Motorola XOOM Review

Introduction and Design

Barely skipping a beat, especially when the holidays brought forth some hopeful candidates in the tablet space, the iPad’s strangle in the lucrative and ever challenging market has been untested thus far. Rightfully so, it’s especially highlighted by the fact that Android tablets so far haven’t really been built from the ground up to take advantage of what it actually means to be a tablet.

So now comes yet another so-called “iPad killer,” the Motorola XOOM, but rather than finding a super-sized smartphone, it actually observes all of the qualities that consumers would like to experience on a tablet. For starters, Google and Motorola have taken the time, and man power, to seemingly conjure up an entirely different Android experience that might come off as being foreign. In fact, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the two companies collaborate on big things. We’ve seen it before with the original Motorola DROID, which was the catalyst that shifted Android to the mainstream, and it seems we’re going to be witnessing it again with the Motorola XOOM.

As much as we’d all delightfully ring in the joys of what the Motorola XOOM has to offer, one must strategically keep in mind its cost of ownership. Stamped with the 2-year on-contract price of $599.99 ($799.99 no-contract), it’s already positioned at the upper echelon of tablet pricing – making it one costly investment. Then again, this isn’t your ordinary tablet. Before making any final judgment though, let’s take a peek to see what this bundle of joy has in store for us.

The package contains:

  • Motorola XOOM
  • microUSB Cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Reference Guide
  • Product Safety & Warranty Brochure


In all honestly, the Motorola XOOM won’t win any fashion awards with its typical design approach, but frankly, that’s not going to take away from the fact that it’s solidly well-built all around. Easily matching the iPad in stature, which is still mightily slim at 0.51” thick, the XOOM’s widescreen format enables it to look more rectangular than boxy. Additionally, there’s a subtle curve going on with its rear cover, but for the most, it’s still comfortable to hold. The minimalistic industrial design might appeal to some people out there, especially with its all black slate look, but its metal machined exterior provides that sense of premium feel – though, it’s a magnet for smudges. However, it’s accented with a small soft touch strip on the back, which looks to be the most accessible way in getting into its innards; not to mention getting its 4G LTE modem installed down the road. All in all, its balanced construction and high-quality feel more than make up for its less than stellar looks.

Part of the reason for its larger size, that some might feel as being a handful, is because of its well-equipped 10.1”capacitive display that offers plenty of real estate. Boasting a high resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, which trumps the iPad’s 1024 x 768 resolution, it presents plenty of crisp details that’ll illuminate eyes all around. Not only that, but its color production is on the neutral side and doesn’t fade when viewing the display at various angles. However, its maximum brightness setting doesn’t seem to do the tablet justice when using it outdoors under the presence of the omnipotent sun lurking around. In terms of responsiveness, the capacitive display was more than attentive in registering all touches and gestures. And similar to its metallic exterior, the display is known to accumulate its fair share of smudges and fingerprints very easily – which requires a solid rub down with some cloth to keep it looking pristine. As much as we’d love to one day see a 10.1” Super AMOLED Plus display, the LCD display of the Motorola XOOM is highly acceptable as it still engages prying eyes from a good distance.

As we mentioned already, Motorola went with a very minimalistic approach with the XOOM – hence the scarcity of physical buttons clinging onto it. In reality, there are a total of three physical buttons that your fingers can actually press. The first two are the thin looking separated volume buttons that are found on the left edge, which are tiny compared to the overall size of the XOOM, but we found them extremely tough to push down. Even more, we were initially dumfounded with the placement of the dedicated power button as we believed it was initially somewhere on the side or front area of the tablet. Actually, it’s found on the back side towards the corner of all places! As we struggled to figure out the reasoning for its placement, we eventually found it to be quite fitting – especially when it has a solid tactile feel.

On the bottom edge, we find the bulk of its connectivity ports perched all in the same area – these include the microUSB port, microHDMI port, dock connectors, microphone, and a separate power source that’s slightly the size of a 2.5mm headset jack. Conversely on the top and located dead center is the 3.5mm headset jack, while not too far from it, there is a slot that tucks away a future 4G LTE SIM card and the actual microSD card slot as well. Be careful in sliding in a microSD card because you can accidentally drop it into the exposed area left behind for the SIM card slot.

In the rear and built into the soft touch strip area, we find the 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with its dual-LED flash and the spots for the left and right speakers – which offer stereo sound naturally. And finally, nestled all by itself squarely into top border of the front display, is none other than the 2-megapixel front facing camera for all your self-portrait and video chatting needs.


So this is where all the real fun comes into play as the biggest wow factor to behold the Motorola XOOM is the tablet optimized experience with Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Granted that it’s not going to let the platform take up the entire spotlight, the spiffy and responsive new platform is credited by the tablet’s viscous 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra2 processor and 1GB of DDR2 RAM. With those two combined, it provides that slick and swift experience that doesn’t let up in the speed department, but in some rare instances, there is still some evidence of slowdown – but it only happens for a brief time and doesn’t deter from its overall peppy response.

No joke, but when we first powered up the XOOM and got straight into the Android 3.0 Honeycomb homescreen, we were overwhelmed by how different the user interface looked compared to previous iterations of Android. Taking precedence in almost every aspect, it features an intense amount of 3D visual effects that not only add plenty of eye candy, but gives it some futuristic look and feel – much like the fancy looking LCARS interface running on consoles in the Star Trek universe.

Some may be surprised by the lack of usual Android buttons, like the menu and back keys, but they’re in fact placed in the left portion of the System Bar – which is always present at bottom of the screen at any orientation. Specifically, we find the usual Back and Home buttons, but alongside them is the Recent Apps button that displays a thumbnail image of the most recent apps running. This essentially aids in the productivity department as you can quickly multi-task and get things accomplished. Continuing to show off it processing prowess, it’s able to keep even a memory intensive 3D game like Cordy, which is preloaded and developed specifically for tablets, in the same exact position in the game if you happen to switch back to the web browser or homescreen. Finally, with most apps, the customary Menu button will also pop up in the same area too.

Additionally, notifications now pop up in the Notifications Panel that’s located in the bottom right portion of the System Bar. We dig it. Honestly! That’s because it’s not obtrusive at all in the way it presents notifications; such as an email or Twitter mention. And in the event you’re not present to see them, specific icons will load up in the Notifications Panel and you’ll have the opportunity of clicking each one to see what they are. Furthermore, you can get rid of the notifications icons by simply clicking the distinguishable “X” icon in the pop up window. Obviously, the time, battery indicator, and signal strength of the tablet are all displayed in the same area as the Notifications Panel, while tapping on it will get you access to the Android Settings – along with some quick functions like adjusting its brightness, orientation lock, Wi-Fi, and airplane mode.

While the System Bar is perched on the bottom at all times, we find the Action Bar placed on the top side of the display – which offers different items according to what apps you’re running. At the homescreen, we find access to Google Search, Voice Search, apps panel, and personalization. However, if you run the web browser, the Action Bar simply becomes the area for all the window tabs. 

Without question, there’s plenty of personalization to find with Android 3.0 Honeycomb as it dishes up 5 homescreen panels for you to fill with various things. Instinctively, you can place additional content, like widgets or shortcuts, by executing a long press on any open area on the homescreen – you can also do it by pressing the “+” button in the Action Bar as well. Once you’re there, the scene changes and displays all 5 homescreen simultaneously, where you can add widgets, app shortcuts, wallpapers, and more. Click and drag is the name of the game, much like Android in general, to get specific items to their locations on the homescreen. Yet another thing we adore is the handful of interactive widgets that Android 3.0 Honeycomb has to offer. For example, the Gmail widget allows you to quickly scroll through your email directly within the widget, while things like the YouTube widget stacks videos together for you to browse.

And finally, pressing on the apps icons in the homescreen will plop the apps panel into view with a nifty looking falling from the sky animation. Once they’re all there, icons are positioned in the familiar grid-like pattern which are finger friendly in size. Moreover, you’ll be able to swipe left and right as you begin to accumulate more apps on the Motorola XOOM.


Realizing the common theme of making use of the expanded space available, most of the core Android apps takes advantage of the spacious confines of the display – which is evident with the Contacts app. Two panes basically take up the entire layout, one being the left area where you can scroll through your listing, while the other displays pertinent details with each contact. Naturally, you can sync Facebook and Twitter contacts, which seems to favor the latter since it will show their most recent Tweets. Nevertheless, adding new contacts is a straightforward process as you’ll have plenty of information to associate with each person. And finally, contacts will be synced to your Google account to keep your mind at ease in the event of a catastrophic event plaguing the XOOM.


There isn’t much drastically different found with the Calendar app, aside from the expanded view we’re presented with. In any event, you can position it to display in either month, week, or day views – with the latter two being split up by two panes. Of course, you can also add a new event, with relevant information, to the calendar as it syncs with the appropriate calendar account.

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If there is one thing missing with Android 3.0 Honeycomb that’s found on previous versions, it has to be the wide array of functions found with the Clock app. Instead, the one present on the XOOM will only display the digital clock – where you can set up an alarm as well. Strangely, it’s missing some other key components such as a world clock, stopwatch, and timer.

Unfortunately, there is no love for the Calculator app since it’s an exact facsimile to what’s found previously. Both in portrait and landscape views, we’re presented with the basic and advanced functions of the calculator – but that’s all! Somewhat funny, the size of the buttons are extraordinary larger than most things found with the platform.

Lastly, Voice Search is brought along for the ride, rightfully so, but like what we’ve seen already with a couple of other things, it doesn’t get any new functionality. Still, it pretty much accomplishes the same tasks as before, such as being able to launch Google Maps Navigation, by simply speaking “Navigate to.”


When you’re packing a larger than normal 10.1” display, you really need to throw out the typical mentality that goes behind using a smartphone. With the portrait on-screen keyboard, you’re going to require using both hands to hold onto the tablet, but the majority of work is placed on the thumbs. For those with smaller hands, your thumbs will be required to travel some lengthy distances – which makes for a slow and tiring process, but doesn’t drastically affect those with larger digits.

That’s where the landscape option comes to mind, which does require you to lay the tablet down flat on its back, but it’s definitely the preferred method of inputting text. Inherently, you place both hands down like you would on a normal keyboard, but the trick here is to keep your hands slightly elevated so it doesn’t touch the display. Initially, it’s a slow process, but after some work, we got the hang of typing without many problems. Even though there’s plenty of room that’s combined with the large buttons, it doesn’t beat the speedy input found with a regular keyboard.

It wouldn’t been nice to see numbers placed alongside the top row of buttons, much like the stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread keyboard, to reduce the time needed to switch between special characters. Also, a Tab button is now placed on the keyboard as well, which allows you to quickly move between input fields without actually having to press the correct locations on the display.

Just when the Gmail experience on an Android smartphone was good enough, the Motorola XOOM takes it to a whole new level and seemingly brings forth a near perfect desktop-like experience. Three panes grace the experience as the left most one displays all the folders in the account, the middle allows you to scroll through all your emails, while the third one shifts over once a message is selected in the middle pane. Naturally, we’re greeted with all the rich features we’d come to expect out of the desktop experience – like threaded conversations, archiving, starring, and labeling. Indubitably, we’re glad to see that the transition to the tablet space is well thought out; thus making for one well rounded experience.

Aside from Gmail, the Email app will aggregate all your emails from various accounts. Setup is blatantly a simple process for generic clients, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, but in those instances when you’re trying to set something not as popular, it’ll require additional items like server addresses and ports to properly complete. Just like the Gmail app, the three identical paned layout is present once again, but you can quickly switch between accounts by pressing down on the area in the Action Bar.

Connectivity & Data:

One of the unique advantages with the Motorola XOOM, besides it dual-band (800/1900 MHz) radio for 1xEV-DO rev. A speeds, is the fact that it’ll support Verizon’s speedy 4G LTE network down the road. But of course, you’ll be able to get the upgrade for free when it’s available, but you’ll more than likely be required to pay a visit to your local Verizon store to get it installed by a professional. Sadly, you won’t be able to make much use out of the Motorola XOOM if you plan to take this one abroad – partly because it’s CDMA; which is no problem for the upcoming GSM variant. However, if you happen to be near a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can connect it with its on-board 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. Moreover, the XOOM features Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, which will enable accessories, like the Bluetooth keyboard made specifically for the tablet, to connect with the device wirelessly.

Just because it sports a higher version number than Android 2.2 Froyo, which introduced support for Flash 10.1, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be sprinkled with that near perfect desktop port. Sadly, it disappointingly lacks support for Flash 10.1, however, it’s positioned to get some sort of software update not too far from launch to throw it on.

Regardless of that, the first thing to come to mind using the web browser is that it closely resembles Google Chrome. As we mentioned already, the Action Bar will display all the open windows you’ve got, while the address bar and navigation functions are all there as well. Moreover, it’s neat to see that it’ll allow you to sync bookmarks stored with Google Chrome. But as for the actual web browsing experience, it’s naturally satisfying with its responsive kinetic scrolling, multi-touch gesture support for zooming, and the ability to quickly change between windows. Without much wait required, complex web sites like ours loaded up in a fair amount of time – displaying most of the content right away. And thanks to the healthy amount of real estate offered, it’s quite pleasing to the eyes to actually surf the web for an extended period of time. Yeah, it’s kind of a shame to see it lacking Flash support from the onset, but overlooking that one major gripe, we’re still more than agreeable with the XOOM’s performance in this department.


Although it’s not pocketable by any means, we’re still presented with its ability to shoot photos and videos on the go. With this one, the camera interface has been given a slight makeover that attempts to emulate the feeling of an ordinary camera. Specifically, there’s one large dial on the right side of the interface that allows your thumb to quickly navigate between the various settings of the camera. For a tablet, there should be more than enough appealing shooting modes to satisfy most users out there, but it doesn’t quite offer as many manuals modes as we’d like. Regardless of that, we can get up to an 8.0x digital zoom level by pressing on the “+” button. Moreover, there’s an on-screen toggle to switch from camera to video mode, while another one perched close-by will switch it to the front facing camera.

Surprisingly, we’re utterly blown away with the level of quality dished up the Motorola XOOM’s 5-megapixel auto-focus camera. Not only does it capture a substantial amount of sharp details, but color production is delightfully spot-on as well. Even shooting things indoors in artificial lighting, it doesn’t let us down in any way as photos come to life with a perfect balance of crisp visuals and neutral looking colors. Even more impressively, it’s able to work well in low lighting conditions as image quality marginally takes a dip, but still more than acceptable by any means. And thanks to its dual-LED flash, it’s able to once again shoot images with luscious fidelity in complete darkness.

Okay, so we noticed the Motorola XOOM producing some above average photos, but regretfully, we can’t say the same about its video capturing abilities. Sure it’s in high definition 720p and shoots at a consistent rate of 29 frames per second in good lighting, but there’s just too much artifacting present – especially more noticeable when panning from low to bright areas. In fact, the artifacting degrades the overall quality by making videos look rather pixelated at times. Sure it might look good being played back on the XOOM itself, but when viewing it on a larger display, you begin to recognize some of its flaws.

Motorola XOOM Sample Video 1:

Motorola XOOM Sample Video 2:

Using the Google Talk app, we managed to check out the video chat feature while connected via 3G. Although the other person we were talking to was using a desktop PC, we’re actually quite pleased with the overall experience since voices were natural in tone. Yeah, there is some blockiness going on with the video at times, but it’s still more than distinguishable. Furthermore, it exhibited some choppy tendencies at some parts, but as a whole, video chat is pretty much smooth sailing with the Motorola XOOM. Just wonder what it’ll be like with 4G LTE speeds down the road.


With a lightning quick 1GHz dual-core processor in tow, it’s only fitting to see it go to use with the Gallery App. We’re actually excited to see a novel 3D-like effect going on with the different albums in the gallery as you either tilt the XOOM or touch the screen. Granted that it will display content stored locally on the tablet, but it’ll even pull things from your Picasa account as well. However, once we moved past the updated looks of the Gallery App, there isn’t much else different with it. Naturally, you can scroll between photos by simply swiping left or right, and zoom with pinch gestures, but there isn’t much in terms of editing functions offered – only things like rotating and cropping are available. And as usual, you can share content with a variety of services like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Finally, Google decided to place some heavy attention on its stock music player – and we must admit, we’re blown away by their efforts. Starting up the music player, we’re instantly taken to an eye catching carousel of album covers that we can browse through with smoothness like no other. Definitely flaunting some eye catching visual flare with its own spin on Apple’s beloved Cover Flow mode, we’re glad to see that the transformation has finally arrived for the Android music player.

Once you select an album and song to play, it displays the customary set of things – like the album cover, track information, and on-screen controls. However, we were hoping to see some sort of visualization to complement Honeycomb’s 3D-esque appearance, but sadly there are none whatsoever. Even more, it doesn’t provide any equalizer options as well, but we’re satisfied by the bombastic audio output by its stereo speakers. At the loudest setting, it doesn’t sound too irritating to the ear, but we did notice that notifications tones do end up sounding distorted for some odd reason.

Large display? Check. Fast processor? Checkmate. Well, that’s pretty much all you’ll need to offer an alluring video watching experience. High definition videos play back in full fidelity on the Motorola XOOM as they move smoothly with any rare instances of slowdown or lag. Although you’ve got the ability to watch videos in portrait, the best experience can be found with landscape obviously since it stretches to make use of the added real estate. So if you’re going on a long trip, the Motorola XOOM makes for a great companion. Additionally, its microHDMI port will allow you to watch videos stored on the tablet directly on the big screen.

Packed with a whopping 32GB of storage, it should more than be enough for even the most multimedia centric individual out there. But in the event that you need additional memory, you can always supplement it with microSD cards up to 32GB in capacity.


Now that there is plenty of room for your fingers, Google decided to finally bring aboard a video editing app going by the name of Movie Studio. Granted that it isn’t your professional grade editing software, it nevertheless offers users some of basic editing functionality on the go. Although it’ll take some time fully comprehending how the app works, there is a reasonable amount of editing functions that you can apply – like adding different templates, transitions, and effects.

Google Maps has also received a subtle makeover as it makes use of the added space of course. However, there isn’t any new functionality present with this version for tablet, but at least we’re offered things like 3D view, Google Latitude integration, street view, and free voice guided turn-by-turn directions with Google Maps Navigation.

Mostly due to its beast of a 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra2 processor, gaming is one area that we see excelling on the Motorola XOOM. Preloaded with the tablet are two specific 3D titles that were developed specifically for Android 3.0 Honeycomb. First is the game “Cordy” which is basically a platforming title that heavily implements a lot of 3D graphics. And secondly, role playing “Dungeon Defenders” places you in the roll of a hero that travels through dungeons battling bad guys. In both games, we’re struck with awe by the beautiful 3D graphics that the Motorola XOOM is able to muster up. Although we didn’t experience any slowdown with “Cordy,” we did notice some instances of it popping up with “Dungeon Defenders” – but not to the point to make it unplayable.

Thankfully, the YouTube app has been updated as well to provide plenty of interaction while you’re watching a video. Initially, it’ll display a 3D wall of videos that you can scroll ever so smoothly, but when you select one, it’ll break down to various panes with their respective content. As the video plays in one pane, you can simply read about its description or comments in another, while related videos will pop up in the last pane. Also, you can obviously share particular videos to specific social networking accounts as well.

As for other standard apps that haven’t been optimized to work with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, they run just like they normally do on a smartphone. So for things like the official Facebook and Twitter apps, it’ll basically embody the look and feel that you’re accustomed to using, but hopefully developers will quickly optimize them. That’s because they’re scaled up and don’t take advantage of the extra real estate. However, we did notice one app, Google Earth, which was not loading up at all on the XOOM. Furthermore, there appears to be some bugs with it as well since we experienced on numerous occasions abrupt closures on apps like Facebook – which requiresda reinstall to properly work again.


During our time using the Motorola XOOM, it appears to hold a steady connection to Verizon’s network in the greater Philadelphia region. Additionally, we rarely noticed signal strength fluctuating abruptly as it kept at a steady -81 dBm in high coverage areas.

Motorola touts the XOOM obtaining a battery life of 10 hours with continuous video playback. In reality, we easily managed to get by an 8 hour working shift on normal usage with half the battery remaining. It’s worth noting that we had the brightness level manually set to its highest setting and relied on 3G speeds for all data connectivity. Light users should get by at least a day of usage, while heavy users might want to keep it connected to its wall charger as much as possible.


So here’s the underlying question that would undoubtedly hint to whether or not the Motorola XOOM is a success. How much money are you willing to shell out to experience the very first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet? We’re not arguing that it’s something that is easily loved, especially when it oozes with so many exciting new features, but the $799.99 no-contract price point it garners will no doubt stab some people with the nagging feeling that it’s one pricey investment. However, it’s the price you’ll have to pay in order to grab hold of Motorola’s next pride and joy.

Although we’re not all too thrilled by its design, this can easily be overlooked because of the uplifting and alluring feel of Android 3.0 Honeycomb – it’s actually the justification for buying the tablet. Compared to the previous Android tablets we’ve experienced, the Motorola XOOM fully realizes and embraces the tablet experience, and takes it to a whole new level. Of course, there are some competing Honeycomb tablets on the horizon, but it all goes back down to pricing. In the end, the Motorola XOOM makes for the perfect candidate to bring Honeycomb to the masses, however, it’ll be interesting to see how it competes at its current price point. One thing is certain though, the gap between iOS and Android, in terms of tablet experience, has never been smaller.

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 3.0, Build HRI39, Baseband N_02.0F.00R

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  • Android 3.0 Honeycomb
  • Solid construction
  • Takes fantastic photos
  • Peppy performance


  • Lacks WOW factor in design
  • Expensive
  • Not all apps take advantage of its display
  • No Flash from the onset

PhoneArena Rating:


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