Motorola’s second generation Xoom spawns at a difficult time in the tablet market. It has been released just ahead of Apple’s next generation iPad 3, and during the interim between Android’s Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich. The Xoom 2 then faces a gloomy storm, but does it have the kit needed to prosper amidst these challenging conditions?
Motorola’s Xoom 2 runs on Honeycomb 3.2, which offers little variation over the previous 3.0. It does deliver a full suite of functionality, proving well versed in multimedia, gaming and application handling, but as an operating system Honeycomb has stagnated. This version ushers in the bare amount of innovation and it is obvious Google (and Motorola) are investing their efforts in the next generation Android 4.0.
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The good news is Motorola has committed to an Android 4.0 upgrade for the Xoom 2, which will make use of its premium build to deliver an experience that won’t only match Apple’s iOS, but genuinely challenge it. The company predicts the update will come to Australia by Q3 of 2012.
Once the software scores an update, the Xoom 2’s hardware can really flourish. Inside it features a slightly improved dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and either 16/32GB of memory. It shares the same 10.1 inch screen as the original; however, its profile differs through the use of curved corners, giving the illusion there’s actually 8 of them. It’s still coated by adorned Corning Gorilla glass, but now uses a HD-IPS LCD panel rather than the dated TFT alternative.
Although a modest upgrade in hardware, the Xoom 2 still has enough power to sift through the operating system and is marginally ahead of its main Android rival, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The Xoom 2 also has a higher resolution camera than the Galaxy 10.1 at 5MP. The rear camera can record videos at 720p at 30 frames per second, while its front features a 1.3MP camera that can be used for video conferencing applications such as Skype.
By design, tablets aren’t meant to take professional photos. Whereas smartphones feel like an evolutionary form for the digital camera, the tablet simply does not because they’re ludicrously big. Having said that, the rear camera on the Xoom 2 is one of the most capable featured yet, promptly adjusting settings as a subject shifts from light to dark and vice versa. It’s just as proficient when recording videos, continually focussing to keep up with rapid on-the-go motion.
The gallery on board the Motorola Xoom 2 is the typical Android affair, swiftly populating images, displaying a thumbnail roll and auto-rotating images. Like the gallery, few things have been altered in the music player, but both areas are already strong and Motorola were wise in focussing their efforts elsewhere, such as their Motocast app which streams files on your computer straight to the tab.
On either side of the Xoom 2 are potent speakers that help create an immersive cinematic experience. They serve the eloquent multimedia interface with justice, producing sound with volume in the high and mid tones, however are a little more stout on the low end.
There’s real value in using this device for playing movies, flipping through photos and using it as a music hub. If you’re lazing around on the couch wanting to effortlessly indulge in multimedia, this is one tab that will deliver.
Unlike Samsung and Apple’s tablets, the Xoom 2 doesn’t have a proprietary port (such as a 30 point pin) for charging. Instead it relies on the generic microUSB port which is compatible with a variety of accessories, but is an absolute nightmare when it comes to charging. From flat to full, it took almost 7 hours to charge, rendering this one of the few devices I’d recommend charging overnight.
It needs this super long charge because it stores loads of battery, enduring two days riddled with video playback, web browsing, music streaming and gaming on a single charge. The 7,000 mAh battery is fixed to the device and according to Motorola is capable of 10 hours of video playback.
The final feature that the Xoom 2 dons is one seldom to Motorola and a coveted one at that. The circuitry inside the Xoom 2 has been coated with a splash-proof Nano coating that endows it with the rare ability to withstand knocked over drinks, drops of rain and wet hands. This seemingly small thing does away with the little inconveniences that previously stopped you from using your computing companion, and gives the Xoom 2 a competitive advantage foreign to its rivals.
A few months ago I reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1 and called it “the best Android tablet on the market.” As you’d expect from a newer tablet, this is better, but it suffers from an inflated price.
For $720 you’d expect tomorrow’s technology, but it doesn’t feature a quad core processor or a higher resolution screen. And by the time it does benefit from Android 4.0, the tablet market would be populated by more powerful and attractive alternatives, which will likely include an Apple iPad 3. If this tablet was a couple of hundred cheaper, I’d consider buying one myself. I guess like the countless Android tablets before it, I best just wait.