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.
A couple of free games and Quickoffice HD round out the installed apps of note.
The Droid Xyboard 8.2 comes packed with all the formerly impressive tablet hardware goodies we now take for granted. These include an 8.2-inch IPS capacitive touch screen running at 1,280x800-pixel resolution, a 1.2GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 32MB of flash memory storage, with a 16GB version available as well. The gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, and 802.11 b/g/n network adapter round out the hardware highlights.
Navigating Honeycomb on the Xyboard felt responsive, with apps launching quickly. However, having been spoiled by the Asus Transformer Prime's much smoother swiping transitions, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the "framey-ness" apparent here when swiping through app pages. While the transition takes place just as quickly, it's simply not as smooth. When attempting to open the Gallery and the movie player, I also experienced some frequent hangs and long pauses that I had to reboot the tablet to alleviate.
When surfing the Web, swiping through pages was just as quick; however, after a site loaded, scrolling quickly down a page produced severe visible clipping. During Web surfing, the CPU, in an attempt to not waste time drawing content no one can see, will only draw the assets on the screen. Anything not currently on the screen will be drawn when you scroll to it. Unfortunately, if you scroll too quickly you'll see assets being drawn in as the tablet attempts to keep up with your scrolling speed. This is common across many Honeycomb tablets.
Also, while the Xyboard's IPS screen provided very high brightness and wide viewing angles, its color vibrancy can't match the beauty of the Galaxy Tab 8.9's PLS-based screen.
|Tested spec||Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2||Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9||Pandigital SuperNova||Archos 80 G9|
|Maximum brightness||469 cd/m2||372 cd/m2||146 cd/m2||220 cd/m2|
|Default brightness||255 cd/m2||181 cd/m2||101 cd/m2||93 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||0.34 cd/m2||0.38 cd/m2||0.18 cd/m2||0.48 cd/m2|
|Default black level||0.19 cd/m2||0.15 cd/m2||0.12 cd/m2||0.16 cd/m2|
|Default contrast ratio||1,379:1||1,206:1||811:1||581:1|
|Contrast ratio (max brightness)||1,342:1||979:1||841:1||458:1|
Riptide GP, a jet ski game available from the Android Market, is great for comparing tablet GPU performance. Unlike Shadowgun, which seems to cap its frame rate, Riptide actually scales, and depending on the speed of the processor running it, the game's frame rate will be noticeably smoother or choppier.
However, in our tests, even though the Xyboard has a slightly faster 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 while the Tab 8.9 has a 1GHz Tegra 2, there wasn't a noticeable difference in frame rate. Though not "low," the frame rate didn't begin to approach the high levels of the game running on the iPad 2 or Transformer Prime.
We did notice that the Tab 8.9's accelerometer offered much more precise control when playing than the Xyboard's 8.2's.
The Xyboard's 5-megapixel rear camera took detailed still photos that compared favorably with similar shots taken with the Tab 8.9's 3-megapixel camera. The Xyboard's photos were sharp and clear, with good color reproduction. Shutter speed was fairly quick as well.
The Xyboard's captured 720p video was smooth with more accurate color than I got from the Tab 8.9, which tended to oversaturate the movie with an abundance of red.
Verizon's LTE network 4G speeds were impressively fast; I downloaded a 19MB app in 22 seconds, while the same file took 16 seconds on Wi-Fi. Even with the tablet idle and 4G off, the battery seemed to drain a lot faster than for a typical tablet with 4G on.
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 8.2||5.3|
There are plenty of choices for tablet shoppers today. The lower-end 7-inchers like the Kindle Fire and Nook tablet offer pretty controlled Android experiences but top out at $250. The iPad 2 and Transformer Prime offer a premium tablet experience that starts at $500.
Verizon offers the Xyboard 8.2 starting at $430, but that's only if you sign up for a two-year contract. Off contract, expect prices to start at $600, and that's for the 16GB version. It's extremely difficult for us to recommend such a deal when better choices exist. The Transformer Prime for $500 gets you 32GB of storage and a faster, quad-core CPU, in a much more thoughtfully designed package.
However, if you're willing to pay for 4G speeds on a tablet, they are definitely fast here. Still, with technology advancing as quickly as it is, do you really want to get roped into a two-year contract in a still-nascent market?
The Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2 isn't a bad product in itself, but the pricing structure makes it impossible for us to recommend. There are better options out there, with more coming soon.
Editors' note: This review was updated to give the correct processor information for the Motorola Droid Xyboard 8.2 and to add comparative tables.