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6 Reasons To Love and Hate the Xoom

6 Reasons To Love and Hate the Xoom
By

Staying upbeat for now, the Motorola Xoom sports some of the nicest hardware, both inside and out, that you can find in a tablet right now. The back of the device is matte black, with most of the rear panel comprised of some sort of metal. There is a band of soft rubber at the top, where you will also find two speakers, a five megapixel camera, dual LED flash, and the power/sleep button.

The front of the Xoom defines minimalist. The 10.1-inch, 1280x800 WXGA display has a black bezel going around its entirety, and upon closer inspection you’ll find a two megapixel camera, an ambient light sensor, and a small pinhole microphone. The only physical buttons besides power/sleep on the back are two volume buttons on the left side.

All of the connectivity is located on the bottom of the Xoom (except for the headset jack, which is located on the top above the camera), including power (AC), Micro USB, Micro HDMI and a small gold connector (used for docks and other proprietary peripherals). The Micro USB port can only transfer data, so there’s no charging your Xoom through a computer as far as we can tell. Micro HDMI handles audio and video just fine, and Angry Birds looked terrific a 50-inch Panasonic P50G20 plasma HDTV. The Xoom will not output at 1080p, but the 720p resolution still looked great on a big screen.

Nvidia’s Tegra 2 platform, coupled with 32 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM, chews through web browsing, YouTube video, and all the applications you can throw at it. The only issues we ran into were HD video related (more on that later). Twitter, Facebook, Skype (chat and voice only, no video) all worked like a charm, and CNN, Pandora, Flixster, and Angry Birds all performed admirably. We also gave the Tegra-optimized version of Fruit Ninja a go, and again the Xoom lived up to the task.

Battery life for the Xoom is, in short, tremendous. Despite our HD video issues, we got just under nine hours on a single charge while watching video and playing graphically intensive games. Granted our method could more scientific, but the Xoom seems to be on par with the original iPad.

The Xoom has a camera on the back that can shoot video and take pictures. The software is packed with features for augmented still photos, and the photo quality is good, and by most accounts very similar to the Atrix 4G on AT&T. While the rear camera is a welcome addition, we can’t imagine many scenario that would have us using a tablet to snap photos or take off-the-cuff video, as that’s that our smaller, more nimble smartphone is for.

The front camera is two megapixels, and the video quality is strictly average, even over WiFi. We feel like this is a software bug more than it’s a hardware issue, and while quality could be better, it certainly got the job done when using Google Talk.

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  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 9, 2011 3:49 PM
    Are you suggesting that iPad 2 is a better choice for 'High Profile HD video'?

    Not likely - lack of RAM and absence of expandable storage . . . just to touch on a couple of glaring deficiencies . . .
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 9, 2011 4:33 PM
    PetergrtAre you suggesting that iPad 2 is a better choice for 'High Profile HD video'?Not likely - lack of RAM and absence of expandable storage . . . just to touch on a couple of glaring deficiencies . . .


    From what I've read on places like the XDA forums, the original iPad can handle high profile HD. Granted, you need to jailbreak the device and install XBMC, but the hardware can handle it.

    -Devin
  • 0 Hide
    vintagesax81 , March 9, 2011 4:40 PM
    To see how to get a Honeycomb tablet for less than $300:

    http://besttechtoday.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-to-get-honeycomb-tablet-for-under.html
  • 1 Hide
    Moshu78 , March 9, 2011 5:52 PM
    512 MB of RAM is more than enough to play 1080p. Just google Xtreamer, I've got the Pro version with 512 MB but also the original one with 256 MB can play 20 GB blue ray rips withouta hiccup. Once again, RAM is not the issue and it may be that iPad2 can play 1080p perfectly as their software is tailored and optimized on a specific hardware.
  • 1 Hide
    11796pcs , March 9, 2011 6:22 PM
    Nice article, tablets are really becoming huge and with so much focus on the iPad it's nice to see what the competitor offers. Though I agree with the review and would suggest to anyone interested in the market to wait a few months.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 9, 2011 7:23 PM
    11796pcsNice article, tablets are really becoming huge and with so much focus on the iPad it's nice to see what the competitor offers. Though I agree with the review and would suggest to anyone interested in the market to wait a few months.


    Thanks for the comment. I hate telling people to wait for anything new...but in this case it really is for the best.

    -Devin
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 9, 2011 10:01 PM
    Baseline or highprofile doesnt matter, you can push HD videos to much smaller than 10GB without being able to see a difference in video quality. I have converted I Am Legend from BD to a .m4v file using handbrake .0.9.4 (0.9.5 had issues for me). I set it to 1280x720 (why set it higher than what the device can play?), ~1500kb/s bitrate. My HTC Evo can play this on my 37" 1080p HDTV and it is practically indistinguishable from the original.

    Two things matter when playing a video back on an Android device.

    1) How you encode it. Encode video in small test clips before doing the whole movie and try it out.

    2) hardware/software decoding. Both formats you tried (WMV and MKV) are more than likely being played in Software mode. The Only formats that the Xoom or most other if not all Android devices will play in hardware mode are listed here:

    http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html#core

    I love Tom's and your reviews here, but next time convert the file to a format it is made to play (this includes the audio format). Try it again using handbrake and make it a .m4v or .mp4 and at a resolution that the Xoom can actually output. Youll probably be able to set the bitrate much higher than the 1500kb/s i use.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 9, 2011 10:07 PM
    ^--- Some good points, but the apps I used to play video (RockPlayer Lite, for example) support hardware decoding. Even with that enabled, the files still would not play.

    -Devin
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 9, 2011 11:08 PM
    Don't forget the awesome ability to use the Xoom as a mobile hotspot. This is an awesome feature! I plan to cancel my hotspot subscription w/ Sprint & stick w/ Verizon. I don't think this feature will be available on the ipad2. I'm loving my Xoom.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2011 12:12 AM
    Do you really think Jobs would allow his new BFF Verizon to sell a 4G flash enabled tablet when his new one is coming out a month later? Seems to me Verizon leveled the playing field.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 10, 2011 6:58 AM
    Hey readers/commenters: I added some insight on page 6 in regards to HD video playback. Check out my additional thoughts!

    -Devin
  • 0 Hide
    Griffolion , March 10, 2011 7:36 AM
    Basically, the three main 'hate' points you stated aren't actually deal breakers when you rationally think about it. Two out of the three will naturally resolve themselves as time goes on (flash & LTE and Honeycomb apps) while most Blu-Rays these days come with an extra DVD/Digital Copy CD that you can use instead of the actual blu-ray rip, which i feel would be better for storage anyway without sacrificing much, if any quality compared to the nerfed blu-ray rip you had to do in your article. I'm not having a go at the writer or anything but those are just my thoughts.

    I have got one of these on pre-order, the whole HD video playback isn't a big thing to me, the UK version is getting flash pre-installed and LTE doesn't even exist over here yet. And i can wait a few months for developers to start making their apps honeycomb friendly. You could just call this the rationalisation of an 'early adopter'.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 10, 2011 4:24 PM
    GriffolionBasically, the three main 'hate' points you stated aren't actually deal breakers when you rationally think about it. Two out of the three will naturally resolve themselves as time goes on (flash & LTE and Honeycomb apps) while most Blu-Rays these days come with an extra DVD/Digital Copy CD that you can use instead of the actual blu-ray rip, which i feel would be better for storage anyway without sacrificing much, if any quality compared to the nerfed blu-ray rip you had to do in your article. I'm not having a go at the writer or anything but those are just my thoughts.I have got one of these on pre-order, the whole HD video playback isn't a big thing to me, the UK version is getting flash pre-installed and LTE doesn't even exist over here yet. And i can wait a few months for developers to start making their apps honeycomb friendly. You could just call this the rationalisation of an 'early adopter'.


    I do address the HD video bit in the conclusion. To quote, "If you’re not terribly concerned about HD video (beyond YouTube, at least) then the Xoom is much more attractive. This is the flagship Honeycomb tablet, and the new OS is a fantastic experience overall. The new UI makes navigation simple and intuitive, and most of Google’s own applications make "the mobile lifestyle" that much easier."

    ...and you're right, the other issues (Flash, LTE) are things that early adopters have to deal with. If you're a diehard early adopter when it comes to tech, then these issues won't bother you. However, a very large segment of the consumer base does not fall into that category, and would rather wait for a product to be "finished" before buying it.

    -Devin
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 13, 2011 12:08 AM
    in the section *should you buy a xoom* the reviewer is being evasive. are you or are you not comparing xoom with ipad2 in terms of your recommended buy? I take from the second line on that page that you are. Then :
    1. neither ipad2 nor xoom support h264 high profile while xoom does 1080p while ipad2 max out at 720p.

    2. Neither ipad2 nor xoom support Flash or LTE radio at launch while xoom guarantees both, for free, ipad2 will never have Flash and does not promise LTE on the launch model.

    3. you fail to mention the primary reason anybody would buy a xoom (or ipad2 for that matter) is that they want a tablet form device for around 700usd. By waiting for xoom to be *finished* all they would end up with 2-3 months of lost usage, for the same money.

  • 0 Hide
    rquick , March 13, 2011 5:33 PM
    Given Anand's latest benchmarks comparing the iPad2, iPad1 and Xoom, it appears that Motorola completely dropped the ball. They should have waited so they could redesign around a more competitive chip. I know this is going to upset a lot of people, but why would anyone chose to buy a device that is already so terribly obsolete right out of the gate. Clearly, the Xoom was designed to compete with iPad1, but developers of new apps are going to be working around the capabilities of the iPad2. The performance range will probably still include the iPad1 as its hard to ignore 15+ million customers, so the Xoom should work too, but what an incredible performance advantage the iPad2 is going to have for the immediate future. It's too bad really, I was hoping to see Apple playing catchup so they would be more likely to release an iPad3 before Christmas. Clearly, Apple does it's homework and stays at the top of the class, on portable hardware anyway. And, no, I'm not an Apple fanbois. Right now, I'm using a box with an overclocked core i7 running Win7 that I built from scratch. Buy I am a tech fanbois, and it's just hard to deny superior engineering when you see it.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 14, 2011 4:15 AM
    jpppdkin the section *should you buy a xoom* the reviewer is being evasive. are you or are you not comparing xoom with ipad2 in terms of your recommended buy? I take from the second line on that page that you are. Then :1. neither ipad2 nor xoom support h264 high profile while xoom does 1080p while ipad2 max out at 720p.2. Neither ipad2 nor xoom support Flash or LTE radio at launch while xoom guarantees both, for free, ipad2 will never have Flash and does not promise LTE on the launch model.3. you fail to mention the primary reason anybody would buy a xoom (or ipad2 for that matter) is that they want a tablet form device for around 700usd. By waiting for xoom to be *finished* all they would end up with 2-3 months of lost usage, for the same money.


    The iPad 2 was not available when this review was written...so we were unable to speak to its HD capabilities. As for LTE and Flash, I was speaking more to the fact that both should have been included at launch. Flash is an easy upgrade...but having to mail your tablet in to Motorola in order to get an LTE radio? That's a pain in the neck.

    Regarding the iPad 2 vs. the Xoom...it really boils down to what kind of user YOU are and what software platform you like better (iOS vs Android 3.0).
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 16, 2011 8:55 PM
    I'll be impressed when a manufacturer includes a USB 3 connector, external HD support, two SD card slots, a hole for a lanyard like the Nook Color, a kickstand or two, better speakers (possibly firing out the front), and for all the features to actually work when released.
  • 0 Hide
    dconnors , March 16, 2011 9:44 PM
    buschrisI'll be impressed when a manufacturer includes a USB 3 connector, external HD support, two SD card slots, a hole for a lanyard like the Nook Color, a kickstand or two, better speakers (possibly firing out the front), and for all the features to actually work when released.


    Thanks for reading/commenting...and I like where your head is at! I think two SD slots is asking a lot, however.

    -Devin
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