Tablet showdown: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom

Apple remains the definitive standard for what a tablet computer should be as evidenced by the release of its iPad 2 today

The success of Apple's iPad tablet last year sent its competitors scrambling to come up with similar products, including the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

But despite all these new entries into the tablet market, Apple remains the definitive standard for what a tablet computer should be as evidenced by the release of its iPad 2 today. (See: "Jobs unveils sleeker, more powerful iPad 2 at same price".) The launch of the iPad 2 not only took some of the buzz away from Motorola's just-released Android-based Xoom tablet, but it also served notice to the rest of the industry that Apple wouldn't be resting on its laurels anytime soon. In this article we'll take a look at how the iPad 2 stacks up against the Motorola Xoom when it comes to hardware, operating systems, connectivity options and pricing.

Hardware

Both the Xoom and the iPad 2 feature dual-core 1GHz processors, so they'll both be able to run applications and surf the Web faster than the original iPad. The two tablets also offer similar battery power, as both the Xoom and the iPad batteries offer around 10 hours of Web surfing over Wi-Fi and around nine hours of Web surfing over 3G networks.  And finally, unlike with the original iPad, both the Xoom and the iPad 2 feature cameras in both the front and the rear of the tablet.

So what differences are there? Well, the Xoom's display screen, at 10.1 inches diagonal and 1280x800 pixels (150 pixels per inch), is slightly stronger than the iPad 2's 9.7-inch diagonal display screen that has a resolution of 1024x768 pixels (132 pixels per inch). Also, the iPad 2 is an extremely thin and light device, as it measures in at 0.34 inches thick and 1.35 pounds. The Xoom, by contrast, is 0.5 inches thick and weighs 1.6 pounds

Edge: Essentially a wash.

Software

The iPad runs on iOS 4.3, the latest iteration of the mobile operating system the company first made popular with the iPhone and then expanded to the original iPad. The Xoom, meanwhile, runs the "Honeycomb" edition of Google's Android operating system that was specifically designed for tablets. This is one area where the iPad really comes out on top, since iOS by now is familiar and comfortable for many tablet users while the tablet-centric Android is still something of a work in progress. This isn't to say that Android will never be able to match up with iOS in the tablet arena, mind you, but for the time being iOS's ability to perform on tablets is a known quantity while Android's is not. And of course, the beauty of Android is that multiple device manufacturers have adopted it, so that even if the operating system isn't yet a finished product for the Motorola Xoom, it could be vastly improved by the time another Android-based tablet hits the market over the next few months.

ANALYSIS: Tablet-centric Android needs work, say early reviews

The iPad also has the clear advantage for the time being as far as available applications are concerned. While the Android Market is an impressive rival to the Apple App Store as far as smartphone applications go, it still has quite a bit of catching up to do in the tablet space. So while iPad users have an estimated 65,000 iPad-specific applications to choose from, Xoom users will have to wait until app developers become more accustomed to Honeycomb to get similar options.

Edge: iPad 2

Connectivity

The iPad will be available on both Verizon and AT&T immediately when it ships on March 11, while the Motorola Xoom will be available exclusively for Verizon. While this may seem like a clear-cut advantage for the iPad 2, there is one wild card that Xoom has up its sleeve: LTE connectivity. Although the Xoom can only hook onto Verizon's 3G EV-DO Rev. A network for the time being, the device does have the hardware for LTE connectivity and will receive a software upgrade that lets it latch onto Verizon's 4G network sometime over the next few months. Apple, meanwhile, has not yet given any indication of when it will release LTE-capable tablets or smartphones, and the iPad will have to run either on Verizon's 3G network or AT&T's 3G HSPA+ network.

Edge: iPad 2

Pricing

Here's where things get rocky for the Xoom. The Xoom's unsubsidized price for its 32GB model is $799, or more than the $729 Apple is suggesting for its unsubsidized 32GB model. Motorola is also offering a Wi-Fi-only model for $599, which is the same as what Apple charges for its Wi-Fi-only iPad. The trouble is, Apple is also offering a wider variety of iPad 2s that will appeal to users with varying data needs: you can get a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 for a mere $499, while the 32GB and 64GB models go for $599 and $699, respectively. In the end, the iPad's more varied models and pricing schemes are what could give it the ultimate edge over the Xoom.

Edge: iPad 2

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

Tags MotorolaPCiPad 2Networkinghardware systemswirelesslaptopstablet PCsData CenterApple

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Brad Reed

Network World

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