When it comes to tablets there is no doubt that one has dominated the market so far. However, with the release of the new Honeycomb Android platform we are finally seeing some serious competition heating things up.
The Motorola Xoom is one of the latest such tablets, and while it shares some similarities to its Apple rival, it also brings some unique features to the table. Under the hood, the Xoom features a Nvidia Tegra 2 T20 1GHz dual-core processor coupled with 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM and 32GB of internal flash memory and the option to expand onto a micro SD card.
One of the notable external differences between the Xoom and the iPad is that the 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 pixel screen is slightly longer than the iPad’s screen. While this is great in landscape view, providing more valuable screen real estate, it creates a slightly narrow feeling in portrait orientation. The Xoom also features two cameras, a higher resolution 5MP flash equipped camera on the back of the unit, and a lower resolution 2MP camera on the front frame, a micro USB 2 slot, HDMI 1.4 output, wireless 802.11a/b/g/n networking and Bluetooth. The only minor grumbles we had were that the Xoom utilises a very thin mobile phone style pin charger input, which on a tablet feels almost a little fragile, and that the headphone output is located on the very middle of the top of the unit (in landscape orientation) so that you have to run the cable behind the tablet to avoid having it drape annoyingly over the centre of the screen.
However, no matter how great hardware specifications are, computers are dependent on how good their software is, and this is especially true for tablets. For those unfamiliar with Android, Honeycomb is the first version specifically designed for tablets as opposed to mobile phones. If you haven’t used Android before, it can take a little getting used to, but it is a very customisable and flexible operating system. While Honeycomb does an alright job out of the box on many fronts, it won’t be long before you are hitting the market looking for application upgrades or replacements (the stock internet browser is particularly average).
We were quite impressed with the performance of the OS on the Xoom, with the tablet showing no signs of slowing down, swapping seamlessly from app to app and responding quickly and accurately to all touch screen inputs. Visually the layout is all very Tron-esque with neon blue icons on black backgrounds giving the Xoom a very striking look.
Android Honeycomb OS
Good touch screen
Fast and responsive
Connecting cables are a little fiddly
Headphone jack inconveniently placed
If you are looking to buy a tablet, the Motorola Xoom ticks all the required boxes and is a serious contender to consider.