Drew Turney April 12, 2012
Motorola Xoom II.
Motorola Xoom 2
$720 RRP (outright)
3G and Wi-Fi
Android 3.2 OS, 10.1" display, 1GB RAM
The original Motorola Xoom was another hopeful iPad killer that history left behind. To the company's credit, it has taken the lessons learned by the Xoom's shortcomings and done a better job the second time around. But the question remains: is it a better proposition than the ubiquitous Apple challengers or the iPad itself?
Firstly, everything about it feels better in your hands. The corners are angled differently from most other tablets I've seen and despite it being slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, it feels tougher with the rubberised backing making it non-slip and pleasant to hold.
It has received two big display upgrades to make the visuals better. The first is Corning's Gorilla Glass, a new screen technology that's thinner and more damage-resistant than previous generation mobile screens. The second is In-Plane Switching (IPS), a system that uses the liquid crystals in the display to expand the viewing angle and contrast.
There's not usually much to be said for the socket that connects a device to power or your PC, but the Xoom's change to a standard micro USB port is worth mentioning. If you're coming from the older Xoom you'll remember it had a proprietary socket and pin array, locking you into a certain kind of charger and cable which will now be useless.
If you're coming from another device, there's more chance existing cables and power peripherals will fit it the Xoom 2.
The specs are more than adequate for average office tablet productivity and the 10.1" screen competes well with the iPad. The most attractive aspect for business might actually be the preloaded collaboration apps, such as Citrix GoToMeeting and a videoconferencing app called Fuze.
You might also make good use of Motocast, which streams media directly from a PC to the Xoom. If you work with a lot of presentations, slideshows or marketing videos that you don't want taking up space on your tablet you can still view them unshackled from your desktop with this app. All are easy to set up and use, and make the Xoom 2 a good companion to a PC or Mac laptop if you're on the road. It also syncs painlessly with a corporate Microsoft Exchange Server.
But for $720 outright or monthly data plans varying from $29 to $89, there are two caveats. The Xoom 2 runs on Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), an older operating system now that so many devices run on 4.0 (known as Ice Cream Sandwich). Motorola promises to upgrade to the new operating system in the future but when contacted , the company, currently being acquired by Google, wouldn't say specifically when. Note that at the moment you can already buy tablets that are comparable in specs to the Xoom 2 and already working on Ice Cream Sandwich.
The other potential stumbling block is that the Xoom 2 is 3G. If you've been following the news over the last month you'll know that there are few true 4G devices in Australia thus far, that 4G network signal only exists in a handful of dense population centres, and that Apple is in the middle of a very embarrassing offer, thanks to the ACCC, to refund customers who feel they've been swindled by its advertising of the iPad's 4G capabilities in Australia (it's compatible with US 4G networks only).
Either way there's not likely to be a comprehensive national 4G network locally this financial year, if in 2012 at all. But it will happen, and as such the Xoom will only be future proof for the next 12 months or so.
Security is an issue in business, and Android isn't as secure out of the box as Apple's tablet. That said, it's not hard to secure a tablet fleet in a corporate deployment.
For that reason, the Xoom 2 is a good choice right now as a stopgap measure, but if your current purchase needs to last longer than a year, wait for a 4G update. Then the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, and a myriad compatible tablets, will also need to be considered.
1.2GHz dual-core processor
1.3 Megapixel front and 5 Megapixel rear-facing HD cameras, auto focus, digital zoom, LED flash
32GB onboard storage, 32GB micro-SD card slot
Dimensions: 253.9mm x 173.6mm x 8.8mm