First True iPad Competitor: Motorola Xoom Review Mix

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The Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom is now available. It's the first real iPad competitor to hit the market, and the reviewers seem to agree on that. It runs Google's Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) software, which is specially designed for tablet computers.

We've taken the reviews from some of the most popular tech and gadget websites on the internet and compiled some of the important bits to you can see read about the device from different people's perspectives.

Hit the jump for the review mix: 


Screen Quality

Pogue (NYT): The Xoom‚Äôs screen has slightly higher resolution than the iPad‚Äôs, and it gives the tablet a slightly different shape ‚Äî more like a business envelope than a greeting-card envelope. The screen shape is a better match for hi-definition videos, but worse for photos and maps.

Mossberg (WSJ): Though it works fine in portrait, or vertical, mode, the Xoom is mainly designed as a landscape, or horizontal, device. The screen is long and narrow, proportioned to best fit widescreen video. The HD screen boasts a resolution of 1280 by 800, versus 1024 by 768 for the iPad

Engadget: Slightly larger than the iPad's 9.7-inch screen, and higher resolution (1280 x 800 to Apple's 1024 x 768). The aspect ratio is substantially different as well, meaning that the Xoom feels a lot longer (or taller) than the iPad. In general, we felt portrait use was slightly uncomfortable given the size, but not in any way a dealbreaker. Though the screen does look nice, pixel density seemed to suffer — a situation that was particularly evident when using the Google Books application. 

Wired: The Xoom has a 10.1-inch screen (measuring 8.5 by 5.25 inches), and it‚Äôs as bright and sharp as any other high-end tablet. We did notice a slightly discolored band running down the edge of the screen on one side, but since we can‚Äôt compare it to other Xooms yet, we don‚Äôt know if this is a problem with our review unit or a more general manufacturing defect.

TechCrunch: The glossy 10-incher is wonderfully responsive and 1280√ó800 resolution allows for a great deal of living detail in the interface, icons, and during media playback. Strangely, the resolution didn‚Äôt play well with some photos, including photos taken with the Xoom‚Äôs own camera; they appeared fuzzy when you‚Äôd expect sharpness.

iSmashPhone Verdict: The reviewers agree higher-resolution screen looks great, and is responsive. Engadget did say that the true widescreen aspect ratio made portrait mode a bit awkward though. Most agreed that photos looked worse than on the iPad.



Pogue (NYT): No Direct mention

Mossberg (WSJ): I found it generally comfortable to hold, except when I was reading for long periods in vertical mode, where the long, thin shape and weight made it feel a bit unbalanced.

Engadget: At 9.8 inches wide by 6.6 inches tall (with a thickness of a half inch), the device isn't massive (albeit a little unwieldy when held in portrait), and its 1.5 pound weight gives it heft without killing your arms — though it still strains your muscles a bit if you're holding the tablet up for an extended period of time.

Wired: It‚Äôs comfortable to hold the Xoom with one hand while you swipe with the other…

The rubbery back panel has enough grip that you don’t really need to clamp onto the thing while you’re reading. If you feel fatigued by holding your iPad one-handed for long periods of time like I do, you’ll appreciate this.

TechCrunch:  It doesn‚Äôt feel as ‚Äúhollow‚Äù as the iPad, perhaps because of the Xoom‚Äôs 1.6 lb weight versus the iPad‚Äôs 1.4.

iSmashPhone Verdict: It weighs about the same as an iPad, so no real changes in weight. Though TechCrunch did say it feels more solid while in your hands. Wired mentioned that the back panel is rubber, and more comfortable to hold.


Battery Life

Pogue (NYT): Good for 10 hours of video playback

Mossberg (WSJ):I performed the same battery test on the Xoom as I have on other tablets. I played video constantly with the connectivity turned on and the screen at almost full brightness until the battery died. Alas, while the Xoom claims up to 10 hours of video playback, I got just 7 hours and 32 minutes. By contrast, on the same test, the iPad, which also claims 10 hours, logged 11.5 hours, or four hours more. 

Engadget: Battery life on the Xoom was excellent. Beyond excellent, actually — some of the best performance we've seen on a slate. Running a video on loop with the screen set at 65 percent brightness, we were able to get playback for nearly eight and a half hours (8:20 to be exact). Motorola claims up to ten, so we weren't far off the mark at all. We had a few background tasks going on, and both WiFi and 3G radios were active. We could easily see maximizing this if you're in airplane mode with a slightly lower brightness setting.

Wired: No direct mention

TechCrunch: Battery life is about 18-20 hours on one charge although your mileage may vary. I was able to listen to a few hours of music, read a book, and browse the web for most of the day and it dropped to about 67% after 10 hours. I couldn‚Äôt test video playback due to some problems in format availability, but it‚Äôs safe to say your battery life will shrink with more processor-intensive tasks. But using web, music, email, and a little light gaming, the device lasted quite a while.

iSmashPhone Verdict: We heard everything from 7.5 hours (that was at full brightness and playing video constantly) to 20 hours. Of course the 20 hours was because the reviewer was unable to use it for video playback, which would no doubt dramacitally decrease battery life.

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Software and Internet Browsing

Pogue (NYT): So how is Honeycomb? Four words: more powerful, more complicated. Google seems to have overlooked a huge drawback of unlabeled icons on a touch-screen computer: there‚Äôs no way to see their names or functions before you open them. There are no pop-up tooltips, for example. All you can do is touch one to activate it, see what happens and learn from the annoying experience.

Mossberg (WSJ): I‚Äôve always felt that Android had a rough-around-the edges…Honeycomb eliminates much of that. Actions like composing emails, or changing settings are much more obvious and quicker. 

The browser is especially impressive, with PC-like features, such as visible tabs for open pages and the ability to open a private browsing session. 

The ability to play Flash video—a big Android selling point—won’t work on the Xoom at launch.

Engadget: From a purely visual standpoint, Android 3.0 comes together in a far more cohesive manner than any previous iteration of the software, and the changes aren't just cosmetic. Much of the obscurity in the OS and arcane functions of this software have been jettisoned or drastically changed, making for an experience that is far more obvious to a novice user… though we wouldn't exactly describe it as simple.

In applications like the browser — which is now far more like a desktop version of Chrome (with proper tabs and all) — you also get the sense that Google is taking a lot of cues from familiar places.

Wired: Those details will be irrelevant to non-Apple users, of course, but even dedicated Android fans will find that the Xoom‚Äôs version of the OS, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, takes a bit of getting used to.

TechCrunch: The Xoom is an Android tablet, not an overgrown phone. The UI is striking and the use of screen real estate is excellent.

This version of Honeycomb does not support Flash. The Xoom will support Flash in a few months, which is kind of hilarious seeing as that was one of Motorola‚Äôs original selling points. Regardless, you probably won‚Äôt miss it.

iSmashPhone Verdict: They all like the new interface. Some say it still has it's problems, and feels like a work in progress, but overall the reposnse is positive. Unfortunately, no Flash support yet, which was Moto's big selling point.



Pogue (NYT): The Xoom has stereo speakers instead of mono.

Mossberg (WSJ): Small mention of "better speakers" than the iPad.

Engadget: On the sound side of things, the Xoom could produce reasonably clear audio at a mid-level volume, but cranking the tablet up created some pretty nasty distortion on basic sounds, like the email notifications. 

Wired: The speakers are in the back of the tablet. They sound fine if you turn the tablet around to face the speakers toward you, but if you‚Äôre holding the Xoom so you can see its screen, the sound is projecting away from your head. Everything sounds muffled: movie dialog is harder to understand and music just sounds dead and lifeless.

TechCrunch: The speakers are acceptable but are situated on the back of the device so you don‚Äôt get much forward throw. You can mute the speakers with your hand if you‚Äôre not careful. 

iSmashPhone Verdict: Stereo speakers that are better than the iPad's. Unfortunately, they are located on the back of the unit, which seems to make them muddy and distant sounding. The user can accidentally cover them if the tablet is held a certain way.

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Pogue (NYT): If you‚Äôre interested in a tablet, you‚Äôd be wise to wait a couple of months. You‚Äôll want to consider whatever Apple has up its sleeve for the iPad‚Äôs second coming, of course, but also Research in Motion‚Äôs business-oriented BlackBerry PlayBook and Hewlett-Packard‚Äôs juicy-looking TouchPad tablet, which runs the webOS software (originally designed by ex-Apple engineers for the Palm Pre smartphone).

Mossberg (WSJ):The Xoom and Honeycomb are a promising pair that should give the iPad its stiffest competition. But price will be an obstacle, and Apple isn‚Äôt standing still. 

Engadget: Is the Xoom a real competitor to the iPad? Absolutely. In fact, it outclasses the iPad in many ways. Still, the end user experience isn't nearly where it needs to be, and until Google paints its tablet strategy and software picture more clearly, we'd suggest a wait-and-see approach. 

Wired: For those who want a more fully-finished, polished experience, however, we recommend waiting for a future Android tablet ‚Äî or the iPad. The Xoom is a credible contender, but it‚Äôs not quite on par with the market leader yet.

TechCrunch: If you literally can‚Äôt wait, this is a great tablet for you. But a few months may bring changes to the Honeycomb market that will make it less of a coup and more of an also-ran.

iSmashPhone Verdict: Most seem to think that the Moto Xoom is a great product. However, they do note that there is too much coming in the near future, and that it may be best to wait to see the other tablet offerings.


Additional Info

The reviewers all seemed to agree that the biggest barrier for this tablet will be the price tag. A Xoom without a contract is $800 which is somewhere between the 32GB wifi+3G iPad ($729) and the 64GB wifi+3G iPad ($829) and iPad.

Still, it's nice to see that the tablets are finally hitting the market. With the iPad 2 (supposedly) making a debut in April and RIM and Palm releasing their tablets in the coming months, it will be an interesting year for these touchscreen computers.

To read the featured reviews in full please check the following:

New York Times

All Things D




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