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Motorola's Xoom Family Edition Review: Not Just For The Kids

Motorola's Xoom Family Edition Review: Not Just For The Kids
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Don't let its name fool you. Motorola's Xoom Family Edition is one of the best values in tablets that we've seen up until now. It offers almost everything we want. If you're in the market for an Android-based tablet, this one deserves your attention.

As the first Android-based tablet, Motorola's Xoom represented the hopes of all tablet vendors vying to compete with Apple. Unfortunately, no matter how we looked at it, the Xoom was at a disadvantage as soon as it launched. Compared to the iPad 2, it was thick and heavy. It wasn't complemented by as many third-party apps. And it was priced comparably to the iPad 2, rather than more aggressively. As a result, it was hardly a surprise that the Xoom didn't take off in the way Motorola and Google had hoped.

We wrote Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet back in July, and a lot has changed since then. Third-party application support is expanding and prices are starting to fall. The only remaining piece of the puzzle is a compelling-enough tablet design. On cue, enter Motorola's Xoom Family Edition.

Motorola isn't keen on calling this a second-generation tablet because it doesn't want to one-up the flagship Xoom. Plus, the Xoom Family Edition features applications specifically tailored for kids, and it's difficult to get adults without children on-board with an angle like that.

Feature Checklist
Motorola Xoom
Motorola Xoom Family Edition
Full-Sized USB Port (Ext. Storage)
-
-
Front Camera
X
X
Rear Camera
X
X
SD Card Reader
-
-
HDMI Output
X
X
microSD Card Reader
X
X


When you get right down to it, though, the Xoom Family Edition gives you similar specs as the original Xoom, only at a lower price. The principal differentiator is flash-based storage: we reviewed the 32 GB Xoom. This one only comes equipped with 16 GB. Hardware-wise, nothing about this tablet is specific to families, then. That's why we're so anxious to take it for a spin.

Add up the ecosystem changes, the qualities we enjoyed in the original Xoom, and a price point we can really get behind ($379), and this becomes one of the best tablets we've tested to date.

Meet Motorola's Xoom Family Edition

Meet the Motorola Xoom Family Edition

According to our lab scale, the Xoom Family Edition is exactly 2.2 ounces lighter than its predecessor, and while the official specs suggest otherwise, it also sports a thinner form factor.


Length
Width
Height
Screen Size
Aspect Ratio
Weight
iPad 2 (3G)
9.5"
7.31"
.34"
9.7"
4:3
1.33 lb.
Acer Iconia A500
9.8"
6.6"
.5"
10.1"
16:10
1.5 lb.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
10.2"
7"
.5"
10.1"
16:10
1.65 lb.
Motorola Xoom
9.8"
6.6"
.5"
10.1"
16:10
1.5 lb.
Motorola Xoom Family Edition
10.2"
6.9"
.4"
10.1"
16:10
1.4 lb.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
10.1"
6.9"
0.38"
10.1"
16:10
1.3 lb.
Toshiba Thrive
10.8"
7"
0.6"
10.1"
16:10
1.6 lb.


The Xoom's tapered back cover obscures the thickness measurement because Motorola's spec sheet reflects the dimensions taken from the edge, rather than the tablet's middle.

Thickness: iPad 2 (top), Xoom FE (middle), Xoom (bottom), AA battery (right)Thickness: iPad 2 (top), Xoom FE (middle), Xoom (bottom), AA battery (right)

When you stack the Xoom and Xoom Family Edition on top of each other, the difference is obvious. Motorola's Family Edition product is thinner by a noticeable amount. The company also had the sense to improve ergonomics by tapering both edges of this newer model, making it easier and more comfortable to hold, whereas the original Xoom's sharp display edge dug into the space between your thumb and forefinger.

Xoom FE (left) vs. Xoom (right)Xoom FE (left) vs. Xoom (right)

There a number of physical differences that distinguish the Xoom Family Edition from its predecessor. The original's exterior was half rubberized plastic (top) and half brushed aluminum (bottom). The Family Edition has a brushed aluminum base with a rubberized plastic border, which also surrounds the display as a beveled edge. Since your hands make contact with the rubberized plastic border of the tablet and not the brushed aluminum, Motorola's Family Edition is more comfortable in your hands than the original.

So, even if it isn't considered a second-gen tablet by its manufacturer, the Xoom Family Edition incorporates a number of improvements that we happily consider indicative of a more aesthetically-evolved offering. 

There's still a case to be made that the iPad/iPad 2's 4:3 aspect ratio because of the display real estate it facilitates. However, we still haven't seen any Android-based tablet deviate from the 16:10 screen, and Motorola's Xoom Family Edition is no different. Google and its hardware partners are all intently focused on video content, which means you're going to spend most of your time using the Xoom in landscape mode.

Left SideLeft SideRight SideRight Side

The Xoom Family Edition's layout is a little different than the Xoom's. Its power button and headphone jack are now found on the tablet's left side. The right side appears bare, but you'll find a microSD card slot behind a protective rubber cover.

microSD slotmicroSD slot

The volume rocker on the Family Edition's top edge might take some getting used to.

Top: Volume, Orientation LockTop: Volume, Orientation Lock

On most tablets, the scale for volume increases from left to right, which matches what you see on the screen. However, Motorola didn't have the foresight to automatically correct for orientation, so increasing the volume is achieved by pressing to the left, corresponding to "up" in portrait mode.

Orientation LockOrientation Lock

An orientation lock is found immediately to the right of the volume rocker.

Unlike most other Android-based tablets, the Xoom Family Edition uses the same microUSB port for synchronizing and charging, which is great because you only have to carry around one cable. Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Asus' Eee Pad Transformer enjoy the same benefit. However, they both employ a cable that converts a proprietary connector to USB. In other words, you have to carry around a specific cable, and if it goes bad, you have to buy another one from Samsung or Asus.

The Xoom Family Edition's standard connector makes everything easier. Additionally, it's the first Android-based tablet that lets you charge through a PC's USB port. This is a feature missing on all other tablets, except for Apple's iPads. With the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Transformer, you can only charge when you use the included AC-to-USB adapter.

Camera
Front-Facing
Rear-Facing
Flash
Apple iPad 2
0.3 MP (640 x 480)0.7 MP (960 x 720)None
Acer Iconia A500
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)Single-LED flash
Asus Transformer
1.2 MP (1024 x 768)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)None
Motorola Xoom
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) Dual-LED flash
Motorola Xoom Family Edition
1.3 MP (640 x 480)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) Single-LED flash
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)3.0 MP (2048 x 1536)Single-LED flash
Toshiba Thrive
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)None


The Xoom Family Edition's camera specs are similar to its predecessor's, though its single-LED flash and lower resolution front camera do represent unfortunate compromises.

Display all 16 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 1 Hide
    tanjo , December 2, 2011 5:54 AM
    Nice value. Too bad there's no card reader... Do I hear iPad killer?
  • 2 Hide
    tranfire , December 2, 2011 7:30 AM
    @tanjo it has micro SD
  • 0 Hide
    tanjo , December 2, 2011 12:14 PM
    @transfire: Ooops sorry misssed that :p 
    No Bluetooth? :( 
  • 1 Hide
    onanonanon , December 2, 2011 12:20 PM
    tranfire@tanjo it has micro SD

    Yeah, but for me, one of the best uses of a tablet would be to view photos from a digital camera and yet very few models support an SD or SDHC card.
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , December 2, 2011 12:57 PM
    Sorry but regardless of price after seeing just how piss poor the screen is (most notably extreme light bleed) and how long the charge times are I dont think the low price justifies its shortcomings.

    Heck its not uncommon to get a Transformer or A500 for $299-$349 these days which blow this tablet out of the water.
  • 3 Hide
    acku , December 2, 2011 1:03 PM
    Quote:
    Sorry but regardless of price after seeing just how piss poor the screen is (most notably extreme light bleed) and how long the charge times are I dont think the low price justifies its shortcomings.

    Heck its not uncommon to get a Transformer or A500 for $299-$349 these days which blow this tablet out of the water.

    1. The Transformer also has light bleed.
    2. The 299 price is because of black Friday, cyber Monday, and holiday sales. It's definitely not "normal"
  • -3 Hide
    pyrrocc , December 2, 2011 2:22 PM
    FYI, on the front-face cam, 1.3MP 640x480... Heck 1200x900 (4:3) = ~1MP
  • 3 Hide
    pyrrocc , December 2, 2011 2:25 PM
    Grrr... can't do standard inequality of angled brackets....

    FYI, on the front-face cam, 1.3MP does not equal 640x480... Heck 1200x900 (4:3) = ~1MP
  • -1 Hide
    slabbo , December 2, 2011 2:45 PM
    A500 can be found in practically every Costco I've been in, and for $319 including a leather case.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 2, 2011 4:41 PM
    The size specs on the Xoom and Xoom Family are not correct. Xoom Family is longer AND wider, not the other way around.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , December 2, 2011 5:02 PM
    Quote:
    The size specs on the Xoom and Xoom Family are not correct. Xoom Family is longer AND wider, not the other way around.


    Right and Wrong. Official specs

    SIZE (H X W X D)
    Xoom -249.1 x 167.8 x 12.9 mm
    Xoom FE - 260 x 177 x 11.4 mm

    But we still take our own measurements in the lab. Manufacturers often arbitrarily decide where to measure from. I've corrected the table to use official specs to reduce confusion.

    Quote:
    A500 can be found in practically every Costco I've been in, and for $319 including a leather case.

    I go by online prices. Not by Christmas specials.

    Quote:
    Grrr... can't do standard inequality of angled brackets....

    FYI, on the front-face cam, 1.3MP does not equal 640x480... Heck 1200x900 (4:3) = ~1MP



    Sensor is 1.3 MP. Native storage picture is 640x480.
  • 0 Hide
    suny_hk , December 2, 2011 5:41 PM
    pyrroccGrrr... can't do standard inequality of angled brackets....FYI, on the front-face cam, 1.3MP does not equal 640x480... Heck 1200x900 (4:3) = ~1MP


    Actually, I believe 1.3MP is the number of sensors, and each sensor only records one channel, either red, green or blue. Thus 640x480 image is about 1MP.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 4, 2011 3:24 PM
    This tablet got so many good reviews and was selling so well that Best Buy seems to have jacked up the price to (in their view an attractive price) $499. I was trying to make up my mind if I could overlook all the short comings for the attractive price of 349, but at $499 who'd be stupid enough.
  • 0 Hide
    nottheking , December 5, 2011 4:40 AM
    Aside from the debacle over the front-facing camera (more on that below) I'd note that the specs on the iPads appear to be off: the iPad 1's RAM was, in fact, dual-channel, while the iPad 2's effective speed was 533 MHz, not 1066 MHz; the source of the latter figure appears to have been a third-party analyst's claims that weren't sourced. A check on Samsung's own page for the model of RAM used in the A5 show that the A5's model is the SLOWEST LP-DDR2 they sell, with speeds listed up to 800 MHz. Since we all know there's no such thing as DDR2-1600 (let alone a low-power version) it's safe to say that the speeds mentioned are effective, (MT/s) not actual. (true MHz)

    ackuSensor is 1.3 MP. Native storage picture is 640x480.

    I wouldn't be so quick to state that; this makes zero logical sense. As Tom's used the comparison twice without explaining it, and all other sites fail to mention a resolution, (but universally state it as "1.3 MP") it implies that either Tom's made a mistake on the resolution, or, in fact, it's not a 1.3 MP camera, in spite of readily-circulated claims.

    Occam's Razor definitely suggests something more reasonable than the other mumbo-jumbo mentioned in the comments here: I'd stake it on it being somebody's error; either Toms' mistakenly said 640x480 (twice) or everyone else has been repeating a "1.3 MP" figure that cropped up somewhere without bothering to check it.
  • 0 Hide
    KelvinTy , January 2, 2012 2:54 PM
    It seems so weird... Why would they compare a notebook processor to something like a smartphone processor? and then, SSD vs intentionally weakened version of SSD?
    Looking at the specs, you would know the battery life sucks, the processing power will be better, the graphics would be semi-decent...
    The bottom line is, they didn't do anything wrong, nor they did something brilliant, it's just a calculated solution executed correctly and pop goes this product.
    However, the cameras are to be improved ^.^" and the maybe the interface too.
  • 0 Hide
    adam_j_bradley , April 11, 2012 6:35 AM
    Has BT http://www.motorola.com/Consumers/US-EN/Consumer-Product-and-Services/Tablets/ci.MOTOROLA-XOOM-FAMILY-EDITION-US-EN.alt

    //Adam