking point to defend an inferior product)? As more Android tablets are released as the year progresses, I'm sure Android will offer just as many useful apps as I suspect Android will likely dominate the market in tablets in the next few years (as it now does phones and just as PCs dominate the Mac).
I have no problem recommending the Xoom. But with the imminent release of iPad2 and a slew of other Android tablets, I suspect prices will fall significantly in the last half of the year (edit: perhaps they merely stabilize as new features are added). I suspect $600 will be the high end with many of the lesser tablets forced to the $300-$400 range. That said, ~$800 for me isn't a big deal, so I picked one up and happy I did. The iPad is now just gathering dust and I'll likely be selling it on Amazon (argh - waited too long - now the market is flooded with people trying to get a tablet that comes close to competing with the Xoom)
on May 22, 2011
Caution: Long Review, very detailed. Read if you're just super curious or on the fence.
When I say the "right" buyer, I mean this device markets to a certain niche of users. When I first heard that Xoom sales were terrible I lost a little faith in the Android miracle tablet. However, in the week I've owned the Xoom (and the countless hours I've spent on it when I should be sleeping) I have been more than blown away. THAT DOES NOT MEAN, however, that you will necessarily love it as much.
Some things the Xoom falls short on--I'll talk about those below. But on the things that it doesn't fall short on, it more than exceeds. I've had time with both the Xoom as well as the iPad (1 and 2), and I'll make comments comparing the two as I go.
Because I so enjoy it, I've written a formal review. I hope this might help those who are on the fence.
*Who Should Buy It?*
*"Nerds" and "Geeks": if you like the customisable interface that Android offers, Honeycomb won't let you down.
*Tech-spec junkies: go read the spec sheet and you'll see what I mean
*Anyone willing to learn: Android devices have a higher learning curve than iOS devices. Don't expect it to be so easy a caveman (/grandparent) can do it. It took me a full day to get use to the operating system--it's even different from previous versions of Android--but once I had, it was smooth, understandable, and usable. If you're one to get frustrated and give up on newer technology, go back to your Commodore 64.
*Media junkies: the tablet renders all media gorgeously. The large internal memory and the promise of expandable memory means it can be a virtual library of all your favourite songs, movies, games, music videos, and TV shows.
*Who Shouldn't Buy It?*
I'd rather say "who should be careful about buying it."
*Businessmen: unless you want the 4G speeds, or need some serious graphic rendering capability, Android isn't really optimised for business use. iOS is simply better for the simple, mundane tasks asked of someone who is really looking for a larger Blackberry. That's not to say Android can't do everything iOS can, but why complicate the matter unless you want other, non-Business-manly(tm) features?
*The Impatient: Android isn't the easiest thing to get use to, and can certainly have a lot of force closes.
*Anyone who needs maximum simplicity.
*Anyone who wants something cheap. Unless, of course, you define "cheap" as circa $600. In which case, go to eBay. I got my Xoom (4G version), a dock, and a case for $640 after tax and shipping, expedited.
*What Killed It*
You might ask yourself, why doesn't one see everyone with the Xoom if it's such an amazing tablet? Honestly, no matter how awesome a product is, corporate stupidity cannot save it. Here's what went wrong, in one tech enthusiast's opinion:
1) Exclusivity Agreements:
The Xoom was scheduled to be available only through two providers: Verizon or Best Buy. Normally exclusivity agreements such as this aren't a bad thing--people line outside of Apple Stores and AT&T kiosks for newer iPhones. So where did it go wrong with the Xoom?
*Verizon required that one activate the device (buy into a short-term data contract--all outrageously priced, starting at 20$/month/1gig) before buying a tablet from them. $800 + $20 + Tax > buying an iPad, so the "early adopter" market for non-Android junkies shrunk considerably. (Verizon later relented, allowing a customer to buy without activation so long as they bought an accessory, and then relented on the obvious profiteering a couple weeks later by allowing customers to buy the device alone for what it actually cost. By then, it was a little late.)
*Best Buy didn't really market the device at all. They still don't. I remember spending half an hour wandering my local Best Buy looking for the Xoom--I walked from the Tablet selection to the Mobile kiosks and back again. Try finding it at your local Best Buy. It's at the end of the netbook section. There were never any flashy signs showing where the tablet was. Nothing even suggested it was carried. Great way to start off, no?
2) It Wasn't Ready:
Is it ready now? It's ready enough.
What really got the Xoom attention was the combination of 4G speeds on an operating system promised to be polished and refined for tablet use. What was released was a device lacking 4G support--or even SD card support!--and boasting what can only best be described as a late beta of an obviously unfinished operating system. There wasn't even Flash!
Since then the 3.1 update has remedied all but the 4G/SD Card issues, which are rumored to be fixed before the summer.
3) Bad Marketing:
*Motorola's commercials seemed to focus on the same trendy show-and-glow that made the Droid an instant success, only they forgot one key part. While the Xoom commercials all featured fancy sound effects, cool demonstrations, and a scifi feel, they did not present facts. (Remember the first "Droid Does" commercial? Yeah. No lists of comparisons with these ads.) To make matters more complicated, Motorola originally branded the Xoom as a "Droid" product, but dropped the name at the last minute. I'm sure the buzzword association would have picked up a few of the less-geeky Android users.
*Motorola refused to sell the Wifi version at the same time as the 3/4G version. Couple that with Verizon's profiteering and Best Buy's negligence and you end up with a high-end tablet at high-end prices in not-so-obvious places.
*Myths Regarding the Comparison to the iPad 2*
1) "iOS has more apps ready for tablet use."
*The comparison is simple: open the "Featured Tablet Apps" page on the Android Market and you get about three dozen.
Apple, however, has over 300,000 apps that all run on Tablets, and 65,000 are tablet optimised.
Such an erroneous comparison!
*Android apps have been made to scale, because Android developers have had to develop for hundreds of different phones with various aspect ratios. As a result, an obvious phone application can work without a hitch on a tablet by scaling up the distances between objects and stretching backgrounds. Facebook, Evernote, CalorieCounter, and Twitter are all examples of "phone" applications which can be run on the Xoom WITHOUT BEING OBVIOUSLY DEVELOPED ONLY FOR PHONES. In reality, most of the 100,000+ Android apps will run on a tablet.
2) "Apple controls the market"
Jobs isn't a math major, that's for sure. In the iPad 2 Keynote address, he claimed a >90% market share of all tablets ever produced (assume the Galaxy Tab and the iPad 1 were the only tablets ever built--Apple would need to sell over 3 million more tablets just to reach the 90% mark. But they're not. Cheap foreign competitors and lesser-name products have been cramming the market for years.) All of that besides, unless you're looking to play some two-player chess with your buddies, it doesn't really matter that the iPad is a popular tablet.
The Review, Proper
1) Android Honeycomb 3.1: 10/10
Run smoothly (most of the time) and offer a depth of interactivity that one cannot find on any other tablet. Widgets are interactive--you can flick through your library, scroll through emails, or browse the market without ever leaving your "Homescreen", or "main menu." The closest comparable feature on the iPad is the "search" bar, which for some reason has its own homescreen pane.
Being a Google operating system, one has native access to certain Google features, such as Gmail, Step-by-Step GPS navigation (exclusive to Android), maps, etc. Additionally, one can use Google's voice recognition servers to be lazy and have the tablet type smaller phrases for you, such as search terms.
As an Android device, one can--if one so chooses--do literally anything they wish with the device. You can make it run faster by overclocking, or save battery by underclocking (if adventurous enough to root.) You can install applications from third party websites, other app markets (such as Amazon's), or be a bad person and pirate them. Don't do that unless the Market won't install something you've already paid for: Android developers put a lot of effort into their programs, and it often shows. One could also, in theory, turn their device into a wireless hotspot. I don't like Verizon's data plans, nor do I plan on rooting until after the 4G update, so I can't tell you how easy that would be.
The virtual keyboard on the Xoom is very nice, though the landscape mode requires some getting use to. I advise setting "Autocorrect" to "Aggressive" in the system settings, or else you can end up pressing the letters to the left of your intended letters, and end up with sentences that make no sense. After a bit of use, it becomes very natural--easier, in my opinion, than the iPad. I've even used the landscape keyboard to write a four-page English essay, in dactylic hexameter, without too many problems.
But the real winner is the portrait mode. The aspect ratio, screen size, and keyboard formatting in portrait mode all come together to make thumb-typing easier than on a phone.
A real keeper. The Browser is indistinguishable from a desktop browser: tabbed browsing, in-page searching, Flash, you name it. After the 3.1 update, scrolling and zooming (xooming, hah) became much more fluid. Speed tests rank the Xoom browser, laden with all of its memory-hungry features, as being just as fast or faster than Safari on the iPad 1 and 2.
*Note: I would have given 3.0 a 7/10 rating, but the 3.1 update really made it feel like a modern operating system ready for the consumer market.
2) Application Availability: 7/10
*Android market: >100k apps (compare that to Apple's 300,000. This is the major drawback, especially for people who like ten different games of the same genre.)
*Tegra "THD" (ultra high graphics) games: <20 (compare that to Apple's whopping 0. If you want to know what I mean, there are YouTube videos comparing the upcoming game "Galaxy on Fire 2" in Tegra THD graphics mode and iPad graphics mode. The differences are mindblowing.)
*Amazon market and third parties: if you can't find it on the Android market, you can probably install it from somewhere else.
3) Stability: 5/10
The biggest drawback.
While 95% of the time, everything will work fine, the other 5% of the time something force closes. I had to give this a 5/10 just because one shouldn't have to put up with force closures on a high-end tablet. I will note, however, that very VERY rarely is the stability such an issue that a full reboot is required--normally one can just force-close the malfunctioning application, reopen it, and everything works as expected. It can be obnoxious, however.
1) Audio: 6/10
*Speakers suck. There's a "Comfortably Audible" range between 75% and 100% of the volume, and of that, 90%-100% of the volume can cause it to sound "tinny." Regardless, if you keep the volume at 80% and don't hope for vinyl-quality audio playback, you won't have too many issues. I sit my Xoom on my dock and listen to Pandora for hours on end with the volume at 80%, and not only is the sound comfortably audible, but it is also comfortably clear. Just don't hope for a boom box.
*The second speaker complaint--direction. They face away from you, meaning you can't really set your tablet down on your bed, screen facing upward, and expect to hear anything.
*The volume rocker is poorly designed. The buttons are hard to find and harder to hit. Might sound like a meager complaint, but it can get obnoxious.
2) Video: 10/10
*At full brightness, all the colors come through as one would expect.
*The Tegra 2 Chipset means video comes through crisp. I mean REALLY crisp. Video renders better on my Xoom than it does when my MacBook plays DVDs.
*The battery doesn't seem to take too much of a hit doing graphics-intense rendering. I can watch movies or play Samurai II: Vengeance without any noticeable and sudden drop in storage.
*The Tegra 2 Chipset also means amazing rendering of video game graphics. You really have to see it to believe it.
*The screen is actually pretty big.
3) Interface: 8/10
*Pros: thinner bezel makes the device look streamlined and modern, maximising screen size; the lack of physical navigation buttons actually saves space; despite the weirdness of having the power button on the back, you never hit it without meaning to; comfortable in the hands; ports aren't intrusive.
*Cons: volume rocker; speaker direction; curved back means that, if you put it on a flat surface and push on one side, it will rock; thin bezel and weight make it impossible to hold the tablet in one hand without either cradling it with an arm or inadvertently touching the screen
4) Innards: 10/10
*Tegra 2 is amazing. See above.
*1 GHz dual-core means everything loads quickly
*HDMI out with complete mirroring means I can play Angry Birds on a 52 inch plasma tv. Niceee.
*iFixit gave the device an 8/10 repairability rating--in other words, it's not that hard to take apart and put back together.
I'm pretty sure if you've read this far, this is the device for you. Once more software updates are pushed, and once the tablet gets SD card and 4G support, it will truly be without rival, and worth the full $800. Right now it is a worthy competitor for the iPad.
If you're hesitant, don't worry. I was too. But it's turned out to be an amazing investment. I take my Xoom with me everywhere--often in place of my phone. It is much less intrusive to carry a tablet than a laptop, and a tablet offers more functionality than a phone--so if that's what you're looking for, you really can't go wrong with a Xoom.
on March 20, 2011
This review compares the Internet browsing experience on the two devices (Xoom running Honeycomb 3.0.1 vs iPad2 running iOS4.3), in the following 7 categories:
Operation: The quick control system on Honeycomb browser allows you to go back, forward, refresh, bookmark and other actions using your thumb when holding the tablet. This is not a default setting. User will need to enable it in the settings. Once enabled, the action bar will disappear and thus give you more real web page display. You can popup an action menu by swiping either of your thumbs from edge. The popup menus will display where your thumbnail swipes and is arranged around the thumb so that you can easily click an item.
On iPad2, you move your hand to click on the buttons on the top.
Multitab Browsing: On iPad2, to switch between tabs, you have to click the tabs button then chose a tab from the new tab grid view, this is a bit cumbersome especially if you are familiar with multi-tab browsing on a full pc/mac browser. On honeycomb, tabs are always displayed on the top just like they are on a desktop browser and switching tabs is a 1-click thing.
Also, Xoom has 1GB memory while iPad2 has 512MB, whether this translates to more tabs supported on Xoom is yet subject to test.
Typing: The touch screen keyboard on iPad2 is designed for a phone (just like the whole OS) and thus not suitable for the bigger tablet layout. Typing on it is even slower than typing on iphone, basically you are forced to type a full size keyboard using one finger. On honeycomb, you can download the thumb keyboard input method from market (free). This soft keyboard layout the keys around the bottom left and right corner so that you can type using both thumbs while holding the tablet with both hand, pretty much like when you type on smart phone with both thumbs, and thus achieve the same typing speed.
Screen real estate: Xoom has a higher resolution 1280x800 comparing to ipad2's 1024x768. This means Xoom displays more content than iPad 2 when viewing the same page.
Color Rendering:, ipad2 is the clear winner in this category due to the superior IPS screen it's using while Xoom is using TFT which is common on laptops. Basically Xoom gives you the same color as normal laptop, while iPad2 gives you the color as on macs.
Flash: Xoom supports Flash while iPad2 doesn't. It means there a great number of websites that xoom can visit normally while iPad2 simply can't. According to a survey done in 2008 , somewhere between 30% and 40% of all pages tested contained Flash files. Most popular websites already started to provide versions compatible to iPad, but it could be annoying when you bump into one that doesn't.
Speed: according to several tests, Honeycomb browser on Xoom is on par with if not slightly faster than safari on iPad2 .
Winner: Xoom and iPad2
on March 3, 2011
I've become an Android fan over the past year, with Droid and Droid2 that I have really enjoyed. I held out through the iPad hype and resisted the Samsung Pad (too small, too expensive), and am glad that I did!
First, the good stuff: The device feels and looks great. I like the weight, it feels solid, the size is just right. The screen looks fantastic, and I like the fact that the actual screen takes up a larger percentage of the overall real estate (otherwise stated, the non-usable borders around the screen are smaller than in the iPad.
The operating system is great - they have done a really good job with the native apps like Gmail, the browser, Google Talk, maps, etc. The multitasking works really well, the notifications are very efficient, and its very easy to adjust settings etc. It does help to have used android before, but I don't think its a requirement by any means.
I've used it both in 3G mode and in Wifi-Mode (connected both via wireless G, and a bit faster via wireless N) and the data speeds seem snappy enough.
The downsides that keep it from being a 5+ star:
1) Lots of apps that I like to use on my Droid are not ready yet.. IE Google voice (I don't want to call, I just want to check my text messages), WSJ reader, Good for Enterprise, Blockbuster/Netflix. They should have done a better job at making some units available to developers ahead of time.
2) No Flash yet
3) Having to wait for 4G until later, and then having to take your unit in (or ship it in) and be without it for several days
4) Non-functional SD card slot
5) I agree, the Motorola cover is a bit flimsy (should have been included, for the price) but its very functional and its really growing on me. It leaves the camera port open, which has its pros and cons
6) The power button is in a really annoying spot. If you have it in a case besides the standard one, you have to lift it out or up to get at the power button on the back, every time you want to wake the unit up.
All in all, a great product and I'm really happy with the purchase so far!