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Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet

HDMI output And Camera Quality

HDMI output

Left to Right: USB, HDMI, Power

Tablets like the Xoom could really benefit from a mature wireless display technology, but that seems to be years away. In the meantime, you're forced to use a cable.

Motorola sticks with industry standards, as the Xoom offers HDMI output, in addition to connectors for charging and data transfer. But cable management is consequently a bit of a mess. On the one hand, Apple's proprietary connector offers a much cleaner setup, but nobody enjoys spending $40 for a special cable to enable video output.

Output results are better than what we saw from the iPad 2. TVs and monitors supporting native 1080p display the tablet's screen as a 1280x800 upscaled image that fills the entire display. The Xoom locks itself in landscape mode while you're connected, so there's no reason to worry about orientation.

Google can and should refine the experience a little bit more. When you're typing, the Android keyboard is automatically cloned onto the external display. Ideally, it should only appear on the Xoom or at least expose that option. A resolution of 1280x800 doesn't facilitate much work space, so every little bit counts. The company would be better off disabling the keyboard overlay on the external monitor.

Playing video over HDMI has a few quirks. The aspect ratio seen on the Xoom is always preserved on the secondary screen. However, the image is mirrored on both displays. The iPad 2 only outputs video to the external monitor, which makes sense. If you're going to go through the trouble of hooking up another screen to watch a movie, you don't need to see that image on the tablet's smaller display. We'd like to see this addressed, if only to see battery life preserved and command-response improved. There is one other oddity. I'm not sure if it is the fault of Motorola or Android, but the multitasking switcher isn't mirrored when you're playing video.

Camera Quality

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The Xoom has a clear lead when it comes to camera quality. But a lack of software means the camera isn't as useful. When Apple announced it was adding cameras to the iPad 2, anyone with an iPhone 4 saw FaceTime support on the horizon, which of course came to pass. However, you can use the cameras on the iPad 2 with other apps. Skype actually supports video calling on the iPad 2.

The same can't be said for Honeycomb. The latest version of Skype for Android (1.0.0.983) doesn't support video calls. So, as a practical matter, you can't really do much with the front-facing camera on Motorola's Xoom until Skype adds support.

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  • 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