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

Is The Xoom Family Edition A Second-Gen Tablet?

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.

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Feature ChecklistMotorola XoomMotorola Xoom Family Edition
Full-Sized USB Port (Ext. Storage)--
Front CameraXX
Rear CameraXX
SD Card Reader--
microSD Card ReaderXX

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

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.

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Header Cell - Column 0 LengthWidthHeightScreen SizeAspect RatioWeight
iPad 2 (3G)9.5"7.31".34"9.7"4:31.33 lb.
Acer Iconia A5009.8"6.6".5"10.1"16:101.5 lb.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer10.2"7".5"10.1"16:101.65 lb.
Motorola Xoom9.8"6.6".5"10.1"16:101.5 lb.
Motorola Xoom Family Edition10.2"6.9".4"10.1"16:101.4 lb.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.110.1"6.9"0.38"10.1"16:101.3 lb.
Toshiba Thrive10.8"7"0.6"10.1"16:101.6 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)

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)

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.

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 slot

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

Top: 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 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.

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Apple iPad 20.3 MP (640 x 480)0.7 MP (960 x 720)None
Acer Iconia A5002.0 MP (1600 x 1200)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)Single-LED flash
Asus Transformer1.2 MP (1024 x 768)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)None
Motorola Xoom2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)Dual-LED flash
Motorola Xoom Family Edition1.3 MP (640 x 480)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) Single-LED flash
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.12.0 MP (1600 x 1200)3.0 MP (2048 x 1536)Single-LED flash
Toshiba Thrive2.0 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.

  • tanjo
    Nice value. Too bad there's no card reader... Do I hear iPad killer?
  • tranfire
    @tanjo it has micro SD
  • tanjo
    @transfire: Ooops sorry misssed that :p
    No Bluetooth? :(
  • onanonanon
    tranfire@tanjo it has micro SDYeah, 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.
  • cknobman
    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.
  • acku
    9523631 said:
    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"
  • pyrrocc
    FYI, on the front-face cam, 1.3MP 640x480... Heck 1200x900 (4:3) = ~1MP
  • pyrrocc
    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
  • slabbo
    A500 can be found in practically every Costco I've been in, and for $319 including a leather case.
  • The size specs on the Xoom and Xoom Family are not correct. Xoom Family is longer AND wider, not the other way around.