The original Xoom arrived in a pre-iPad 2 world. Given that context, Motorola's original tablet was well-designed, with great hardware, and since it marked the debut of Honeycomb, it was arguably the first Android tablet with a capable operating system.
Less than a year later, given what Samsung has done with its Galaxy Tab line of tablets and what Asus was able to pull off with the Transformer Prime, a company would be crazy to release a tablet with specs and features identical to the Xoom. Not if it had any reasonable expectation of success, that is.
So, as we prepare to enter yet another year of constantly advancing technology, the release of the Droid Xyboard 8.2 demands the question: did Motorola push the design, performance, and features of its follow-up to the Xoom far enough to make it worth considering, or is this a stopgap on the road to something far more impressive?
The 8.2-inch version of the Xyboard is, not surprisingly, both thinner and lighter than the 10.1-inch Xoom. It's also lighter than the 9.7-inch iPad 2, but Apple's tablet is still a hair skinnier.
|Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2||Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9||Pandigital SuperNova||Archos 80 G9|
|Weight in pounds||0.86||0.96||1.08||1.08|
|Width in inches (landscape)||8.5||9.1||8.4||8.9|
|Height in inches||5.5||6.2||6.2||6.1|
|Depth in inches||0.35||0.34||0.5||0.5|
|Side bezel width in inches (landscape)||0.75||0.75||0.9 (left), 1.1 (right)||1.2|
From the front, the Xyboard looks like a typical black tablet, except for its corners, which taper inward. The edges are covered with a easy-to-grip rubber material that extends to the back, until meeting with an aluminum plate. While I appreciate the plate's purpose of reinforcing the tablet's integrity while also keeping it light, the visible screw heads staring at me from atop the plate made it difficult to ignore the shoddiness of its implementation.
When held in my hands, the Xyboard feels light and the rubber edge provides a nice safe grip; however, the corners are pointier than on most tablets and tended to dig into my palms as a result.
When held horizontally with the cameras on the left, the Xyboard's right edge is home to a single speaker, a Micro-USB port, a Mini-HDMI port, and a door that covers the SIM card slot. On the left edge is another speaker, followed by an infrared sensor, right next to a headphone jack. On the left bezel, midway between the left corners, sits a 1.3-megapixel camera, with a 5-megapixel LED-supported camera placed directly opposite on the back. As with many smaller tablets, placing the camera directly in the middle like this tends to draw unwanted guest appearances from your fingers in photos and videos. Placing the camera a little higher or on the top bezel would have made all the difference.
The power/lock button and volume rocker are not only hidden away on the back, but are flush with the body of the tablet, making them not only difficult to accurately press, but also to find, without flipping it around. While this solves the problem of accidentally hitting the buttons, it makes getting to them quickly a new challenge.
The Xyboard comes with both a power adapter and an additional USB cable, each of which plugs into the Micro-USB port. Most vendors combine the functions of these into one cable, but not so here. Unlike the minimalist tablet design, the power adapter itself is oversize and may require you to make some room for it on your power strip. Thankfully, with the USB cable plugged into a PC, the battery still charges, albeit at a slower rate. During charging, a white LED light begins pulsating in the middle right of the tablet's bezel.
The Xyboard will be upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich, but ships with Honeycomb 3.2 installed, as well as a few custom Motorola and Verizon applications like MotoPack, a curated Motorola app store; MotoCast, which enables you to stream and download movies and photos from your PC to the Xyboard; and V Cast Apps, another curated app store tailored for Verizon devices. V Cast Media aggregates all your media for playing in one place, but we couldn't actually get it to play video from our library.
Unfortunately, in order to sideload files onto the Xyboard, you're required to first install Motorola's MotoCast software on your PC. Only then will the drivers for your Xyboard be installed. Even if you have absolutely no plans to use MotoCast, you're still forced to install it. More than a minor annoyance.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, the Xyboard 8.2 features an infrared sensor and includes a universal remote control app. While the Tab 7.0 Plus used Peel as its remote control software, the Xyboard 8.2's Dijit is a less robust and less useful app.
While setup was simple and easy, the range on the infrared sensor is severely limited when using the software, annoyingly topping out at about 8 feet. We were unable to determine whether this was a hardware or software issue, however.