Motorola Xoom tablet review: Bringing Google Android to the table

  • Motorola Xoom tablet echoes design of Apple iPad
  • Google applications look great on large, beautifully designed tablet
  • Screen clarity not hugely impressive, but great stero speakers

We at Compare Broadband were lucky enough to receive a new Motorola Xoom tablet computer to play with in conjunction with the release of Optus’s new Xoom mobile broadband plans. The Motorola Xoom is the first tablet computer to run on a Google Android Honeycomb operating system, so if you’re not an Apple aficionado, or if you love your Android phone and Google’s applications, the Xoom could be the tablet for you.

When you first pick up the Google Xoom it looks much like an Apple iPad, which just shows you how the rest of the industry is following in Apple’s footsteps. However, this is Google’s first foray into the tablet market, and if what we saw is anything to go by, Android could become a real player in the future.

As the Xoom is Android’s first tablet incarnation, logically there are some teething issues, but overall it’s quite a good device. In terms of functionality, of course all of Google’s software applications look awesome on the Xoom. Gmail, the Google search engine, Google Earth and Google Maps all look amazing. The screen display’s clarity may not be as great an Apple iPad2, but none of the Google’s apps or systems work as well on Apple software.

The device itself is a little on the heavier side, but this will probably be looked at over time. It still sits well on your lap, and is perfect for watching video, searching the web, connecting with family and friends, as well as for playing games. Note: My wife stole the tablet (she called it a ‘capsule’ because of its name’s medicinal connotation) and to recuperate from a stressful day played a cooking game called Bistro Cook for hours on end.

For tech-heads, the Motorola Xoom has the newest Android 3.0 operating system, called Honeycomb, which is extremely fast, especially when using the browser. The browser looks a lot like Google Chrome, and has tabs so you can have multiple windows open simultaneously. It has cameras on the front and back of the machine, offering great opportunities for taking photos and videos, as well as for having video chat conversations.

The Xoom is a 1GHz, NVIDIA based device, with a massive 1GB DDR2 RAM, 32GB of internal storage capacity, Optus 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 capacitive display, and it can play HD videos. When compared to the mass of tablet computers now on the market, the Motorola Xoom blows the majority away. The Xoom also has a GPS, light sensor, and an accelerometer (like an iPad), which means you can turn the device around and the screen will move from horizontal to vertical.

One aspect of the Xoom that impressed us was the stereo speaker system. They really belt out some sound. However, the volume buttons, not to mention the Xoom’s power button could be placed in better locations (the power button sits right next to the underside camera lens). Still, playing games and watching video is loud enough to anger friends in the next room. The touch screen is also worth mentioning. Not even Apple’s iPad2 can say it has a better reaction time.

Now, to one issue we found to be weird. The Motorola Xoom comes with a MicroSD slot for external memory cards, but it hasn’t been activated yet. This is strange, but one can assume Motorola will activate it one day after it gets the right software from Google. In the meantime, you’ll have to live with 32GB of data.

The Motorola Xoom’s battery life arguably makes it the best tablet battery on the market. Motorola says it will last for 10 hours, and you should get at least 8.5 hours of video playback before the juice runs out. This destroys the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s approximately 6 hours, and rivals the Apple iPad’s battery life.

You get a 5-megapixel camera with a LED flash, but tablet computers are not the perfect camera option. It’s simply too large and heavy to use as an everyday photographic device. However, 720p videos are cool, and Google provides Movie Studio software for editing.

Now to the main draw card: Android 3.0. This new operating system functions totally different from its predecessors, Google having “killed” numerous bugs during its development. ‘Honeycomb’ looks like it comes from out of the future. It takes a little time to get used to navigating between homescreens, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very efficient. Each homescreen can be scrolled easily and filled with Google applications, widgets, folders and shortcuts. Honeycomb also has a cool multitasking icon showing you all of the apps you’ve been using recently.

Overall, the Motorola Xoom is a great first step into the tablet realm. In some ways it even beats Apple’s iPad, but like the first iPad, it is a work in progress. Google has quite a way to go to catch up to Apple’s App store and its massive number of iPad apps. As time goes by, we think the Xoom and Google’s Android OS could end up taking a large chunk of the tablet market.

Optus has a number of new 3G mobile broadband plans for the Motorola Xoom. If you don’t want to pay any money upfront and don’t like monthly installments to pay off the tablet, you can go for the $79 per month 16GB plan on a 24-month contract. This is currently a $20 discount on the RRP.

Another great option is the Optus $59 a month plan with 8GB, also on a 24-month contract.

If you’d like a shorter, 12-month contract, you can go for the Optus $59 a month plus $249 upfront Xoom repayment on a 8GB plan. There are a number of other Optus Xoom plan options to choose from. Check out the Compare Broadband website to see them all, call us for more information (1300 106 571), or call Optus directly (1300 768 194) to sign up for a new Xoom plan. Before you know it you’ll be ‘xooming’ along like a bee back to its honeycomb filled hive.