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Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet

Motorola Xoom: Tablet Mania

Intel founder Andy Groove once famously quipped, “Only the paranoid survive.” And if you’re a notebook manufacturer, there’s plenty to be paranoid about. Tablet sales are growing at what other mobile solution providers might consider an alarming rate. From one year to the next, you're looking at nearly doubled sales. Meanwhile, the already-mature notebook market is growing at a much slower pace.

No one saw this coming. Apple jump-started the tablet market by introducing its iPad in 2010 (check out our iPad 2 review), and it was a total shock to many industry observers. Here was what looked like an oversized smartphone, armed with a standard (4:3) aspect ratio display that sold like hotcakes. Almost incredibly, last quarter, close to 20% of Apple’s total revenue ($13.5 billion) came from iPad sales. So, is it really any wonder why every other company wants to now jump up on the tablet bandwagon?

The problem is that no one has Apple’s experience combining hardware and software. This void is creating some interesting partnerships. For example, Nvidia sees huge potential in selling mobile hardware, which explains all the cash it’s spending to develop Tegra. But it doesn't have any background on the software side. Conversely, Google has a great mobile operating system known as Android, but it doesn't really do anything with hardware. Motorola is good at creating mobile platforms, but it lacks a touchscreen-based OS, and it's also out of touch with designing processors. So, you really need all three working together to design a suitable alternative to Apple's iPad.

Motorola Xoom

This makes the tablet scene a lot more exciting than reviewing desktop PCs, where you might get a couple of different components and some custom paint. When you buy a tablet other than an iPad, you're getting something completely different. That’s why I was excited when a Motorola Xoom turned up on my doorstep. It’s not just a product of Motorola’s engineering. It’s also a reflection on Google and Nvidia, and it promises a completely different experience.

  • dragonsqrrl
    Very impressive review, especially the display quality page. A lot of in-depth information.
    Reply
  • joytech22
    Excellent! Covered everything I was interested in when comparing the iPad 2 to the Xoom.
    Reply
  • tramit
    Excellent review. I also agree that the excuse of Android coming later in the game does not mean it cannot have the same growth in apps in the same alotted time frame that it was released.

    I personally feel that the iPad is a better device for gaming just by going through the app store and being able to find games ranging from Monopoly to FF3 and Infinity Blade. I have a Nexus S right now and the list of attractive games is not as long.

    I like having both devices however. I plan to stay the course with continuing to purchase Android Nexus phones and having Apple supply me with their iPad. I get to enjoy the best of both worlds and not narrow my enjoyment of tech like most Droid and Apple fanboys.
    Reply
  • Maziar
    Excellent review.
    I'm impressed with the honeycomb but I think it has 2 major drawbacks
    1)UI is somehow laggy and not 100% smooth
    2)Lack of apps.
    If these 2 issues get fixed,then we're going to see a better competition
    Reply
  • fstrthnu
    A little late, but very good quality review. Very nice to see custom benchmarks, it really shows you guys put in the effort here.

    I'd probably go for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but that's just me.
    Reply
  • Seems HD video playback was not tested. Nice to have a HDMI option, but not really useful if most HD movies cannot play smoothly as is the case with the XOOM.

    Also, and probably related to the slow video, Tegra 2's CPU has no NEON extensions, limiting applications that use signal processing.

    Yes, I do own a XOOM (also iPad 2 by the way)
    Reply
  • acku
    Seems HD video playback was not tested. Nice to have a HDMI option, but not really useful if most HD movies cannot play smoothly as is the case with the XOOM.

    Also, and probably related to the slow video, Tegra 2's CPU has no NEON extensions, limiting applications that use signal processing.

    Yes, I do own a XOOM (also iPad 2 by the way)


    Check out page 13. We tested H.264 battery life using a ripped 1280x720 Blu-ray movie.

    On page 12, we also show HD playblack when you're mirroring the display.

    @Everyone else. Thanks for the comments guys. If there's anything else you guy want to see in future reviews please let us know.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • house70
    Took quite a while to get this review done. Other tablets are already available that sport Honeycomb. Not to mention they are better than both contenders described in this article. I have a Transformer and no matter what I throw at it, it does it well. A review of that would be nice (maybe in another year or so...).
    Good effort, but as others have said, late to the table.
    Reply
  • house70
    What the reviewer perceives as weaknesses, others perceive as strength. Example: the apps installation process. Not having to deal with iTunes is a bonus in itself, and having the option to make your own backups using whatever application you prefer is also a plus. The reviewer got a bit carried away by his personal bias towards iTunes/iOS environment. There are people that prefer to be led by hand while operating their tablet and there are others that prefer to pick and choose their options without limitations. It's a matter of personal preference. But this should not transpire into an objective review. Other than that, not too bad.
    Reply
  • Wow - I couldn't disagree more with some of your views. Obviously you love you some Apple... I'm not an Apple hater - I have a Macbook Pro, I have an iPad, and I have a Xoom. I tell everyone the Xoom is 5X the tables the iPad is (Granted it's an iPad, not an iPad2 - but my beef with iPads are how much Apple controls what you can or can't do with it - that has not changed in the new generation of iPads). The iPad I can use as a toy, or as a cool media gadget - I actually basically gave it to my 6 year old son now bc that's all I can do with it. The Xoom I can use as so much more - it is was more useful on so many levels. Yes rendering takes a bit longer when you flip th screen, yes there are a few small quirks in it's behavior occasionally, but from an overall usefulness point of view I like it TONS betters than the iPad. Widgets - MultiTasking - OpenSource app development with an App store NOT controlled by Apple. Android IS the future for tablets. Apple needs to take note - they are just lucky at this point bc of their following, but Android will leave them in the dust. MS isn't even in the game and won't be even when Windows 8 hits. And you price comparison is off too IMO. $599 (now $499) for 32MB on the Xoom was in line (and is now better) than Apple's price point. Take it a step further and look the the Asus Eee Pad Transformer (very similar to Xoom with some things done even better) at $399. Android is taking hold, and will gain on Apple quickly, and eventually blow them away.
    Reply