April 5, 2011

724 words 4 mins read

Review: Motorola Xoom – Hardware

I purchased a Motorola Xoom for work just shortly after it came out. Personally, I’m a big fan of the current version of Android (2.3); it’s come a long way since 1.0. That “release” sucked and I still have nightmares about the G1. It’s a bonus that my office is a big proponent of Open Source and I’m always looking for OSS options to lure people away from things like iPhones and iPads. I’ve been carrying around the Xoom most of the time since then and I’ve gotten a good feel for it. In this first post, I’m just going to cover the hardware, the next post will be about the Operating System, Android 3.0 “Gingerbread”.

While it might not be exactly the same, the form factor feels very similar to the iPad 1. Compared to the

iPad 2 (at 1.3 pounds), the Xoom is a only slightly heavier, at 1.6 pounds. I had no problem hauling the Xoom about all the time, although another coworker who tested it spoke of how it was too heavy to hold for long periods of time.

The screen is also quite nice. It isn’t as crisp and clean as the iPad’s, but it is still darn good. One of the features that I like most about the Xoom’s screen is the fact that it is 16:10 (1280×800), rather than the iPad’s 4:3 (1024×768). Almost all computer & TV displays have moved to 16:10 these days, and it’s MUCH nicer for watching TV/Movies. The 16:9 format of modern TV/Cinema only has small black bars on the Xoom, whereas a large amount of screen real estate is lost on the iPad.

The physical buttons leave something to be desired. The power button is “ok”, but the location is screwy as all hell. The power button is around on the back, about an inch down from the top and an inch in from the side. It’s along the same line as the camera which makes it aesthetically “ok”, but still kind of dumb. The volume buttons are a bit hard to press, but otherwise not worth writing home about.

Speaking of cameras, the Xoom has two. The back camera is a respectable 5 megapixels (laughing at the iPad’s sub 1-megapixel) and the front “face” camera is a reasonable 2 megapixels. While the quality of pictures has been good, in my tests the Xoom has trouble focusing in medium to lower light. I don’t mean low light, more like dusk. There is plenty of light to take the picture, the camera simply can’t figure out where to focus. This could be a software issue, not sure. Really, it’s a camera phone, so I don’t expect miracles from it. The front camera is enough to do it’s job of video chat.

For all it’s good points, the Xoom has one major physical flaw which really drives me batty: The charging. It has a MicroUSB port, a Micro-HDMI port… and a separate charging port. That’s right, even though is has a USB port, you cannot charge with it. The official line is that the massive 6500mAh batteries pull too much power to effectively charge though USB. While 6500mAh is nothing to sneeze at, and charging that at the USB standard of 500mAh would take a while, they should still allow it. After all, the iPad can at least maintain it’s battery level on standard USB, and charge with a compatible 10W adapter. I loathe having yet another adapter. This one single issue (yes, charger is that big of a deal) is the only thing that stops me from truly loving the Xoom. Every other flaw I can look over, but the charger… nope.

All in all, the hardware is well squared away. It’s got 32 GB of onboard memory, GPS, Bluetooth, dual core 1 GHz Nvidia Tegra, 3G cellular and a an entire host of sensors. Plus, it should be soon upgradeable to 32GB SDHC and 4G data – which I’m really looking forward to. For the first “real” android tablet, it is a very nice device and I really like having it. And even though the charging issue bugs the hell out of me, I’m using the Xoom every day. I really hope the next few tablets (Xoom 2?) that come out can compete with the iPad AND retain 4G data service.