Despite the Motorola XOOM 2 priced slightly lower than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and featuring a little more power under the hood, it is bulkier, has more angles and looks less refined. From the offset therefore, it looks like an age old style versus substance war. Lets dig a little deeper and figure out just what’s better about which tablet and which we’d choose out of the two.
Design and Build
Both the Tab 10.1 and the XOOM 2 take markedly different approaches when it comes to build. With the Tab 10.1 being the definition of conformist sleek, with minimality being the goal the Motorola XOOM 2 plants its angles firmly in the rugged camp, weather-proofing its screen and adopting corners where the tab 10.1 employs curves.
The rounded Tab 10.1 sits comfortably in the hand and is distinctly lighter than the Motorola XOOM 2, weighing in at 560g as opposed to the Motorola XOOM 2’s 599g. Being thinner and more uniform in terms of overall aesthetic, there is few design risks taken with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The soft-touch material on the XOOM 2 does feel more grippy and tactile and steep angled corners when held in portrait orientation ensure the XOOM wedges itself extremely comfortably in the hands. Overall however, aesthetic and feel goes to Samsung. The XOOM 2 unfortunately feels like a 95% complete job, with a mystery rubber flap below housing absolutely no ports whatsoever and a painfully finger-print friendly screen.
Speaking of the screen, with both slates sporting virtually identical specs on paper in this department, they should deliver similar performance. Sadly, this isn’t the case with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 trouncing the Motorola XOOM 2. Measuring 10.1 inches, and offering LCD technology, the discrepancy mainly comes down to colour reproduction. While both displays are roughly as responsive as one another, the Motorola XOOM 2 bears an unfortunate yellow palour. Most noticable when viewing web pages, white looks distinctly dull, with brightness levels on the XOOM 2 also being markedly inferior to the Samsung Tab 10.1. Viewing angles are comparable and while both love finger-prints, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 fends them of considerably better.
Just when we thought the Samsung Galaxy tab had it in the bag when it comes to design however, we get to ports, and ports is where the Motorola XOOM 2 rugby tackles the dainty Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1flat. Not only is the Motorola XOOM 2 blessed with an HDMI out to export all that wonderful movie content you capture and import, it also has an IR port and charges via micro USB, showing up the proprietary charger found on the Tab 10.1. What this means is that your phone and tablet will more than likely be able to use the same charger – minimising wires and fuss.
With both slates bearing Google’s tablet optimised version of Android, also known as Honeycomb, Motorola and Samsung have taken some different approaches to making the UI as intuitive and appealing as possible. As with all Samsung handsets and tablets running Android (with the exception of the Nexus line), Samsung’s own interface, TouchWiz is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1’s charm offensive, with native screenshots, a shortcut dock and bespoke widgets on-board. Motorola’s XOOM 2 also throws something different into the mix, with a focus on note taking being it’s main differentiator from stock Honeycomb.
Both are intuitive enough with key interactions being very similar to stock Honeycomb. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the most heavily skinned, with the inclusion of a sticky dock adding shortcuts to task manager, calendar, pen memo, calculator, music player and world clock. The shortcuts can’t be changed unfortunately and the dock can’t be switched off. We found it generally being more of a hindrance than a help with it being accidentally activated while in other apps. The bespoke TouchWiz Widgets are handy and tablet optimised, more so than the stock honeycomb ones and with other useful tweaks like a screenshot shortcut in the bottom left hand corner, other than the dock, which could nevertheless be useful to a lot of people, we really like Samsung’s customisations.
Motorola’s UI tweaks are less pervasive, with the overall skinning being identical to stock Honeycomb aside from note taking integration and redrawing of app icons to match the Pan Am chic styling as found in the rest of Motorola’s line.
The note taking integration comes in the form of shortcuts in the bottom right hand side to complement the Active Stylus accessory that can be bought separately for £22. This means wherever you are within the Motorola XOOM 2, you can easily jump to enter a hand drawn or a text note. We’re partial to this more minimalist approach to skinning of Honeycomb, and also found screen transitions on the XOOM 2 TO be slightly more fluid.
Unfortunately however interaction with the UI of the XOOM 2 suffers thanks to the screen quality as mentioned earlier. In addition, the apps included on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are more comprehensive and are all the complete versions as opposed to many trial versions of semi-useful apps we could just download from the market pre-loaded on the XOOM 2. In terms of UI therefore, despite both tablets holding their ground, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 wins out.
Both tabs offer very comparable keyboard experiences, responsive and loaded with predictive options if needed. With identical screen sizes our typing speeds and experiences were equally in the upper echelon of keyboards on slates, with the XOOM 2 winning out in portrait orientation thanks to the angled sides wedging more comfortably in the hand. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 does offer Swype if you prefer, however on a large screen, we find it to require too much travel, preferring instead the standard offering.
With the Samsung Galaxy Tab toting a 5-megapixel sensor, it loses pixel wise and in terms of performance to the Motorola XOOM 2 8-megapixels. What saves the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 from being considerably worse is its UI supremacy.
Both autofocus modules perform similarly, focusing well. The XOOM 2 handles noise better and also picks up more detail. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 also has a bad habit of overexposing as you can see from the examples above delivering duller colours.
The stock camera UI on the XOOM 2 is sadly very dated in terms of options and lacks modern day standards such as touch to focus, making the whole photo taking experience feel considerably less refined in contrast to Samsung’s extensive set of in camera options and shooting modes.
It’s a similar story with the HD video, with the UIs affecting user experience immensely. That said, the continuous autofocus on the Samsung Galaxy Tab really sets the two apart and gives Samsung yet another win over the Motorola XOOM 2.
With 16GB on each tablet and about 12GB usable for personal files on the XOOM 2 and 13GB on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, that equates to about 18-20 standard definition movies or 3500 songs. Motocast helps this non-expandable memory along, allowing a PC to stream its entire media library to a XOOM 2 which is great provided you have a net connection.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola XOOM 2 play back media content well. Video plays smoothly and detail is strong overall. The optimal brightness and colour vibrancy on the Tab 10.1 however once again tips the balance in it’s favour, hardly surprising considering the majority of interaction with a slate is through its screen.
Audio quality on the on board speakers is very comparable. With both emoting stereo sound, they suffer from the same tinnyness, but offer good volume output. The Motorola XOOM 2 does however offer more options through the 3.5mm jack, with a custom equaliser, though be warned, as standard it’s set to Mega bass which sounds terrible. Change it however and you’re onto some truly decent sound.
The Samsung Music Hub is also of note, with 7 Digital integration for music buying options not to mention attractive content management, it’s very slick, offering a far more refined UI than that of the XOOM 2.
Virtually identical, the only connectivity feature that differs between tabs is the IR port on the XOOM 2 which enables remote control functionality for a TV / set top box. Otherwise, it’s Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth as standard. The remote control integration works a treat on the XOOM 2 and adds nicely to living room tablet device usage.
This is another area the XOOM 2 pitches ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. With its 1.2GHz processor giving it the edge in terms of raw power content is noticeably quicker to load. That said, the Samsung’s better looking whites make viewing pages on the Tab 10.1 more enjoyable.
With overall speeds being comparable throughout, the XOOM 2 edges ahead most noticably in web browsing. Otherwise, there really is very little in it. It ultimately will come down to other variables such as the splash proof screen and sturdiness of the XOOM 2 in comparison to the slenderness and preferably screen of the Tab 10.1.
So we end as we begun, pitching style against substance. On paper, the Motorola XOOM 2 offers more processor, more connectivity and more value for money, costing £399 in contrast to the Tab 10.1’s asking price of £449. That said, most tablet users will prefer the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the view that less is more – less size, less angles and less weight. So while both slates have their perks, we’d happily front an extra £50 and make the slender Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 our winner in this head to head.