Motorola Xoom Review
A few months ago, Motorola released the latest installment of its recent wave of products to compete with Apple for market share in the personal computing arena, the Xoom tablet. The Xoom is the first of what is sure to be many tablets running Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the first Android operating system designed specifically for a tablet. It looks cool, it can do most anything you would expect a tablet to be able to do and it is, plain and simple, a heck of a lot of fun to play with.
If you want to know specifically how it compares to the iPad, there are more than enough articles out on the internet to help you answer that question. Taking for granted the fact that a person would prefer to run Android rather than Apple’s iOS (if you don’t feel that way this column isn’t for you), the real question that I want to answer is does this make sense for a college student to have Xoom? I, like many students here on the Hill, have a smartphone and a laptop. Is there room for a third device, a tablet? To help answer this question, I made a list of the major things I use both my computer and my phone to do, and I compared how the Xoom does executing each of these functions.
Here’s what I use my computer for most regularly, and how the Xoom compares:
Web browsing: The Xoom has a pretty slick web browser. You definitely don’t get the speed you have with your hands sitting on the keyboard like you do on a laptop or PC, but Honeycomb does come with Google Chrome, which means you get tabs. Also, many sites recognize the Xoom as a mobile device and send you to their mobile site (which is pretty underwhelming given the huge screen).
Music: The Xoom comes with a media player, but you still need your computer has a base for downloading music. The speakers are ok, but not great, and the tablet is a little awkwardly big to plug headphones into just to listen to a few songs. It still makes just as much (if not more) sense just to plug your iPod or computer right into the speakers.
Email: The Xoom is great for reading emails. It is not so great for writing emails, again because of the onscreen keyboard. However, the Android software has a great voice-to-text feature; but honestly, I’ve been using it more on my Android phone than on the Xoom.
Word processing: A computer wins hands down on this one. It is frustrating to type more than a few words at a time on the tablet’s flat, touch-screen keyboard. I'd definitely prefer to type on a keyboard, and, quite frankly, I would rather type on my phone than the Xoom.
Video (YouTube, Hulu, etc.): YouTube is definitely fun to watch on the Xoom’s widescreen, but watching anything longer than a few minutes becomes a pain, as you have to hold the tablet up. Also, even though the Xoom has Flash, it does not have the universal video viewing capabilities that a notebook has.
Here’s what I, and most other Colby students, use my smartphone for, and how the Xoom compares:
Phone calls and SMS: Sorry, the Xoom can’t do it.
Email: The Xoom has a pretty easy to use customized email interface that is definitely more convenient for reading emails than on a phone. You can also see a lot more on the tablet and don’t have to be constantly scrolling like you do on a phone, but, as I said before, the keyboard on the Xoom is not very natural and it’s easier to crank out text with your thumbs on the phone. The Android 3.0 operating system does have the reasonably accurate and reliable Google voice-to-text software. So if you’re willing to dictate all your emails, doing emails on the Xoom isn’t unbearable, although a little awkward if you’re in public.
Games and other apps: Just about every app available on the Android phones is available on the Xoom. There’s no real difference, except that the huge table screen makes the games more visibly interesting. (It really helps my Angry Birds strategy having the bigger picture.)
Calendar: If you’re already using a Google-synched calendar, then the Xoom with synchronize with your phone and your Google calendar as soon as you hook up your Gmail account with the device. So if you do enjoy doing emails on the tablet and come across something that you want to put in your calendar, it’s just as convenient to plug the event into the Xoom as it is on any smart phone with a Gmail-synched calendar.
Overall, if you have a notebook and an apple, android or blackberry smartphone, there’s really no reason why you need a tablet as a college student. That being said, if you want a tablet and can afford one, the Xoom is pretty fun to have floating around your common room. It may not do anything that a notebook or a smartphone doesn’t already do, but it does have a uniquely relaxed feel.