By May 12, 2011

Motorola XOOM Review


The Motorola XOOM was the first tablet to be launched running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Our friends over in the USA have had the XOOM for a wee while now but it is now on sale here in the UK if you fancy picking one up.

Dubbed as an iPad killer the XOOM will sure appeal to many that are not Apple fans but the big question is ‘is it as good?’

The XOOM offers some features that the iPad does not but the iPad too has some pretty big features going in its favor.

Read on to find out what we thought of the XOOM. (I have the Wi-Fi only version)


The ten second review:

  • Device: Motorola XOOM
  • Price: £479.00
  • Summary: A big tablet running the latest version of Android.
  • Best of: Browser, customisation of home screens.
  • Worst of: Weight, bad screen in sunlight
  • Buy it now from: Various
  • Also consider: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1


What’s in the box:

  • Tablet
  • Sync/Charge cable
  • Mains charger

You will clearly get more than this with a retail box but ours was a review device.


Motorola XOOM Specification:

  • 10.1 inch touch screen display
  • 1280 x 800 pixels resolution
  • Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS
  • 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor
  • 5 megapixel rear camera with dual LED flash
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • micro USB 2.0
  • Corporate Sync
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR + HID
  • 3G Connectivity
  • 4G LTE upgradeable
  • HD (720p) video recording
  • Full HD (1080p) playback
  • 32GB internal memory
  • SD card support
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Up to 10 hour video playback



On the bottom of the XOOM we have two ports. The MicroUSB and the Mini HDMI. Beside them are the gold connecters for a dock.


Motorola XOOM Bottom


On the top we have the 3.5mm headset port as well as a sim slot.


Motorola XOOM Top


On the rear of the tablet we find two speakers, the camera flash and lens and also the power button.


Motorola XOOM Back


And on the front the only visible features are the front facing camera and proximity sensor.


Motorola XOOM Front





  • Android OS
  • Web Browser
  • Customisation




  • Heavy
  • Lack of Honeycomb Widgets
  • Screen in sunlight was poor




My first impressions of the XOOM when i picked it up for the first time was OMG this thing is heavy. It is only 0.3 Lbs heavier than the iPad 2 but very noticeable. This difference i put to the back of my mind at this point but I am afraid to say it reared its ugly head many more times throughout the testing period.

Looks wise the XOOM is a nice looking bit of kit. With no external buttons on its front it looks crisp and clean. Due to its weight the device feels pretty well made and rock solid. The back cover of the tablet is plastic and certainly feels it. Not that there is anything wrong with plastic but compared to the iPad one feels a lot better than the other. I’m sure you can guess which one wins.

The screen on the XOOM is more than adequate. It’s a 160dpi, 1280 x 800 WXGA capacitive panel performed just as I expected. Very responsive but one hell of a finger print magnet, but most tablets are.

With a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor the XOOM has plenty of power inside it to perform any task you would want on a tablet.

I mentioned earlier about there being no buttons on the front of the device. So where is the power button? It is tucked around on the back which has its good points and also bad.

On a positive note it keeps the front of the tablet clean but it does take a bit of getting used too. This is one of the factors that makes the XOOM a two handed device. Due to its size and weight you cant really pick it up with one hand, switch it on and use. Not the end of the world as I cant imagine using any tablet with a 10 inch screen one handed. I’m just saying. 


So lets take a look at the software on board the XOOM. This is clearly my first time using Honeycomb and prior to using the XOOM i was pretty excited. I’m afraid to say the excitement didn’t last too long!

So the home screen is made up of five panels. Accessing these is done with with a swipe left or right from the middle one. As you perform a swipe a thin blue line surrounds the pane giving the swipe a kind of 3D look as one pane switches to another. A bit hard to explain but it looks quite good.


H1 H2 H3 

 H6 H4


As you would expect with any Android device the home screens can be totally customised using widgets, apps and shortcuts. Honeycomb brings us some nice new widgets which are different to ones we have seen before. For example you will see the browser widget which shows four bookmarked web pages. The widget actually contains more than four bookmarks and you can scroll up and down the widget to find the web page you want. Once click and the page opens. Nice.

The problem I had was the number of new Honeycomb widgets. There are not many and I couldn’t get them all to work anyway.

Actually getting them onto the home screen is done using one of two methods. The first is the same with other Android devices and all you do is hold down a point on the home screen. The other was is by pressing the + symbol located at the top right of the home screen. Both methods will bring you to the below screen where you can drag the widgets to where you want them.



So lets have a look at the other icons located on the home screens.






Down on the bottom right of the screen is the notifications area. Here your notifications will show up funnily enough. Give it a tap and the bar expands as shown below to give you a full view as seen below.



Located on the bottom right of the screen are three icons. The one on the left is the back button. The middle one returns your to home and the third one shows you applications that are currently running on the XOOM.

 running apps

Getting into the main menu is achieved by tapping the ‘Apps’ icon on the top right hand of the screen. The apps are split into two sections – All and My Apps. The ‘My Apps’ just shows you the applications you have downloaded in a separate space. I’m not really sure why this feature is here as I couldn’t see the point. Oh Well.


menu2 menu


Tweaking the settings on the XOOM is a piece of cake. They are set out neatly and most options contain a tick box which makes things simple when switching features on and off. You will see that the settings application follows a dark blue/black/grey theme on the XOOM which I think looks neat.



So lets take a look at some of the most popular features on the Motorola XOOM, starting with the web browser. I have to say that I really enjoyed browsing on the XOOM. The screen is bight and crisp and pages rendered quickly. Scrolling is smooth and I had very little, if any, checker boarding which is always nice.

Zooming is obviously achieved by either pinch to zoom or by a double tap. One feature though that i did miss was text reflow. Maybe not so much of an issue with a tablet but I would have liked to see it.

One thing that did get on my nerves with the browser is that when visiting sites that also have a mobile version that would be the one that is loaded. Now on a small screen this is clearly a benefit but with a 10 inch tablet you would have thought it would make sense to be directed to the main site, not a mobile one. Frustrating!


b4 b5

Located at the top of the web browser you will see various icons. Multi tabbed browsing is supported and this is shown at the top left of the screen. Under that you have forward and back arrows, a refresh icon and then the address bar. Over on the right hand side is a star icon for adding a page to your bookmarks, a search icon and a bookmarks one for viewing all your saved sites. Once in the bookmarks app each site is shown with a thumbnail of the last time you were there. Snazzy.



One last icon within the browser is located at the very top right hand side and it looks like four horizontal lines. Give this a tap and you have given more options including the browser settings.


Flash is supported within the browser which is where I find Android has a huge advantage over iOS (although Steve Jobs would not agree with me!)

This will not only allow you to see flash adverts etc on websites but it will also let you watch videos without being redirected to YouTube. This works particularly well with our site where we regularly have unboxing videos. It just saves a bit of time and hassle rather than having to jump into a specific app to view video.

While we are on the subject of video I thought I would mention the YouTube application. The YouTube app on Android is always great and in my opinion probably the best of all mobile operating systems. But on Honeycomb we get a few UI changes. This clearly doesn’t improve the video quality but it does offer a new fresh look to the app which I enjoyed.

Watching video via the YouTube app frankly rocked. Picture quality depends on the quality of the uploaded video but I general I was more than happy. The two external speaker on the rear of the XOOM performed well too. They produced a reasonable volume and sound quality. However where they were let down was by the volume up/down keys on the left side of the XOOM. They are rubbish! They work ok but I just found them a pain to use. Made of plastic they are quite small and not raised very high and I found that whenever I used them I felt compelled to actually look what I was doing instead of relying just on feel like on many other devices. A small negative i know but a worthy mention.




Lets take a quick look at the calendar on the XOOM. It is quite attractive and looks different to I have seen before on pre Honeycomb devices. It essentially does the same job but now with a new look. In fact a calendar is not very exciting so I’m not talking about it anymore. Here are some pictures though for your viewing pleasure 😉


c1 c2 c4

c5 c7 c8


The camera on the Motorola XOOM has a lovely user interface in my opinion. Everything is controlled on the right side of the screen including the shutter switch/tab. There are a nice selection of tweaks you can make such as colour effects and scenes. The camera will focus on the subject when you press the shutter icon. Shame that you cannot touch another subject on the screen to focus like on many smartphones these days. Zooming is done with the plus and minus tabs at the top of the screen. These can be either tapped or held down and the zoom zooms a pretty long way but like all cameras you do lose a bit of quality by zooming. The XOOM has a front facing camera too so if you fancy taking pictures of yourself you can do so by tapping the icon on screen.

Now you may not want to be taking too many snaps with the XOOM for two reasons. One, it is heavy, and two, you will look a right plonker! That’s how I felt anyway when standing at the roadside.


cam1 cam2 cam3

 cam4 cam5 cam7


The picture quality with the XOOMs 5MP camera was pretty good in my opinion. Sure, it is not the best but nobody is going to be taking professional photographs with a tablet. If the weight and size of the tablet were not a factor I would say that overall the camera experience on the XOOM was great. Maybe I just need to build up my arm and shoulder muscles?

 IMG_20110503_143134 IMG_20110503_143208 IMG_20110503_143537


I was not so impressed with the video recording though. The XOOM records in 720P HD but not as well as some other devices. You can see in the sample below that although the moving objects are nice and smooth the overall picture quality suffers a bit when viewed full screen on a PC/MAC. Oh well, you cant win them all.

XOOM Demo Video

Viewing pictures in the gallery is pleasurable. You are initially shown folders for the camera, images and SDCard and then once in one of them all the pictures are shown in a grid that can be swiped to the left and right. As you would imagine another screen tap will show the selected image full screen and this is where you may want to rotate the XOOM depending on the size/shape of the picture in question. Rotating the image takes a second or so. Not the quickest but no big deal.

At the top of the screen you will find an icon to share the image. This can be shared via Bluetooth, email, Facebook, Twitter etc. Overall the Gallery on the XOOM rocks and the screen does a great job of producing the best image possible.


gallery gallery2 gallery5


gallery 4



Time to give the virtual keyboard on the XOOM a mention. To be honest I didn’t like it. Although a good size I could not find an option to have any haptic feedback and I really find that this makes a difference when typing on a tablet. You will notice in the pictures below that there is a speech to text key down on the bottom right of the keyboard. This worked ok for very short sentences. You wouldn’t want to compose a whole email with it.


maps3 email3


Being an Android device the XOOM of course has Google Maps pre loaded. It worked just as it should but I’m not sure how often it will get used on a tablet of this size. You would look a bit of a dingbat walking down the street using this to navigate. But for planning routes in advance or finding local POI’s it may be jolly handy.

 maps 1 maps traffic




Clearly being an Android tablet you need to download applications from the Android Market which now looks a little different with Honeycomb. The amount of Honeycomb enabled apps is currently limited and I did have one or two issues running simple apps such as Facebook. It wouldn’t work full stop!




When it comes to playing music on the XOOM  it performs very well. The two speakers on the rear of the device produce reasonable volume and the quality is ok. The user interface is kept simple with album artwork and player controls on screen. I’m not sure you will be carrying the XOOM around with you as an iPod alternative though. It is a little too big for that but if docked at home it will be up to the job.



Of course gaming is another big feature on the XOOM. With thousands of titles to choose from in the Market you will have immense fun playing with the XOOM. Its responsive screen does a great job. Just don’t play games in direct sunlight. The number of Tablet specific applications is currently lacking volume at the moment so you may be a little disappointed.




Overall the XOOM does a pretty decent job and although not perfect I believe it is a good first effort by Motorola. Would I recommend it over the Apple iPad.. No, i am afraid. There are two many downsides to the XOOM for my liking. I am sure that Android fans will love the XOOM but it almost feels like Honeycomb is not really finished and I would not be happy shelling out nearly £500 on something that is not nearly perfect. If you are after a large Android tablet running Honeycomb I would strongly urge you hold out for the Samsung galaxy Tab 10.1. It looks to have the same great features but in a shell that is much lighter. The XOOM is just too heavy and that really got on my nerves.


Posted by: James

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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