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Customer Review

on April 8, 2011
I have purchased both an iPad2 and Xoom for different family members. I thought it worth comparing the two devices for anyone interested. Many of my comments are subjective so bear that in mind when reading the review.

External appearance and feel:
The iPad2 screen has a different feel from the Xoom screen - the iPad2 is a bit slicker, less likely to stick when moving short distances. The screen on the Xoom tends to show fingerprints more than the Ipad2 for some reason. Everyone in this family thinks that the iPad2 looks sharper than the Xoom.

Both weigh 1.6 lbs. Subjectively, the Xoom feels heavier than the Ipad2, but it's an illusion perhaps caused by it's slightly smaller size. UPDATE: I need to learn to use the scales - the Xoom is about 3 ounces heavier than the iPad2.

Both have a similar size screen, measured diagonally. But the aspect ratio is different - 4:3 for iPad2, 16:9 for Xoom. This means that the iPad2 actually has a larger viewing area, and this makes a real difference when scrolling through a web site. The iPad2 screen is brighter than the Xoom screen.

Hardware performance:
The Xoom feels a bit faster than the iPad2, and the specs show that it is faster. Both have dual core processors based on ARM designs. The Xoom seems to be able to handle graphics better than the iPad2. As far as connecting to Wifi networks, both seem to have this one down pat - they both just work.

User Interface:
The iPad2 is just like a big iPhone. Whether this good or bad is subjective. For me, it's good - polished, flexible and can be customized to my needs. The Xoom user interface is totally new, and unfortunately it shows - there are many rough edges. Some examples: moving icons around to group programs together is not intuitive and they keep moving back; you can see the first 5 applications running on the Xoom and select one, but the list doesn't scroll so applications that don't show in the list can't be selected; you can't close applications (except by a force quit that can lose data) as the Xoom decides when to quit an application; customization is possible but more difficult than the iPad2. In short, the Xoom user interface is a work in progress - great potential but currently quite flawed.

Operating System:
The iPad2 uses Apple's IOS. It works, but it uses cooperative multitasking which (in theory) is less effective than the full multitasking on the Xoom which uses a version of Google's Android designed for tablets. In practice, they both work fine and I doubt anyone would notice the difference.

iPad2 has 70,000 apps available from the Apple App store and it also runs the 300,000 apps available for the iPhone. Xoom currently has around 60 apps and it can run Android phone apps (but they are stretched in one direction which makes them look strange). Some of the iPad2 applications are pretty impressive - GarageBand for example. There are many games on the iPad2, and just a few games made for the Xoom. If this doesn't improve quickly, the Xoom is sunk. After all, applications are generally the reason people buy these devices.

Because of the screen aspect ratio that I mentioned, I prefer browsing on the iPad2. The Xoom has Adobe Flash and the iPad2 doesn't, but so far I haven't come across a single instance where this has been an issue. I'm sure there are very many sites not compatible with iPad2, but I haven't browsed to one of them yet.

I don't use the camera much, and I'm not really sure if either is better. In the family, the Xoom owner says the Xoom is better, the iPad2 owner says the iPad2. The Xoom has flash and iPad2 doesn't which is a win for Xoom, but the Xoom seems slower to take a picture.

The Xoom has two small speakers, iPad2 has one slightly larger speaker. The sound is somewhat better quality on the iPad2 and the Xoom cannot achieve the same volume as the iPad2. But they are both pretty poor - use earphones or an external speaker if you want decent audio.

Battery life:
Difficult for me to give an exact comparison, but based on family usage it seems the iPad2 has the edge here, but not by much.

Internal storage:
The Xoom has 1GB of RAM and 32 GB of flash storage. The iPad2 has 512MB of RAM and 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash storage - I bought the 64GB model.

External storage:
The Xoom has an external card slot that supports SD cards, but the software was not ready in time for the product release. The slot is inoperative until Motorola releases an operating system update. The iPad2 has no external storage support.

User Experience:
The iPad2 was up and running quite quickly. I connected the device to iTunes and it automatically updated to the latest version of the operating system. I was then able to select and download Apps immediately and start using them.

The Xoom was not so easy. For some reason, I was not able to install the latest version of Google Maps or Adobe Flash. I was able to download the apps, and the install process appeared to work without errors, but the new apps just were not installed. After some time trying I finally returned the Xoom back to the factory settings and started again, and this time both the installs worked. Of course, this wouldn't be a good solution if you had a ton of applications and/or data on the device.

Apple has their retail stores. You can get a huge amount of help from these stores from people whose only job is to support users. Both iPad2 and Xoom users have web sites available that support their products but you have to spend the time digging for the sites and digging through the sites. You can also purchase an Applecare support package which gives you a couple of years extra support for the iPad2.

Bottom line:
I believe the Xoom hardware may be slightly better than the iPad2 (apart from the screen aspect ratio and the speakers), but the software is terribly lacking. The Xoom was released FAR too early, it's just not ready for primetime.

If I had to pick just one, I'd pick the iPad2 - less hassle, apps for everything, better browsing experience, better support options. The Xoom needs less buggy software and more applications; it has potential but it's not there yet. And by the time it gets there, there will be something better available.

Update 7/5/2011

We have now had the two devices for over 3 months. During that time Motorola released an update to fix some of the issues with the original Xoom. It's somewhat faster, the problem of only seeing the first 5 applications is fixed, there are some extra capabilities for USB, and most importantly, the Xoom doesn't crash every few hours.

However, the biggest issue with the Xoom is still the number of applications available to run in native tablet mode, as opposed to running Android phone applications. I've read that there are 300 applications available, but it's hard to find them. The Android Market doesn't distinguish between phone applications designed for a small screen and tablet applications. You have to read the description of each application to see what it is designed to run on, and finding 300 apps in 200,000 is very time consuming. Apple claims to have 100,000 iPad specific apps in their store.

Another problem with the Android Market is the complete lack of supervision. I understand that anybody can put any application there without any review, and I've read there have been a few problems with malware. Recently I saw an article that claimed there are spyware applications on the store, which worries me a little. I'm not saying you can't get malware from the Apple store, but Apple does look at the apps first - I'm not aware of any malware getting into the Apple store.

The iPad2 does have some downsides I wasn't aware of when I wrote my review. It would be nice to have a general purpose USB connection and a card slot. There is an extra-cost adapter available from Apple that supplies HDMI out and a limited function USB connector. Also the keyboard attachment made for the original iPad doesn't work on the iPad2.

For us, the iPad2 is the winner. The Xoom is sitting on a shelf and I don't think it's been used over a week now. In contrast, iPad2 is in use every day and continues to be a big hit. The primary problem with the Xoom is the lack of tablet-based applications.

Update 7/7/2011

The Xoom has been sold to a colleague who wants an Android tablet. I think the Xoom is better than most of the Android tablets currently available. However, the Honeycomb software feels so unfinished, and the paucity of available tablet-based applications was a major issue. I lost several hundred dollars on the sale, but nobody wanted to use it and there was no point in letting it lay around unused. I'm already under some pressure to buy another iPad2, but I want to wait to see if the rumors of another iPad version in September are true.
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