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Product Focus: Motorola Xoom Android 3.0 Tablet

Overall Rating

Senior Friendly Features

Cool Factor

10

Quick Specs

Display Resolution: 
1024 x 768
Screen Size: 
9 - 10 in
OS Provided: 
Android
+ See more specifications

I had a chance to really sit down and use the Motorola Xoom. It’s a mix of great, good and okay. At least long as you don’t compare it to the iPad.

The first thing you notice is the weight. It’s a little on the heavy side at a little over a pound and a half. It certainly feels solid, and the construction gives you confidence that this thing is well built. It has a sharp, metallic feel. Not a cut-your-fingers kind of sharp, just a good edge all the way around. A rubber bumper cover can make it easier to hold if a little bulkier. It’s strange how it looks and feels a little better without the bumper, but it’s a little slick, so the bumper gives you more confidence when using it.

Using several Android devices, you get used to certain buttons being in certain places. I actually had to have someone show me where the power button was. Motorola decided that instead of along an edge, it should be on the back. From an ergonomic standpoint, this makes it easier to find and hit, it’s right by your finger when you hold it. But it’s non-standard, so it takes some getting used to. Reminds me of the first time I drove a Saab. I got in and my friend took great delight at watching me scour the inside of the car, looking for where to put the ignition key. Saab engineers decided to put it next to the parking brake lever for ergonomic reasons. Perhaps, but when you’re used to a button or key slot being in a relatively standard area, it isn’t as intuitive as it could be.

There is a cluster on the back, with the power button, one of the two stereo speakers, rear-facing 5 megapixel camera/720p video lens and the LED light. It’s all pretty convenient and nicely laid out. Available covers/bumpers have a cutout area so this area is uncovered.

That rear-facing camera is pretty cool for one thing – imagine using a video camera where the viewfinder is a whopping 10.1 inches diagonally. Nothing easier to see than that, and it works well in even bright sunlight. If you do like to shoot video, you will love the Xoom for this.

The front-facing camera is a 2-megapixel webcam. By the time you read this, there may and may not be a way to use this. Skype and other video chat apps are so far not working with the camera, just for text chatting. Flash isn’t officially supported yet, either, but that should come in soon.

The camera issue and lack of Flash are growing pains for the tablet’s operating system, Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb. The Xoom is the very first tablet to run the OS, which was designed specifically to be THE Android OS for the new generation of Android tablets. Between that and the dual-core Tegra 2 processor, the Xoom is quick and responsive. There are a lot of nice touches on the user interface, including the hemispherical, iconic search of open web pages or other types of media that is a little faster and easier than Apple’s “Coverflow”.

Browsing the web in general is fast, and connectivity comes in via 3G or Wi-Fi (up to 802.11n, the fastest currently available). On the big screen it’s very crisp, clear and easy to read. The bezel around the screen is smaller than that of the iPad, which I think makes the Xoom a little cleaner and does also make it slightly smaller.

Instead of having the typical Android hard buttons for home, back, etc., they’re on the screen at the lower left corner. It makes it easier to use since you don’t have to try to hit them in the places where they’re optimized for portrait when you’re in landscape mode.

There are a couple of ports built into the side, one Micro USB for charging and connecting, and one mini HDMI to connect to your HDTV, making viewing even easier as well as allowing you to play HD movies from your Xoom on your TV.

Movies and pictures look crisp and clear on the Xoom.

There’s a speaker dock (sold separately) that holds the Xoom upright and allows easy HDMI connectivity as well.

This dock will also help if you use the Xoom with a Bluetooth keyboard.

The Xoom isn’t currently able to do 4G, but there is a slot for a 4G SIM card that will be available soon. There is also a slot for microSD cards, allowing for up to 32 GB of extra storage. Battery life is a respectable 10 hours of normal use including video and web browsing over Wi-Fi.

If there ever was a tablet device that could give the iPad 2 a run for the money, the Xoom is it. The iPad 2 still has the edge overall, but if you already have an Android smartphone, you may prefer to stick with the same system (more on that in an upcoming article) for easy syncing and just because you’re familiar with the way the Android system works. The Xoom is easy to use, fast, and works with all the 100,000 plus Android apps. It’s expensive, at $800, but comes down $200 in price if you get it with a contract for the 3G/4G.

For more information or to purchase a Motorola Xoom, visit Amazon.com.

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