Motorola Xoom

Posted on May 8th, 2011 by Luke Sheldrick.
Categories: IT / Tech.
Tags: , , , , , , .

8 05 2011

Last week, a colleague at work bought a Motorola Xoom, I had a quick play in the office and was very impressed.

I’d previously owned the original iPad, however had grown quite bored of it’s lack of customisation ability. I found my self using it less and less, and eventually sold it, luckily just before the iPad2 was announced. I’ve been an advocate of Apple kit for quite some time, having owned every iPhone since they have come out, however last week whilst I was waiting for my number to port over to Three UK, I was using my ZTE Blade (running Cyanogen 7), and was really surprised how much it had come on from when I had last properly played.

motorola xoom

So when I had a quick go on the Xoom, I was quite impressed. Being the impulsive gadget lover, I went after work to buy one. At the moment they’re only available on the high street from Carphone Warehouse, on a 24 month data contract. Unfortunately I managed to get a parking ticket as I was being slightly optimistic that I would only be in the shop for two minutes, however it was more like forty.

The only tablet I have used before is the original iPad, running iOS 4.3, so my opinion and comparisons are limited. I’ve used the Galaxy Tab, but not in any great detail.

The Xoom is the first tablet to be released to the mass market running Google’s Android operating system, 3.0 aka Honeycomb. The Xoom has all the usual features you would expect from the tablets on the market today, these include front and rear cameras, 3G, wifi, bluetooth, HDMI output, 1G DDR2 and based on the Nvidia Tegra 2, which is a 1GHz dual core processor.

The first impressions of Honeycomb are very impressive. It’s been well designed for use on the tablet platform and feels very smooth. However after a bit more use, my opinion has changed somewhat.

What I like

  • Honeycomb is a big improvement over v2.x of Android, on a tablet.
  • In comparison to iOS, the ability to customise Android is far superior. Widgets, shortcuts, themes, application integration, all are much superior.
  • The inbuilt browser is very fast, and well presented. Has all the features I would expect.
  • The aspect ratio at 1280×800 (wide-screen) works really well, and the screen is almost as responsive as Apple’s multi touch sensor.

What I didn’t like

  • The device has the Tegra 2 chipset. A dual-core processor, which supports up to 720p. However no video player is included in the OS. Many of the ones I tried from the market, either didn’t work, or didn’t fully utilise the GPU, so getting the full 720p didn’t work.
  • Honeycomb crashes quite a bit, having to force apps to close and settings windows quite often.
  • The device has a micro-usb port for connectivity, however doesn’t charge from this. Instead they use a proprietary connector to their custom power brick. This in my opinion sucks. I have a Micro, a Mini and an Apple charger, by my bed, in my bag, on my various desks, and by the couch. Having one of these chargers just is a big draw back for me.
  • The speakers are on the back of the device. That’s a bit of a design flaw to start with, however even worse, is they’re right where I hold the device, so even worse.
  • The device seems heavy in the hand. The original iPad was 1.6lbs for the 3G model, which is the same as the Xoom. However in comparison the the iPad2, which is 1.33lbs, so seems much heavier.
  • At launch flash wasn’t supported. Something iOS has come under fire for, and something the Android lovers have always commented on. This should have been there at release.
  • The Micro-SD card isn’t supported as yet. I’m not quite sure how you can release a product without full support of the hardware provided.
  • The Micro-SD card is on the same adapter and slot as the SIM card, so when it is supported, to swap the card over, you’ll also need to power down, as the SIM isn’t hot-swappable.
  • There are very few apps designed for honeycomb and even less for the tegra2. This is to be expected, as they’re both only just out.
  • Accessories for the device are very limited. When the iPad came out, this was exactly the same, however I very much doubt they’ll be quite as much choice.

There is one more annoyance, but that is neither to do with the device or the OS. Why mobile providers feel the need to sit proxies in front of their customers, which resample images to almost unviewable versions is beyond me. Sure you may save a few KBs, but really? The device is supposed to be use as a consumer device, however if I look at flickr I want to see a decent quality version of the photo, not some re-sampled crap version.

Overall, it’s an ok device, but it isn’t amazing. Honeycomb I expect will be really very good once it has some more time to mature. The overall experience of the device is it just hasn’t had the thought and attention into how it will be used. A few small changes could have really changed this. Honeycomb feels like an initial beta release. In my opinion it’s not quite there, in both stability and support (of other apps). Given time, I honestly thing I would prefer Honeycomb to iOS on the tablet, it just needs to mature somewhat.

I’ll be exercising my 14 day cancellation period tomorrow, and taking the device back.


1 of 11