Motorola Xoom 2 10in Android tablet
Review Motorola’s Xoom was the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet to hit the shelves, and now little more than six months after its April 2011 debut, a second-generation machine called - you guessed it - the Xoom 2 is upon us.
The new Xoom is available in two forms: one with a 10.1in screen, like its predecessor, and one with a 8.2in panel called the Media Edition. I’m writing this on the former - Reg Hardware will be reviewing the smaller model shortly.
Out with Apple-antagonising rounded corners...
At first glance, the new ten-incher is rather impressive. Motorola’s design department clearly has the hots for the bevel - it was the signature styling feature of the recently released Razr and now the same little chamfers have shown up at the four corners of the Xoom 2.
As well as providing a family resemblance, perhaps the idea is to take out some insurance against Apple’s increasingly hubristic legal activities. So, no round corners here.
...and in with angled edges
While a gnat’s whisker wider and taller than the first Xoom, the new machine is just over 4mm thinner and a not inconsiderable 131g lighter. The tapered sides - in landscape - make it an easier hold than the original, while the rubberised power and volume buttons on the right side but round on the back of the device fall easily to hand.
Like the Razr, the Xoom’s internal and external components are covered with what Motorola calls "splash guard", which seals the the device from, well, splashes or a light rainfall. I couldn’t think of a way to test this that didn’t run the risk of ruining my review unit so it’s something I’ll have to take on trust.
Happy for you to type in the rain, apparently
A feature of the design that really gets my goat is the positioning of the micro USB and mini HDMI ports on the long edge of the device. Just the right place to get pulled out or even damaged if you are resting the thing in your lap while it’s charging. Samsung is guilty of this same lunacy with its Galaxy Tab 10.1.
On a more positive note, the Xoom 2’s micro USB port doubles up as both the sync and charge port, and the device charges when connected to a PC over USB.
Motorola claims the Xoom 2's 1280 x 800 LCD panel has been improved but gives no technical details as to how. Not having both side by side, it’s a claim that is hard for me to quantify but I can tell you that there’s nothing wrong with the new screen. Despite lacking any trick IPS technology the viewing angles are impressive, there’s little if any backlight bleed, and it’s bright, crisp and colourful.
The 5Mp rear-facing camera is nothing special
Under the hood there’s little difference between the old and the new so you get 1GB of Ram and a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chip. The Xoom 2’s CPU is clocked at 1.2GHz, up from 1GHz before, but the extra speed has little if any discernible impact.
The AnTuTu benchmark app returned a score of 5666 which bears out Motorola’s claim that there's a 20 per cent improvement - well, the CPU's clock speed is 20 per cent higher - but the Xoom 2 doesn’t really feel any faster and still struggles to play 1080p video in any other format than MP4, just like the 1GHz Xoom.
While the original Xoom came with a Micro SD card slot that didn’t work until an update arrived, the Xoom 2 doesn’t even have a slot so you are stuck with the built-in 16GB, or 12 and a bit after the system's taken its share.
Actually, that bit about no slot isn’t strictly true. Next to the HDMI and USB ports is a flap concealing two blocked slots. From the shape and size I’d guess they were intended for Micro SD and SIM cards.
File transfer is handled solely through the MTP protocol so anyone with a Mac or Linux box is up a gumtree. To snag the relevant Windows drivers, you have to install the MotoCast file manager and media streaming suite but once you’ve done that you can at least transfer content over a Wi-Fi network and sync your iTunes playlists.
On the subject of music, the Xoom 2 has a very fine pair of speakers built into the upper rear of the device where they are safe from being covered by your hands while holding it in landscape orientation.
MotoCast can stream PC-stored content over Wi-Fi and the Net
MotoCast aside, the only other piece of built-in software is something called Floating Notes which let’s you call up a notepad by touching an icon locked into the system bar. It’s a nice idea but without a stylus writing a note is far very from easy and you can’t use the keyboard.
I’m guessing that the 5Mp main cameras has been yanked from the old Xoom parts bin because it’s equally mediocre. Like most Android tablets, the Xoom 2 isn’t certified to make Skype video calls but I was still rather surprised to find that the 1.3Mp webcam couldn’t manage them anyway.
Under Windows, MotoCast will sync with iTunes libraries
Technical details of the Xoom 2’s battery are a bit thin on the ground, but whatever the capacity it’s at least as good a performer as the first-generation machine, which it one of the top Honeycomb tablets when it comes to battery life.
During my test I found myself re-charging every other day but then I leave the Wi-Fi on continually and like a bright screen. A full charge didn’t quite get me through all three Extended Edition Lord of the Rings films but at just past the eight-hour mark I was well on the road to Mordor before the lights went out.
At the time of writing, there’s still no official word on the price of the Xoom 2 but I’m betting it will be close to the £400 mark or, to put it another way, £70 more than you can now get the 32GB Xoom Mk.1 for. That is a lot extra for a machine that albeit lighter and slimmer is only faster on paper and lacks storage expansion.
The Xoom 2 is a decent enough machine that looks great and feels good in the hand, but it’s no major leap forward from the original Xoom. The extra 200MHz of chip speed has little measurable impact on performance. And with Tegra 3-based offerings out early next year, Motorola is going to have to price the Xoom 2 very competitively. ®
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