Editor's Note 2/12/12:
Following its Ice Cream Sandwich update, we have taken another look at the Xoom. Please read Rethinking the Motorola Xoom: Does ICS Make it a Tablet Contender? for a more current review.
Editor's Note 11/7/11:
This review has been updated to reflect the launch of Netflix for Android 3.x devices.
Can the Motorola Xoom possibly live up to the hype? It was dubbed an iPad killer before anyone got his or her hands on it. It was priced $800 at launch, making it more expensive than a comparable iPad. The folks behind the Droid smartphone make it, and the Droid was arguably the first Android handset to rival the iPhone. It is also the first tablet to feature an operating system developed by Google specifically for tablets.
TabletPCReview gave high marks to the other Android-powered iPad-killer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, even though it lacked polish and a true tablet OS. The Motorola Xoom has at least one of those qualities in the form of Honeycomb, but is that enough? Should the 15 million plus iPad owners ditch Apple's offering and ignore the iPad 2, zoom over to Verizon or Best Buy, and pick up a Xoom? And perhaps, more importantly, does the Xoom make a compelling case for those undecided about tablets?
Build & Design
There is very little tablet makers can do to distinguish their devices from the rest of the heap, but Motorola does its best to stick out, with slight design tweaks that work both for and against it.
The Xoom is an all-black tablet with rounded edges and a slightly textured and rubberized back that splits about a quarter of the way down from the top. The upper portion is slightly smoother and more ?rubbery? than the bottom portion. We found the Xoom back preferable to the all-plastic back of the Samsung Galaxy Tab base model (not the Verizon Tab, which had small rubber bullets) and Apple iPad. Compared to the available competition, the Xoom is just easier to hold, and the back shrugs off fingerprints well.
As with other tablets, all the ports are found around the edges. The mini-USB and mini-HDMI ports are on the bottom next to a docking input and charger port, and the 3.5MM headphone jack is on the top next to a notch hiding the MicroSD slot and SIM card slot.
There are two volume buttons on the left side, while the right side has nothing.i
The power/lock button is on the back of the device, sitting to the right of the two on-board speakers. The rear camera lens and camera flash sit between them.
In contrast with many Android handsets, there are no buttons on the front of the Xoom. There is just the 10.1-inch display and front-facing camera. I expected this to be an issue, but I quickly adjusted, and the lack of buttons gives the Xoom a much more modern feel than rival tablets.
Due to its size, the Xoom is very much a two-handed tablet. It's too large and heavy for prolonged one-handed use, unlike the 7-inch Galaxy Tab. But it also feels more sturdy than Samsung's Android tablet, and even the first-generation iPad.
If there is a design flaw, it's in the rear camera lens placement, and its unfortunately not uncommon with tablets. The lens is only slightly recessed from the body, leaving it vulnerable to fingerprints and scratches. Users that value on-board cameras will want to invest in a folio or be especially careful when laying the tablet down on a surface.
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