So in the wake of the disappointing failure of my Scroll Extreme tablet (which I wrote a first impressions review of here, and a subsequent withdrawal of those impressions here) I was in a bit of a conundrum. See I was due to go off on Holiday to the lake district in North West England which involved several lengthy coach journeys so I didn’t want to be without the tablet for various reasons. Unfortunately all of these faults with the Extreme came to a head the day before I was due to go off on the holiday so I couldn’t rely on getting either a replacement unit or a refund in time. So I had to whip down to my local PC world (much to my dismay) and look for the nearest thing to the Extreme. Let me tell you now, PC world has a pretty limited choice of Android tablets, 5 or 6 models I think, so this was already a difficult task. The Extreme also had the advantage of being a 9.7″ tablet which makes it a 1024 x 768 screen res and therefore fits a lot of iPad cases, no such luck with any of the tablets on offer in PC world. So after much deliberating and researching information on the various tablets (I actually did this using said tablets in the shop) I put down the cash and went for a Motorola Xoom.
The Xoom sports a healthy set of specs even by today’s standards. The tablet is just over a year old and while there are now quad core CPUs coming onto the market, the Tegra 2 T20 chipset with dual core 1GHz ARM A9 CPUs are more than capable of handling tough tasks. It also boasts 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Its screen, whilst not the IPS that the Scroll Extreme had, is a very nice, vibrant TFT which measures in at 10.1″ with a resolution of 1280 x 800. The cameras are something of a surprise too; the rear is 5Mp and the front 2Mp which is more than many other tablets on the market and matches that of the new iPad 3. The usual array of connectivity options are present in the Xoom including bluetooth, Wifi (b/g/n) and also 1 micro USB port and a mini HDMI which is a nice touch. The battery life is claimed to be around 8 hours and from my usage so far with it I think this is probably accurate. I’ve only used it consecutively for just over 3 hours and the battery life here was around the 62-58% mark.
The Xoom came with Android 3.2 (Honeycombe) installed on it. Now here is where the Extreme had an advantage (or so I thought) in that it came with Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3) pre-installed. I’ve had a look at Motorla’s ICS rollout schedule and this particular model of Xoom (MZ601) is down for an ICS upgrade but they haven’t specified a date yet. However, I’m not nearly as bothered as I thought I’d be. From my usage so far I can detect very little differences between 3.2 and ICS. Apparently ICS offers significant performance boosts but the Xoom has performed every task I’ve thrown at it extremely well and has been zipping along nicely. If ICS does boost its performance, great, but I can wait. The menu system is laid out very slightly differently and the widget menu is separate from the Apps menu in 3.2 whereas they are integrated in 4.0…no big deal really. About the only thing I actually miss about 4.0 is the ability to group apps on the home screens into folders which really isn’t that important when you think about it.
Design-wise the Xoom is one of the nicest tablets I’ve used. It sports a lovely brushed aluminium backing offset by a black PU rubber banding on top. It is a little thicker than some other android tablets that I’ve used including the Scroll but overall it feels solid but light enough for comfortable use. The Lock button is a large circular pad on the back of the tablet, something very different from others on the market but it actually makes a lot of sense. It feels very natural to use give how you’ll be holding the tablet in most cases. The volume buttons though are a little on the small side and can be fiddly to use.
The case I got for it was definitely worth the extra money (only £9.99 on Amazon I might add). Rather than a floppy PU/faux lether folio case that seem to be everywhere these days, it’s a harder, sturdy plastic/rubber case which grips the tablet extremely well. It has a plastic bezel on either half of the case which snap the tablet into place, hugging it tightly. You can then snap the bottom half free and have it tilted at various angles for video viewing and typing for example (see the image gallery). The only problem for me was the because the bottom of the tablet (where the USB port is) rests on the bottom of the case when in its titled configuration, I couldn’t connect my USB keyboard to it. To remedy this you simply turn the tablet upside down so the port is on top, however, the headphone jack is on the opposite side so it seems when in tilted mode, you can have either a USB device or headphones plugged in, not both. I could buy a bluetooth keyboard but I really can’t be bothered with any more gear frankly.
That about does it for this overview of the Motorola Xoom. I managed to pick it up cheap at £220 from PC world as it was a clearance item. If you’re thinking of getting an Android tablet I can’t recommend this one enough if you can get it at a similar price. It doesn’t have ICS yet but it should be coming soon and for all the difference it makes it’s not worth the wait in my opinion. Aesthetically I’m extremely pleased with it and as far as I’m concerned it’s second only to Asus’ transformer series of tablets. Watch this space to see if I change my mind on this one too!