Motorola Xoom Review - by Daniel C. Slagle (Keeper of the XoomFAQ.com)
I would like to begin my review by sharing that I had a personal bias against tablets before this review. When the idea of tablets came out a few years back I was very skeptical of the "tablet format". I figured I could either use my laptop or suffer with the limitations of my phone. Now that I have a tablet in hand, I understand the allure. Watching movies on a larger screen without having 3 pounds on my lap is a big plus. Also, browsing on a tablet is much easier than on your smartphone, without having to zoom in or scroll side to side. Now I get it.
The Xoom is equipped with an NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core CPU with video chip, 1GB of internal RAM, and 32GB of on-board storage. It also has a microSD slot, but is not currently enabled. A future software update should give you up to 64 more gigs of storage (depending on which SD card you choose to buy).
There are two cameras; a rear 5MP with dual LED flash and a Front 2MP. From within the Camera/Video app it is simple to choose what camera and what mode you would like to be in. It also records 720p HD video using the H.264 codec. Both picture and video quality are on par with newer smartphones out today. In addition to recording in HD, the Xoom will playback 1080p HD videos (up to 20Mbps. Anything over that bitrate and Motorola says you will see stuttering). There is an HDMI port on the bottom that allows you to connect to the HDMI port of your television with the correct cable (Mirco HDMI to HDMI). I did not go too in-depth into the HDMI, except to see that it does work and there does not seem to be any limitations on the HDMI port like you would find on say the Droid X. Anything that is displayed on the Xoom is also displayed on your HDTV via the HDMI port, like a secondary display. This was a nice feature!
Next to the HDMI port, you will find a micro USB that you can use to transfer files to and from the device and charging port. (Note: the tablet will NOT charge by way of the USB port. There are two (2) large 3250 mAH batteries and USB just cannot push enough amps to charge the Xoom). There are also charger contacts on the bottom of the device to work in conjunction with a charging dock.
The only physical buttons on the Xoom are the volume rockers on the side and power-unlock button on the back, next to the camera. All of the other the controls for the device reside on the screen and will appear, as needed, for the use of the particular app you are using. Also, the controls will disappear in certain instances, like when you are watching a video.
The Xoom is 4G capable, but not out of the box. Motorola will be sending out e-mails when it is available for upgrade. This is not a software update but a hardware one. Yes, you have to box it up and ship it off to Verizon and they estimate a 6 business day turn around time.
Physically, the Xoom is not much bigger than an iPad. Where it excels is its ability to show wide-screen content at a high resolution with very little cropping (black bars at to top or sides). It, however, does not conform to true HD dimensions so there is a bit of cropping.
Android 3.0 a.k.a. "Honeycomb" is a brand new operating system (OS), that has proven to be a double-edged sword so far. Here's "the good". Applications that are designed to work on 3.0, are smooth, fast and functional. Those familiar with how android phones work, will find the interface very familiar and easy to use.
Here's "the bad". There are very few tablet apps out right now. At the time of this writing I count about twenty. Yes, that's right. Only... Two. Zero. So, for those of you thinking about dropping your iPad for this device, you might want to check to see in what stage your favorite programs are in Android development, or if they are even being ported.
Here's "the Ugly". Many of the "old" phone apps will work. However, because of the screen resolution, or how the app was designed, it will force some oddities. For example, you may have a password field that takes up half the screen, or applications that demand to be used in portrait mode. Again, as time progresses and developers modify their apps to account for these new resolutions, I am sure these oddball problems will be resolved.
In regards to the hacker aspect of the device, I do expect the Xoom to be 'the de facto standard', if, Verizon or Motorola does not lock it down somehow. Only time will tell. Admin or root access has already been achieved with the Xoom, but Verizon has made it clear they will not touch the device for upgrade it if you have "unlocked" it.
The "Book App" is simple and slick. Google probably has the largest collection of free books on the planet. I have downloaded a few to check out, and was initially miffed that I was forced to be "online" to read them. Later, I found out there is an option in the settings to download the book in its entirety. I assume they default to this to save space, because when selecting the full download option, a "Space Left on Device" meter comes up.
The "Movie Editor"
This a fairly straight-forward and simple application. The circle looking control will let you alter the timeline view. You also have elementary controls to add transitions and export out 720P HD video. Once your masterpiece is complete you can bring it up in the Gallery app, and easily export it to any of your configured services (Youtube, Dropbox, etc). I noticed that the timestamp on the export is not correct and defaults to the Unix epoch date. This brings me to my conclusion.
My biggest complaint with the Xoom is "lack of polish". I do think this device is great! For now, it is just missing some attention to detail. I do think that in the near future, Google will update and correct some of these issues. As a matter of fact, they just announced at the developers conference today that there is an iPad to Android conversion tool to help get tablet apps to the Android Market faster. But, at the time of this review, I find the Xoom... a tad bit lacking.
However, when this device is fully functional, on 4G, running Flash, with 32GB + an extra 64GB SD Card of storage, it is going to be a force to be reckoned with! For now, you will have to wait just a bit for that reality.
The Motorola Xoom tablet is available now through Verizon Wireless or an authorized retailer. You can purchase it for $599.99, with a new two-year contract, or $799.99, without a contract. Data plan options are 1GB/$20, 3GB/$35, 5GB/$50, and 10GB/$80. 4G pricing is not known at the time of this review.
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by Daniel C. Slagle (Keeper of the XoomFAQ.com)
Edited by dgstorm