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Motorola Xoom 2 review

We review the Motorola Xoom 2, the 10-inch Android tablet running Honeycomb.

The original Motorola Xoom had a tough gig because it was one of the first Android tablets, and the first to run the tablet-optimised Honeycomb OS.

It’s tricky being a frontrunner with a new category of device showcasing a new OS – everyone is out to get you. The critics jumped on every issue no matter how big or small, and the company’s rivals learned from every mistake along the way.

Motorola has bided its time in coming up with the Xoom 2, and has thought about some of the downsides of the original. Motorola says the Xoom 2 is ten percent lighter and a massive 33 percent thinner than its predecessor. It also has a 10.1 inch screen that’s improved from previously. Internals matter, of course, but these external factors are also very important.

Motorola clearly has its eye on both Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and the iPad. So let’s do the comparison. Xoom 2 253.9 x 173.6 x 8.80mm, 603g, 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 pixel screen. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 256.7 x 175.3 x 8.6mm, 565g, 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 pixel screen. Apple iPad 2 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm, 613g (Wi-Fi + 3G), 9.7 inch 1024 x 768 pixel screen. Not a lot between them.

Motorola has cut the chassis corners for a distinctive appearance, and curved the left and right short edges inwards so that the Xoom 2 looks even thinner than it actually is.

The all black front is joined by a two tone back. There’s a rubberized black strip about 3cm long down the short edges which helps with grip when working in wide screen mode. This extends along the long bottom edge but is much, much narrower. The top edge is a grey plastic that forms the bulk of the backplate. It’s rather nice to look at as well as being practical.

The front is button free, and there’s not a great deal going on around the edges. A micro USB connector caters for computer connection and charging, and next to it on the bottom long edge there’s a mini HDMI port. You don’t get a cable in the box so you’ll need to buy one if HDMI-out is important to you. The top long edge has a headphones connector.

The left edge is clear, and the right edge has a small power button and volume rocker, nestled in the backwards curving part of the chassis. It is all perfectly acceptable if a little lacking in sparkle. One plus, though, could be the splash-guard coating both on the chassis and internals, which ought to provide protection from light liquid spills.

Motorola has launched the Xoom 2 with Android 3.2, and an upgrade to Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is promised. What might immediately be irritating are two notable absences – no 3G option and no memory expansion.

There is 16GB built in, but no microSD card slot and Wi-Fi but no SIM slot. MotoCast software lets you stream from your PC, but it’s no substitute for expandable storage. The covered slot on the bottom edge that ought to protect both a memory card and a SIM, and indeed has mouldings that look ideal for both, caters for neither.

Running the show is a 1.2GHz dual core processor, supported by 1GB of RAM. GPS is built in and there is a 5 megapixel camera on the back that can shoot 720p video, and a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front.

Motorola’s notable additions to Android 3.2 run to the already noted MotoCast and Floating Notes. As the name suggests you can use Floating Notes to capture written content and draw things. It sits in the bottom notifications bar alongside pre installed Evernote. There’s also a link for downloading Dijit which lets you remotely control your TV and other living room gear via a built in infra red sensor.

We like the Xoom 2, but not as much as either of its key rivals, the iPad 2 or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and we have to wonder, with Ice Cream Sandwich around the corner and a fairly high price tag, whether the Xoom 2 might have missed the boat.

Written by Sandra Vogel