Fortunately, Motorola and Verizon have done little to obscure the pure Android 3.2 experience. The only branded software on the home screen is MotoCast, an app that enables you to stream or download media to your tablet over the air from your home computer. Verizon's app store and navigation software also come included, but are easy enough to ignore.
Beyond that, you get full-fledged Android, complete with Gmail, Google Talk (with video chat), Android Market, Google Maps and Places, Navigation, YouTube, Google's video rental service, Google Books, Calendars, and Contacts.
One unique extra included on the Xyboard 10.1 is a range of notepad apps that allow you to scribble quick notes in a floating window, or directly into Evernote. These digital pen features aren't as extensive as we've seen on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, but they're a welcome addition.and
The most surprising frustration I encountered using the Xyboard's software was that there seems to be no way to get your computer to treat the Xyboard as a generic USB device. That means there's no quick way to drag and drop content on or off the Xyboard. Instead, when you connect the tablet to your Mac or PC, you're prompted to install Motorola's MotoCast software. After installation, the software allows you to configure automatic syncing of your music, photos, podcasts, and videos using an iTunes-like interface. Over time, we may grow to appreciate the convenience of Motorola's syncing software, but in the rush to load up a simple test video it had us crying for mercy. Motorola's lockout of direct access to the internal storage is also bound to infuriate those Android fans who've come to view the platform as an antidote to Apple's closed-device philosophy.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, the Xyboard 10.1 features an infrared sensor and a universal remote control app. While the Tab 7.0 Plus used Peel as its remote control software, the Xyboard 10.1's Dijit app isn't quite as full-featured. The software may improve with future updates, or perhaps Motorola will open the IR up to other developers. Regardless, I wouldn't abandon my universal remote just yet.
At this price, the Motorola Xyboard 10.1 should be a lightning-fast, buttery-smooth, blindingly bright mega tablet. It's not. In terms of general navigation and transitions, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and its quad-core processor showed a noticeable advantage.
The same can be said of gaming performance. While testing the frame rate using Riptide GP, I saw no noticeable difference between the performance of Xyboard's 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 processor and that of most Nvidia Tegra 2 tablets. Serious gamers should still look to the iPad 2 or Transformer Prime for a high-performance experience.
An example of the Xyboard's. While the results were above average, I still find 10-inch tablets to be awkward for shooting photos.
Verizon's LTE network 4G speeds were impressively fast, allowing us to download a 19MB app in 22 seconds, while the same file took 16 seconds on Wi-Fi. However, even with the tablet idle and 4G off, the battery seemed to drain a lot faster than for a typical tablet with 4G on.
Motorola rates the Xyboard 10.1 at 10 hours of Web browsing or playing videos with Wi-Fi active. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video battery life (in hours)|
|Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1||8.7|
2011 has been a landmark year for Android tablets. Motorola deserves all due credit for sparking interest in premium tablets running Google's Android Honeycomb software with the Xoom tablet it launched in February.
Now, at the end of the year, the Motorola Xyboard 10.1 tablet may be the last of its breed before the market shifts its focus to Android 4.0 and increasingly thinner premium tablets (as well as budget devices like Amazon.com's).
Personally, I don't understand how Motorola and Verizon produced the Droid Xyboard 10.1 without sticking their heads in the sand all year. How else could they have concluded that customers are willing to pay such a high price for a contract-constricted Honeycomb tablet?
The timing doesn't help, either. Even if Verizon decides to take the subsidized price of the Xyboard down to $0, January's CES will undoubtedly provide a new wave of tablets to lust over, and Apple's expected March or April iPad 3 unveiling should give a chill to anyone about to step into a two-year contract.
With so many capable, affordable tablets out there, this is a difficult tablet to recommend. Aside from its 4G LTE compatibility and the promise of an Android 4.0 update, there's little here that cannot be found elsewhere, for substantially less money.
Editors' note:This review was updated with results of CNET Labs' screen testing.