College Guy Review: Motorola Xoom Family Edition
Motorola Xoom Family Edition
A solid choice for those on a budget who prefer minimal and durable industrial design.
Disclaimer: Before I get started I think I should cover a few things. This is the tablet I own, so expect me to be biased. Secondly, the images I use are slightly color bent to match the Verge design motif, so don't asses this tablet based on color temperature, since I dropped the green channel in curves. Now that we have that out of the way, lets jump right in.
The Motorola Xoom Family Edition is a $379 Honeycomb tablet sold exclusively at Best Buy in the USA. I have access to an original Xoom at work, and found it simply unpleasing to use. When I had a chance to play with the Xoom Family Edition in my local Best Buy, I saw some serious improvement and decided to give it a try.
The Xoom Family Edition has an extremely minimal design. The only colors used in the design are black, flat black, and grey. At its thickest point the Xoom Family Edition is 0.5 inches thick, however the edges gently taper toward the front. This makes the Xoom Family Edition a much more comfortable tablet to use than the original Xoom. Most of the tapering takes place on the matte black plastic surrounding a stately brushed aluminum rear panel. Of note, this plastic is surprisingly high in quality and does not squeak or warp in any orientation.
There are few controls on the device: a power button, volume rocker, and an orientation lock. The orientation lock is an attention to detail that I certainly appreciate. All of these controls are aligned along a continuous chrome-grey accent that runs along the perimeter of most of the device. It is this minimal, well considered and consistent industrial design that Motorola is well known for, and it is certainly present in the Xoom Family Edition.
Ports are standard fare: headphone jack, MicroSD slot, Micro HDMI, and a Micro USB connector. Of note, this tablet charges through the Micro USB port, eliminating the need for a separate charger. I find this to be wildly convenient as an android handset user, since they share the same charger. One thing to consider is that this tablet will charge very slowly on a 500ma phone charger; nearly six hours in my experience. This is dropped to an acceptable three hours on the included 2000ma charger.
The display in the new Xoom Family Edition addresses the number one complaint people (in the office) had with the original Xoom, and I tend to agree. The original Xoom's display was dim and spaced relatively far from the digitizer. The new display is brighter and much closer to the digitizer. Heck, it may even be laminated to the glass, but without a tear-down I can't tell for sure. In either case, the screen is much clearer and in my estimation about 35% brighter. It doesn't match the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or 8.9, but it strikes much closer than the original Xoom. The glass itself is not oleophobic and attracts as many fingerprints as its competitors.
The only flaw that I was able to identify with the physical hardware of the unit is the presence of some backlight leakage in the upper left corner and along the right-hand side. This phenomenon is very challenging to take a picture of without a tripod, and as such I don't have any images of the issue. I nit-pick to an almost obsessive-compulsive level with physical design and I find that with the display on I hardly notice. Take that as you will.
The rear camera is not particularly high quality and the front facing camera is similar. I find cameras in tablets a useful feature, but not necessarily noteworthy.
Battery life is a very touchy subject with Android, since it depends so heavily on how the device is used. I believe in the engineers at Google, so I don't run any task managers or turn wifi off compulsively, I just ride it out like our boys in Mountainview intended. So, here are my real life numbers: Reading or browsing the web gives me about 8 hours at 75% brightness, and using the tablet sporadically (day at work) I get about 2 days before I have to recharge. If you would like more granular numbers, I suggest picking one up and fitting it into your lifestyle to see how it performs. Bottom line, its very good.
I purchased this tablet for one primary reason: to read technical books. The improved display makes this enjoyable, so my foremost use-case is satisfied. The reason I chose this tablet over the Toshiba Thrive (vomit), the Acer Iconia A500, and the Asus Transformer is the premium design that the Xoom Family Edition sports. It feels wonderful in the hand and looks handsome and understated on my desk. I have no worries about the durability of the materials used and, for $100 less, I would say they exceed those used in the Galaxy Tab, with the exception of the material used for the buttons. This tablet is everything the original Xoom should have been, and the Xoom 2 should be a logical upgrade. Feel free to ask me questions in the forum and I will answer them as I can.