Motorola Xyboards Close The Android Tablet Gap - InformationWeek

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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 8.2 Tablet
(click image for larger view)
Motorola Xyboard 8.2 Tablet
Android 3.2

Both devices ship with Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which is disappointing considering the availability of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Motorola has committed to updating both Xyboard tablets to Android 4.0 in 2012, but hasn't said anything specific with respect to the timing. Obviously, the sooner the better. That said, many of the user interface elements in Android 4.0 were taken from Android 3.2 and they share plenty of features.

Honeycomb presents five home screens, which can be accessed by swiping to the left or right. The home screens can be populated with whatever applications, shortcuts, or widgets you like, just as you can on Android smartphones. Widgets remain Honeycomb's main attraction. With the added screen real estate, developers have a lot more breathing room and can expand the size--and functionality--of their widgets. Google, for example, has crafted fine Gmail, Android Market, browser, calendar, and YouTube widgets for the home screen. The Gmail widget allows users to preview their inboxes without opening the full application. The YouTube widget similarly allows users to sift through the top videos of the day without opening the full YouTube application.

If you want to do more than interact with the apps, shortcuts, and widgets on the home screen, all the finer controls have been pushed to the outer edges of the display. In the top left corner, Google has placed dedicated search tools (including voice search). Applications on the device are accessed via software buttons in the upper right corner. The bottom right corner hosts all the settings for various functions, such as wireless radios, display, privacy, accounts, and so on. Notifications pop up in this spot, too. Last, the bottom left corner is reserved for on-screen navigation for jumping back a screen, to the home screen, or calling up the multitasking bar.

Both devices are being sold by Verizon Wireless, so there is plenty of Verizon bloatware when it comes to Verizon's products and services. The devices have also been given the Droid-branding treatment from Verizon, so the themes and colors reflect that.

Anyone familiar with Android will only need a few moments to adjust to Android 3.2. The flexibility offered by Honeycomb should not be underestimated. Though it isn't as seamless or intuitive as other platforms, it offers a lot and Xyboard owners who update to Android 4.0 will still feel at home with the user interface.

Performance

The Xyboard 10.1 and Xyboard 8.2 are both powered by the same 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, which features 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB or 32 GB of storage. Though I recall being impressed with the speed of the original Xoom, the Xyboards are significantly faster. I noticed no slowdowns, no lag, no hesitations. The only applications that gave me any trouble were ones which were network-dependent. Even though the system software supports multiple active widgets at one time, all the animations and screen transfers were smooth and nearly instantaneous. The Xyboard 8.2 is a bit speedier than the 10.1, however, which is likely a factor of its smaller display.

According to Motorola, the Xyboard 10.1's 7000-mAh battery provides 48 days of standby time on 3G networks and 33 days of standby time on 4G networks. In reality, I fully charged the Xyboard 10.1 once and tested it on and off with 3G and Wi-Fi active for a week without needing to recharge it. Over the weekend, I streamed video for more than eight hours before the battery went kaput (from a full charge). Bottom line, field workers and mobile professionals can expect to get a full day's work out of the Xyboard 10.1, and that's all anyone can really ask for.

The Xyboard 8.2 has a smaller 3960-mAh battery. In my tests, a full charge was depleted after five days of standby time with both the 3G and Wi-Fi radios active, and with the device hooked to my Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. In a video test, it was able to play back movies for 6.5 hours straight before dying. The Xyboard 8.2 isn't quite up to a full day's use, but it almost is.

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