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12/19/2011
03:20 PM
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Motorola Xyboards Close The Android Tablet Gap

With its new Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 tablets, Motorola aims to hit the sweet spot between the needs of the professional and the needs of the consumer.

Motorola Xyboard 10.1 Tablet
(click image for larger view)
Motorola Xyboard 10.1 Tablet
Motorola has followed up its original Xoom Android tablet with not one, but two successors. The renamed tablet line includes the Xyboard 10.1 and Xyboard 8.2. The Xyboards share most hardware and software features, with the screen size and overall footprint of the two tablets serving as the largest differentiating factor. The Xyboard 10.1 is slightly more focused at the professional user, while the Xyboard 8.2 has a decidedly more consumer feel to it.

I've spent a week using both Xyboards. How do they stack up as mobile computing devices, and has Motorola done enough with its second-generation tablets to differentiate them from the competition?

Hardware

Both Xyboard tablets have an attractive industrial design that doesn't stray too far from that of the original Xoom and also mirrors the design of the new Droid RAZR Android smartphone. The family resemblance is fully intact. Both tablets have a comfortable feel in the hand and the mix of glass, plastic, and rubber materials feels strong and natural to grip. They don't feel cheap or chintzy.

The Xyboard 10.1's dimensions run 9.99 x 6.83 x 0.35 inches and it weighs in at 1.33 pounds. That makes it a smidge longer and wider than the original Xoom, but it is significantly thinner and lighter, so the fractionally stretched length and width are excusable. It is a perfect size to fit into a briefcase, backpack, or satchel, though only the biggest purses could contain it.

The Xyboard 8.2's dimensions run 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.35 inches and it barely moves the scale at a feather-light 0.86 pounds. The Xyboard 8.2's shrunken dimensions make it highly portable. I found it to be more comfortable to use over long periods of time when surfing the Web from my couch and I didn't much miss the extra screen real estate offered by the Xyboard 10.1.

Because both Xyboards feature a 16:9 aspect ratio for their displays, Motorola assumes that they will be held in the landscape orientation when in use (most of the time), and many of the secondary controls reflect this. Along the bottom edge of the Xyboard 10.1, Motorola has tucked in microUSB and mini-HDMI ports for charging and media sharing (these ports are on the right edge of the Xyboard 8.2). These lock into a number of accessories that Motorola is offering for the Xyboard (keyboards, docks, etc.). The SIM card is located under a hatch on the bottom edge, as well. There is a 3.5-mm headset jack on top of the Xyboard 10.1 for headphones (on the left edge for the Xyboard 8.2).

The volume and power controls are on the back surface of both Xyboards, close to the right edge. I wish the buttons were placed a little further from the side of the Xyboards, as they are a bit awkward to reach. Worse, they are covered with a soft, rubbery material and have terrible response. You can hardly tell when you're pressing them. Last, I found these buttons to be much too close to one another. It's all too easy to press the screen-lock button when you meant to press the volume-up button--resulting in an accidental screen lock.

The Xyboard 10.1's display holds 1280 x 800 pixels, giving it a pixel density of about 150 pixels per inch. It is a transflective touch display and uses in-place switching. It is perfectly capable of playing HD movies, and works well for browsing, playing games, and gasp! getting some work done.

The Xyboard 8.2's display also holds 1280 x 800 pixels, giving it a much higher pixel density of about 185 pixels per inch. It looks sharper and cleaner than its larger brother. Both displays were much improved in terms of brightness when compared to the original Xoom. I was able to use both devices in brightly lit rooms with no problem, and even outdoors under cloudy skies. Using them under direct sunlight was pretty difficult, though.

In all, the hardware of both Xyboard tablets works well. At this point, I'd give a slight advantage to the 8.2-inch model for its smaller footprint and better display.

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