Motorola Xoom Wifi Hardware Review

Motorola Xoom Wifi Hardware Review

Aug 10, 2011

Android tablets have been something of a mythical beast, often mentioned, but rarely seen in the wild, at least as long as the iPad has been the popular tablet of choice. So most of my experience with Android tablets has been secondhand, until I recently got my hands on a Motorola Xoom Wifi tablet, running Android 3.2.

The Xoom feels about the same weight as the iPad, if not maybe slightly heavier, but the difference, if any, is such where actual measuring tools would have to be used to determine any weight difference. The hardware feels very rugged, like it could take a beating and keep on ticking. The battery life of the Xoom will depend on how much background processes will be running, and if a lot of notifications are active, but I approximate 6-8 hours of continuous usage without a charge; with occasional usage, I can go a couple days without charging the Xoom. The Xoom comes with a micro-USB cable and a separate wall charger; the cord on the wall charger is of very generous length, and using the Xoom while it is charging is very easy, unlike with the iPad’s obtrusive dock connector. The interesting element of the Motorola Xoom is that it actually has fewer buttons than the iPad, having just a lock/power button on the upper left side of the device, and volume keys.

The rear-facing camera is solid, and comes with a built-in flash. However, there is no “tap to focus” like on other Android devices, focusing only happens when the shutter key is pressed, and even then it does not provide a good preview of what the final image will look like. That’s really the problem with the camera in general; pictures are practically impossible to set up. This is a competent camera, though. A front-facing camera is available as well, though there’s no Skype available for the Xoom yet. Google Talk video support works, though.

All the ports are put in positions where they are out of the way of the hands in pretty much any orientation; the headset port is on the top, the charging ports are on the bottom of the device, and the volume keys are on the top left. If turned upside down, the volume keys are difficult to press accidentally. In portrait orientations, the ports are still well out of the way of any hand placement, though the tablet feels a bit top-loaded due to its taller aspect ratio. In landscape mode, the widescreen 1280×800 resolution of the Motorola Xoom makes it better for viewing videos, and makes it great for multi-column apps like Gmail and Twitter apps like Plume. A thumb keyboard comes highly recommended, though there isn’t one pre-installed with the Xoom.

There is the occasional slowdown while using the hardware, and the lack of any kind of default task manager makes clearing applications out of RAM a problem after a couple of days of continuous uptime. Power cycling usually solves these issues; rebooting is not available on the default software, and would likely require rooting. Still, for a device that is touted for its dual-core processor, it’s disappointing to see the slowdown that often pops up. The browser suffers from some of this occasional slowdown and lag. Flash does not come pre-installed, but can be easily downloaded and installed from the Android Market.

A comparison of the Android tablet OS compared to iPad’s iOS can be found in this The Hills Are Greener column, but the main drawback to Android 3.x is that tablet apps are harder to find. A variety of apps do work when stretched out to tablet resolution, yes, but it does lead to weirdness with the user interfaces. A lot of these apps are in the Android Market’s “featured tablet apps” section, as well!

Using the Xoom has been an entirely different experience from the iPad because of the differences. The Xoom is a great piece of hardware, and the base OS is very solid and well-designed for tablets. With more available apps on the Market, the tablet experience could improve. For those looking for an Android Tablet, the Xoom seems like a great choice, and will become something that I will regularly use, especially for productive activities, like writing and the most important activity of all: tweeting.

Rooted Users Rejected Access to Android Market’s Movie Rentals

Rooted Users Rejected Access to Android Market’s Movie Rentals

May 26, 2011

Google’s new movie rental service on the Android Market is about to come with one huge caveat for a large subset of Android users. According to Android and Me, users of rooted devices will not have access to movie rentals on the Market. When a rooted device tries to rent a movie, an “Error 49” pops up, which should only pop up on rooted devices. According to Android Market’s page on Error 49, “You’ll receive this ‘Error 49’ message if you attempt to play a movie on a rooted device. Rooted devices are currently unsupported due to requirements related to copyright protection.”

Right now, this only affects a small number of devices, that number being one – the Motorola Xoom on Android 3.1, although the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will ship with Android 3.1, and the movie rental service should be coming to all Android devices on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and above soon. This demand was likely put in place by the content providers wishing for protection on their movies so that rooted users couldn’t just pirate them easily, despite the fact that pretty much every movie is readily available from illicit sources as it is.

This could prove to be a double-edged sword – while rooted users represent a minority on the platform, they do still number in the millions (at least based on the number of users who have downloaded ROM Manager, a tool for rooted users to download and install new custom roms). As well, many of them may be the kind of frequent Android users who would rent movies more often than non-rooted users. As such, blocking off this class of users from renting movies based on a mild piracy fear could be an ill-advised move. Of course, it could also turn out to only have a minor effect as well, as rooted users are a minority of Android owners, after all. Android and Me points out that the HBO Go app for Android is available to rooted users as well, and that app is home to HBO’s lucrative content, including an episode of Game of Thrones that is available through the app before it airs on TV – a true target for piracy. These security fears may likely be overblown given the actual threat.

The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Conundrum

The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Conundrum

Mar 7, 2011

This past week, Apple announced the iPad 2, which should come as a shock to no one, unless you live under a rock, which actually isn’t a bad idea as I assume the rent is cheap there, no? Of course, it features a modified design, the obvious addition of a front-facing camera, as Apple absolutely loves FaceTime. There’s a rear-facing camera, in what is probably the one concession to competing Android tablets, even if you can only take 720p pictures with it, like the iPod touch 4th Generation. Inside you will find the new dual-core A5 chip to ensure those 3D games will look even better than ever and the battery life is thankfully still a relative eternity. The problem with the iPad 2 of course, is that it’s still an iOS device. Which makes it a lousy computer..

Motorola XOOM – First Honeycomb Powered Tablet, Has Arrived

Motorola XOOM – First Honeycomb Powered Tablet, Has Arrived

Feb 23, 2011

We’ve heard about it, we’ve seen events about it, and now — we can actually purchase it! Verizon has it up and ready for purchase at a price of $599 with a 2-year contract or $799 off contract. What’s so special about the Motorola XOOM? Well — for starters, it’s the first tablet to officially (yea I’m talking to you NOOK Color) feature Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).

Honeycomb was specifically designed with tablets in mind and features a completely revamped UI. Add to that the impressive hardware specs and you have yourself one sweet Android tablet! Let’s take a look at what you should know about the Motorola XOOM and what you can expect if you’re lucky enough to have the kind of dinero necessary to snag one.