Here are some of our favorite innovative and fun gadgets and gifts for tech enthusiasts. These are affordable and budget-friendly.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
We've already seen a couple of tablets running Android 3.0 — the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and the excellent Asus Eee Pad Transformer, as well as a few running older versions of Android such as the HTC Flyer and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Motorola's 10.1in. Xoom has the paper specifications to be a top-notch Android based tablet and a rival for other Android 3.0 tablets, as well as for Apple's currently dominant iPad. The Motorola Xoom costs £465 (ex. VAT) with Wi-Fi and 3G and £385 (ex. VAT) with Wi-Fi only from Clove Technology, who supplied our review sample.
Physically, the Xoom looks like a premium product. Its curved edges and black fascia are tidy, while the grey metal backplate is solid and sturdy. About a fifth of the backplate is black plastic and houses twin speakers, the 5-megapixel main camera with its dual LED flash, and, rather oddly, the on-off button. The backplate extends into the edges of the chassis, which is therefore metal on the bottom long edge and four-fifths of the way up the short left and right edges.
The 10.1in. Motorola Xoom has a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, front and rear cameras and runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)
The edges are relatively sparsely populated. There's a headphone jack on the upper edge, right in the centre, and to its left a rubber cover protects a slot for microSD and SIM cards. The right edge is completely clear, while the left edge houses a small and rather fiddly pair of volume buttons.
Most of the connectors are on the bottom edge, where they are accessible to an optional dock. The small round-pin power jack is here, along with microUSB and HDMI ports. Motorola provides both USB and HDMI cables. It's annoying that the Motorola Xoom uses a proprietary charger: we'd much prefer charging via USB.
There are no button controls on the relatively small screen bezel — just a second, 2-megapixel camera. We found the Xoom quite heavy to hold for extended periods: it weighs 730g compared to 613g for the Wi-Fi/3G iPad 2, 680g for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer and 700g for the Acer Iconia Tab A500. We tended to prop the Xoom on our knees when using it sitting on a sofa, as this was more comfortable than holding it.
The Xoom measures 24.9cm wide by 16.7cm deep by 1.3cm thick. The differences between it and the competition aren't vast in this respect: the Eee Pad Transformer comes in at 27.1cm by 17.1cm by 1.3cm, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 at 27.5cm by 19cm by 1.59cm and the iPad 2 at 24.1cm by 18.5cm by 0.9cm.
The 10.1in. screen is par for the course for Android 3.0 tablets; it has a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels, which is exactly the same as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia Tab A500. By comparison, the 9.7in. iPad 2's 1,024 by 768 pixels are slightly more squeezed.
The display is sharp and vibrant, viewing angles are great, and the screen is very responsive to finger presses and sweeps. However, its glossy finish means that reflections can be an irritation; it also suffers — as many of its rivals do — from poor viewability outdoors, especially on sunny days.
The Motorola Xoom runs on a 1GHz dual core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor supported by 1GB of RAM. This is the CPU of choice for most top-end Android tablets at the moment — it's used in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, for example. It's also found in a number of premium smartphones such as the LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix.
There is a generous 32GB of storage space, of which our review sample reported 28.1GB free. Add in the microSD card slot — which is supported in the upcoming Android 3.2 upgrade — and most people ought to find plenty of storage capacity here.
The Android 3.0.1 user interface on our review system is clear and uncluttered, and all the usual core applications are present and correct. There is, of course, support for Flash, so that video can be streamed from the internet — we had to download Flash before we could take advantage, though.
The native Android apps offer plenty of functionality. Google Maps benefits from the Xoom's built-in GPS receiver, while the usual calendar, email, music, imaging and YouTube support are also present.
We're used to seeing smartphones crammed with extras, but the opposite is true here and Motorola adds little to Android apart from Film Studio, a video editor. We'd have liked a DLNA client, for example, and maybe also a version of the Phone Portal app that Motorola includes in its Atrix smartphone. This allows you to fileshare from a Wi-Fi-connected computer via its web browser. Even the native Android keyboard could really do with a tweak so that long-pressing on keys gets you additional characters. We really missed embedded numbers, for example.
The Motorola Xoom is difficult to fault as far as CPU power is concerned. It's generally responsive, and video renders well.
Battery life is also impressive. Motorola suggests you'll get around 9 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 3.3 days of music playback and 10 hours of video playback. With a usage pattern of a couple of hours a day, we found we could go three or four days before needing to recharge the battery.
The Motorola Xoom is a solidly built 10.1in. Android tablet, but it's a pity that Motorola doesn't provide any useful accessories. An HDMI cable and a slipcase would be welcome, for example. The proprietary charging cable is irritating, too: we much prefer standard microUSB. Finally we'd like to see the standard Android software bundle augmented.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel