Finally! An Android tablet that actually works well
The Motorola Xoom is the first tablet to use the new Android 3 ‘Honeycomb' operating system, developed for tablet computers.
Previous Android versions, developed solely for phones, led to some shortcomings when they were installed on tablet computers and so some of Honeycomb's improvements are vital.
The display is better suited, with menus designed for the larger screen and a handy carousel switches between open applications at the touch of a button.
The Android Marketplace has also been upgraded but as Honeycomb hasn't been around for long there aren't many tablet apps to download. One good example of a new app is the one for Youtube, which makes good use of the large screen and extra processing power of the tablet, showing a full-screen array of videos that the user can navigate around.
Other good applications are already available and include a news app from CNN, Google Maps and Google Calendar. The camera and web browser have been tweaked so they are more suited for tablet use. Irritatingly, a lot of applications are still simply bigger versions of those available for Android phones. For example, the official applications for Twitter and Facebook are yet to be updated for the Honeycomb and the BBC iPlayer app also hasn't been updated at the time of writing.
The Xoom's widescreen display was excellent, and ideal for watching films or catching up on TV. The good resolution means everything looked clear and sharp, which made text easier to read so browsing the web is a better experience.
Unfortunately, the screen's viewing angle was poor, and it was very reflective, so a lot of the time, even with the brightness turned up fully, reflections on the screen marred the viewing experience.
At 730g the Xoom is heavy for a tablet computer (the iPad 2 is 610g), making it uncomfortable to hold for prolonged periods. The design was pleasant enough with a smooth brushed-metal finish on the back and nicely rounded edges. Unlike a lot of Android tablets we have reviewed the Xoom didn't feel cheap or plasticky.
As with the iPad there are two versions: the model we reviewed connected to the internet only using wireless networking. The £100-more-expensive Xoom 3G also works over mobile phone networks and is available at different prices depending on your choice of contract.
The Xoom is compatible with Flash so it can play videos on websites as well as games, and properly displays Flash-using websites. Like the iPad it lacks GPS for easy mapping but it has two cameras, a rear five-megapixel one that also shoots 720p HD video, and a front-facing two-megapixel one for video calling. It connects to Bluetooth devices.
Battery life was good: watching video drains it quicker but otherwise we would expect a couple of days' moderate use between charges. It cannot charge over USB; instead it's necessary to use the supplied mains adapter.
As it's an early adopter of the Honeycomb operating system there aren't many apps available, but for browsing the web, catching up on TV and going through emails the Xoom is one of the best Android tablets we've seen.
Read more reviews
A true rival to the iPad, with a great processor, great screen and operating system
Fast; great screen; new version of Android works well
Not many apps available yet; quite heavy; on the expensive side
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