Motorola Xoom great tablet with short-lived charger

I was a bit skeptical about the tablet form factor for awhile, but then I’m like a prematurely old man in my early aversion to new technologies. I’ve been coming around of late though, and now find myself in the market for a tablet. So when the opportunity came to review the Motorola Xoom, I was eager to dive in.

On paper, the Xoom has everything I’m looking for in a tablet: sleek iPad-like design, but it runs Google’s new Android Honeycomb OS. Apple’s iPad is definitely the gold-standard in terms of design and OS functionality, but for me it has a few deal-breaking drawbacks: lack of Flash support, the closed nature of the platform, and the lack of support or need for expensive additions for things such as additional storage or HDMI out.

The Xoom meets most of those must-haves for me. It has a 10” LCD display with 1280 x 800 resolution – I want a tablet primarily for media consumption and Web browsing, and if I’m jumping-up from a smartphone-sized screen stopping at 7” seems silly – go big or go home. The glossy screen holds smudges pretty well, but what touch-screen doesn’t?

Related Story : Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi expected in Canada April 8

It has a sleek black finish, looks modern, and feels solid without getting too heavy. It offers micro USB out as well as mini-HDMI out to connect your tablet to a television or monitor to watch your media, something the iPad requires pricey add-ons for. There’s also a micro SD slot to add up to an additional 32 GB of storage — something the iPad doesn’t offer – although this feature won’t be enabled until an update to Google Android expected shortly.

Other hardware features include front (2 megapixel) and rear (5 megapixel) cameras with a flash on the back camera. The cameras work fine, but I can’t see the Xoom being my primary camera – it’s just too huge. I’d feel goofy. It’s fine for casual use though, and the flash is a nice touch. The speakers are acceptable for a tablet, and there’s a headphone jack as well.

On the inside, the Xoom is powered by an Nvidia Tegra dual core processor backed-up by 1GB of RAM, which worked fine for me playing with different apps and watching movies and other video.

Before I move into the software operation, which will be more about Honeycomb than anything Xoom-specific, one major issue I had with the Xoom was the charger. You can’t charge via the micro USB cable (a significant shortcoming, in my view) so you need to rely on the proprietary AC cable. We had the Xoom for a week; the charger stopped working by day three and the Xoom was a brick by day six. A Web search told me broken chargers are a wide-spread Xoom problem; one they should fix. You can swap it out by going to the retailer if it’s under warranty, but that’s no excuse for poor production quality.

That said, when I did have power I enjoyed the Xoom and the Google Android Honeycomb experience, and it did hold that last charge fairly well before giving-up the ghost. I didn’t have time to properly test the battery life, but I’d say you’ve got a fullbusiness day worth of heavy use and a few days of stand-by time with a full charge.

Honeycomb is a fairly intuitive and easy to navigate OS, and I liked the ability to add widgets. The Android Market has a nice collection of applications both free and for sale, and Angry Birds was my first download. Lots of fun. I was also able to integrate my Gmail account easily. Connecting to the Web via WiFi was a simple process, and the Xoom supports 802.11 a/b/g/n.

I did have some challenges adding video, mainly having to convert it to .mp4 format. There’s no media software or desktop management software with the Xoom so you need to have an application and the knowledge to convert your .avi or .wmv to .mp4 before loading it to the tablet – not super-challenging but a bit to ask of non-techie users.

I’d have liked more time before the battery died to put the Xoom through its paces – it feels like I only got a taste. The charger issues would give me pause before I bought one – the proprietary dongle is just so small although it’s apparently the folding prongs that give way. However, besides the charger issues and the lack of desktop management software to more easily move files back and forth, the Xoom is a quality tablet that gives the non-Apple fans out there a good choice for an iPad alternative.

Jeff Jedras ended up buying an Acer Iconia tablet for his own personal use. He hopes the charger holds out. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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