Reviews

Motorola Xyboard – Strange name, solid tablet, serious contender? [Tablet Review]

February 1, 2012 | by Ben Crawford

Android Phones and Devices, Featured post, Google, Motorola, Motorola Tablets, Reviews, Verizon, Video Reviews

Motorola-DROID-Xyboard-10.11

Evaluated version: 10.1

Pros: Size, Design

Cons: No quad-core, no ICS, contract

I’m going to skip talking about the Xyboard name for as long as I can. Ok. The name is ridiculous; I’m moving on. As Verizon’s newest tablet, the Xyboard has a lot of weight on its shoulders from the Xoom and Galaxy 10.1 debuts. Motorola has certainly impressed me recently, but can their smartphone success translate into tablet success? Is this a worthy successor to a less-than-one-year old tablet? If you’re looking for a 4G LTE tablet, absolutely, and here’s why.

Hardware

The look and feel of the Xyboard is one of Motorola’s highest efforts over the past few months. With shaved corners and a very thin exterior, the Xyboard feels almost like an 8″ tablet. Unlike the Xoom, the frame is solidly constructed throughout and it can rival the Galaxy 10.1 for thinness, though it is heavier than the Galaxy 10.1. Thanks to Motorola’s consistent foresight in adding a mini-HDMI output, you can play the Xyboard on your big screen which you can’t with the Galaxy 10.1.

The rest of the Xyboard’s exterior is minimalistic with a black/silver aluminum frame and a power and volume rocker on the back instead of the sides of the device. I do like what Motorola does with these buttons, and I definitely think this is a more natural positioning for your hand. However, the buttons are too flush with the back and don’t offer a satisfying click whenever they’re pressed so you may miss them or not press them if you’re not paying close attention.

Screen/Camera

The high-res screen is beautiful, as it should be, but I didn’t think it was anything overly spectacular. It could get very bright, but the automatic brightness wasn’t the most intelligent sensor so I was stuck with a blinding light while reading at night. Unlike the RAZR but similar to every other tablet I’ve tried, the screen can get very smudgy. I was wiping it off with a cleaner every other day just to make it look respectable. The colors and overall screen seem better than my Transformer too.

With the camera, I have been fairly impressed with Motorola’s latest offerings. You don’t expect to have the greatest camera on a tablet, but on the Xyboard it is more than serviceable.  The photos can speak for themselves:

 

While not the sharpest photos ever, they are some of the better I’ve taken with a tablet. I even got a little artsy with these.

Software Performance

Even coming from Ice Cream Sandwich on my phone, the Honeycomb bugs and lags are more evident than ever to me now. While these two versions of Android are very close to each other, ICS offers a host of new features that make you wonder why it wasn’t included on the Xyboard. The launch window for this tablet wasn’t rushed like the Xoom’s was, and I think Motorola could have pushed back the launch to make the Xyboard the first tablet with ICS instead of being the Xoom 2.0. All that being said, Honeycomb runs smooth on the Xyboard even with the bloatware from Motorola and Verizon.

The overall layout from Honeycomb isn’t changed by Motorola which is a blessing considering Samsung’s Touchwiz overlay, and despite the custom ROM on my Transformer and at least triple the apps, the Xyboard is faster changing through screens and doing other normal OS functions than other tablets I’ve used (Transformer, Tab, Xoom). It is a bit overclocked at 1.2Ghz, but with an OMAP processor instead of the Tegra like in the others. Still, I have to question the reasons not to add the newest Tegra 3 since they should have a good relationship with Nvidia after the Xoom opened the floodgates for multi-core processors.

App Performance

Like I mentioned, the Xyboard has a little faster processor out of the gate than my Transformer, but it by no means blew the Transformer out of the water (with a lot less installed on it too). Angry Birds and Osmos were a second or so faster than my Transformer. Games like Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Shadowgun and Osmos ran wonderfully, and I noticed very little lag when switching between all of these at the same time. I thought it was interesting that the Xyboard kept apps running in the background instead of shutting them down after a while. When I went to pull up Osmos for the second time, the Xyboard brought it straight up to the menu screen instead of starting the whole game over again. Very convenient although I don’t know if this is the Xyboard itself or my Transformer shutting down the app too quickly.

The problem with Motorola devices on Verizon, usually, is the plethora of useless bloatware because both Motorola and Verizon believe heavily in it. Motocast, V Cast, VideoSurf, Slingbox, Netflix, and Blockbuster all come pre-loaded. Will you use one of these apps? Maybe, maybe not. But you certainly won’t use two or more because they all directly compete with one another! I know each company has deals with other companies, but directly competing apps that you probably don’t want shouldn’t be on the same device.

Final Thoughts

My first thought with these devices is usually, “Who is this made for?” With the Xyboard, I really can’t decide. It’s not for early adopters because they already bought the Xoom, and it’s not for power users because the Transformer Prime has a quad-core processor. It’s a slim device but without the weightlessness of the Galaxy 10.1, and only Verizon’s LTE makes this a stand-out device. While I didn’t see many flaws with the Xyboard (great design, runs smoothly, mini-HDMI), I also don’t know what makes someone want this instead of a cheaper Xoom or even iPad from Verizon.

If the Xyboard would have been released when the Xoom was, it could have blown most of our expectations away for a first-gen Android tablet. However, it’s launch is in the middle of an Android OS upgrade and a processor power-battle. The Xyboard’s design and slimness make it a great upgrade from the Xoom, but for Motorola’s next tablet, I want them to make a device that will usher in the next generation of tablets instead of releasing the best tablet at the end of the era.