Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Motorola Xoom Android tablet
Motorola Xoom review: An Android 'Honeycomb' tablet that promises a slick multimedia experience
- Stylish, industrial design
- Large, vibrant touchscreen
- Flexibility of Android Honeycomb OS
- Poorly positioned buttons
- Doesn’t charge via microUSB
- Android Honeycomb still a work in progress
Motorola's long-awaited Xoom tablet has a sturdy design and plenty of features, but like all of the latest Android tablets, it is still very much a work in progress.
Price$ 840.00 (AUD)
Motorola's long-awaited Xoom tablet may have already launched in the US, but has just hit Australian shores. The Xoom was the first tablet in the world to ship with Google's Android 3.0 'Honeycomb' operating system that has been specifically designed for tablets. The 10.1in Motorola Xoom is well designed and has plenty of features, but like all of the latest Android tablets, it is still very much a work in progress.
See how the Motorola Xoom stacks up against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and the Acer Iconia A500 in our Android tablet showdown, and read our guide to the best upcoming tablets in 2011.
UPDATE: The Motorola Xoom is available through Telstra from 24 May for $840 outright, or on a range of Telstra cap plans. The Xoom can be purchased on Telstra's $29 (1GB data), $49 (7GB data) or $79 (12GB data) caps, with an additional monthly payment of $25 for the $29 and $49 plans, and $15 for the $79 plan.
Motorola Xoom: Design and display
The Motorola Xoom Android tablet is an excellent piece of industrial design with superb construction. In particular, its brushed aluminium sides and rear, along with a strip of rubberised-feeling plastic on the back make it an attractive device. At 730g the Xoom is rather heavy, but its curved back does make it easy to hold and pick up off a desk or table, so we don't think the extra weight is a huge deal. The thin bezel surrounding the front also looks striking and attractive.
Of far more concern than the Xoom's hefty weight is its poorly designed and positioned buttons. The power/screen lock key is on the rear of the device, in the top left, and it's strangely recessed into the plastic. This makes it difficult to press without force. Even worse are the tiny volume controls on the left edge of the Xoom which are also recessed; they, too, require a firm and uncomfortable press to activate.
On the top of the Xoom is a headphone jack and a non-functioning microSD card slot — Motorola says an incoming Android software update will allow the microSD card slot to function, but initially it can't be used. The bottom of the Xoom houses a microUSB port, a mini-HDMI out port and a charging port. Annoyingly, the Motorola Xoom won't charge via a microUSB port, instead using a separate AC charging port. The one benefit to this is that the Xoom charges much faster than any other Android tablet we've tested — we charged the battery from flat to full in just one hour.
The Motorola Xoom has an industrial-looking design that features an attractive black metal finish on the rear and sides, but at 730g, its significantly heavier than the iPad 2.
The Motorola Xoom has a 10.1in capacitive touchscreen display with a 1280x800 resolution. For general use indoors the display produces vibrant colour, but its glossy surface makes it very tough to see in direct sunlight, and viewing angles aren't great. We also found that text wasn't as crisp or clear as we'd like — particularly when reading books, or long articles on the Web. Importantly, the Xoom's display is responsive to touch, and doesn't feel sticky when swiping.
Motorola Xoom: Software
The Motorola Xoom is one of the first tablets to run Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform, even if it was beaten to an Australian launch by both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and the Acer Iconia A500. The software is a "vanilla" version of the Honeycomb OS, so Motorola hasn't included any UI overlays as it does with its Atrix and Defy Android phones.
Android 3.0 Honeycomb has a completely redesigned interface that aims to take advantage of the larger screen of a tablet. New UI features include an "action bar", a contextual option group displayed at the top of the screen, five customisable home screens with a big emphasis on widgets, a recent apps list for easier multitasking, a redesigned on-screen keyboard, a new browser and improved copy and paste.
Most of the changes are positive. The Motorola Xoom's Web browser is slick, fast and displays Flash content, most of the time with minimal delay. It also supports tabbed Web browsing and the entire browsing experience is as close as you'll find to a full desktop or notebook computer. The on-screen keyboard is also spacious and comfortable to type on once you get used to its layout.
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