The original Motorola XOOM was the seminal Android tablet, introducing Honeycomb to the world in an inspired video cast with Cee Lo Green. Despite not receiving the same critical adoration bestowed upon the Asus Eee Pad Transformer or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, it was the first, and no one could take that away from Motorola. To add to its primacy, it was also pretty well specced with a dual-core processor, an HD screen and 3G or Wi-Fi variants available. It's the end of 2011 and Motorola are going out the same way they went in - with a XOOM ... 2.
Adopting an octagonal candybar design akin to the Motorola RAZR, the Motorola XOOM 2 has forgivingly rounded corners, tapered sides and soft touch material almost everywhere your hand naturally rests. While it might lack the slender profile of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, it packs a smaller surface area at the corners thanks to its meeker bezels. Accordingly, when in portrait, it sits more comfortably in the hand than any 10-inch tablet we've used in the past. There's a bit of weight behind the Motorola XOOM 2 when compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, though it comes in lighter than the Apple iPad 2 and offers even weighting and a solid feel in the process.
Shipping a similar 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 LCD screen to the original Motorola XOOM (and every other 10.1-inch Android tablet on the market), the display quality of its predecessor was sorely lacking when compared to other tablets released shortly after. With the second coming, the Motorols XOOM 2 offers an "improved HD 10.1-inch screen", but unfortunately still suffers from the yellow hues that plagued the original. Good viewing-angles help remedy this somewhat, however, when compared side by side to its most obvious competitors, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2, the quality just isn't there.
Working our way around the XOOM 2 and below is something we wish was on more tablets, a microUSB port, as well as a micro HDMI port. Also on the bottom is a flap covering what looks to be a SIM card and expandable storage slot. Sadly, no, it is just a flap there for no reason whatsoever - perhaps a 3G model is on its way and Motorola didn't want to build two chassis? Whatever the reason, this will confuse a lot of customers. On the tapered right hand side is a rubberised power button and volume rocker. While above is a 3.5mm headphone jack and oddly enough, an IR port to use in conjunction with the Dijit app pre-installed. While it may sound superfluous, Dijit actually offers pretty cool remote control functionality for your TV. The device is splash-proofed so should be amongst the hardiest of the tablet bunch, however, when faces with fingerprints, it's smudge central.
With a very familiar Android 3.2 - Honeycomb experience, the Motorola XOOM 2 neither disappoints nor excites. From the lock screen, Motorola have introduced their own thin typeface which looks a little bit understated in our opinion. Unlock the Motorola XOOM 2, and the Honeycomb icons have also had the Motorola treatment, with a retro, Pan Am look and feel.
A sticky notepad sits on the bottom right of the Motorola XOOM 2 screen, next to the clock and notifications bar. Tapping this opens a pop-out with three options, floating notes, open notes and Evernote. Floating notes is a quick note taking system allowing for either hand written notes or text, all in a floating window that can be dragged about the screen. Open opens a previously created floating note while Evernote opens the Evernote app. This is a useful, quick and intuitive feature, though we would have really liked to see a full-screen option as the floating window is a fixed size occupying less than half the screen, a bit small for our over-sized hands. Complementing this is a floating notes widget, either displaying a full note, or a stack of notes you can thumb through.
The rest of the Motorola XOOM 2 is pretty much pure Honeycomb - five homescreens, 3D transitions, Google search up top and notification bar down below.
With a host of apps pre-installed when you turn on your Motorola XOOM 2, aside from Digit which we mentioned earlier, you'll also find a full version of Quickoffice HD and trials of Fuze Meeting, GoToMeeting and Twonky.
Quickoffice HD is a great productivity tool and one of the best mobile office editing suites around. GoToMeeting is a video-conferencing app from Citrix and Twonky is a DLNA service. It seems like something of an afterthought to jam Twonky on the Motorola XOOM 2, with the Motorola RAZR for example shipping with DLNA support at no additional cost.
What really impressed us and helped make up for this however was MotoCast, a Motorola service that streams content from your PC straight to your XOOM 2. It's simple to set up (though can take a while to install) and works with a simple username and password combination, giving you access to your files whenever, wherever you're connected.
Well equipped to handle your HD video, with a micro HDMI out, 1.2GHz dual-core processor and HD display, the Motorola XOOM 2 should shine in the multimedia department. The reality is, content looks smooth on the device, but thanks to the screen woes we mentioned earlier, colours aren't as saturated as we would have liked and the whites are a bit too yellow. Outputting content through the HDMI port worked well, playing 720p video back smoothly.
As with most Honeycomb tabs including the original XOOM, Google Music is on the Motorola XOOM 2 and does a good job of managing music content. Audio effects also give some enhanced audio options, making this one of the best tablets in terms of sound from the 3.5mm headphone jack - just be sure to switch off the default 'Bass Punch' as it makes even the best tracks sound like a hip-hop infused didgeridoo.
The 5-megapixel camera on the reverse does a pretty good job of picture taking for a tablet. Sporting an f/2.8 lens, it's certainly passable for screen-based viewing. Motorola do over-soften their pictures, so they can come up a little shy on detail, however noise handling is considerably better than some of the competition like the Asus Transformer. The camera interface is the stock Android 3.2 UI and is accordingly under-whelming, with limited options and no touch to focus.
Video fares similarly, with good overall performance. It records in 720p, and does so extremely smoothly at 30fps. Colours look good and detail is strong, though what really lets down the video performance is the lack of autofocus - again, a gripe with the stock Honeycomb interface. We look forward to seeing this remedied in when the Motorola XOOM 2 gets Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich.
If you want to take shed-loads of music and HD video content on the go, then unfortunately the Motorola XOOM 2 will probably leave you cold. With 16GB onboard, and 12GB available for your content, you'll probably have it filled up with two or three 720p films. There isn't any expandable storage, so options are pretty limited, though if you're confident you'll have a connection most of the time, then the MotoCast functionality can open you up to your entire multimedia library remotely.
Connectivity and performance
With all the staples for Android tablets, you'll find Wi-Fi and a GPS on the XOOM 2, though no 3G. As mentioned earlier, there is also an IR port up top, turning your XOOM 2 into a universal remote. This worked well offering a range of about 1.5-2m.
Web browsing is extremely fast and smooth, easily out-performing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. While the yellowy hue of the screen is especially noticeable with white pages, once your eyes adjust, it's passable. Motorola have included a feature when browsing that allows a thumb to be placed on the active area of the screen for support, but not be registered as a touch, so as the right hand does all the swiping, pinching and tapping, the left can hold the tab in the most comfortable way - a great feature that works really well.
The 1.2 GHz TI OMAP processor inside makes the Motorola XOOM 2 the most powerful Android tablet on the market right now. Right now however, in the world of tech is never very long, and in this instance, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is already casting its quad-core shadow over Motorola's crown. The XOOM 2 still performs well and there will definitely be a place for dual-core slates in 2012, albeit the lower-end of the spectrum, making the release of Motorola's new flagship tab somewhat bittersweet.
You can expect little under 9 hours of battery on the XOOM 2. With heavy use, this translates to about a day, but if used sparingly, two to three.
We're torn. On the one hand - charming customizations such as floating notes, a pretty reasonable price tag and solid performance make the Motorola XOOM 2 a good tablet. We really enjoyed making use of an IR port on a mobile device for the first time in years and MotoCast works a treat. On the other hand however, we can't help but feel that it's a 95% complete job. A random flap on the bottom with slots underneath but no function, the camera using Honeycomb's stock interface with no touch-focus and the screen with its undeniable yellow hue all dampen our enthusiasm for the Motorola XOOM 2. So while you won't go far wrong with it if you're after the most durable, splash-proof and well-specced sub £400 tab with some great functionality, if you're looking for the slickest, elegant and most refined Android tab on the market, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.