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Motorola XOOM Review

Motorola’s big launch of CES 2011 and the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet on the market, the Motorola XOOM has a lot to live up to. In its haste to reach Verizon shelves, the XOOM could seem a little half-baked; it doesn’t get Flash Player support for another few weeks, and won’t have 4G until an update sometime in Q2. Still, as the iPad has shown, there are undoubtedly benefits to being first out of the gate, and there’s undoubtedly plenty on offer. Can the XOOM bypass pricing skepticism? Check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.

 

Hardware and Performance

Motorola’s design is sober and discrete, and where the iPad shows off its brushed metal the XOOM seemingly prefers to let the 10.1-inch display do the talking. It’s a 160dpi, 1280 x 800 WXGA panel with a capacitive touchscreen supporting multitouch gestures, and while it doesn’t use the same IPS technology as the Apple slate, it still manages decent viewing angles. We’ve had no issues with touchscreen responsiveness, though at 9.8 x 6.61 x 0.51 inches and 25.75oz it’s a somewhat heavy device, and one-handed use can get tiring.

Inside, NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 is calling the shots, a dual-core 1GHz SoC paired with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and 32GB of integrated storage. Although the XOOM has a microSD card slot, currently the tablet doesn’t support it; similarly, there’s an LTE SIM slot – filled with a blanking card – but that won’t be used until Verizon updates the tablet to 4G in Q2 2011. Instead, you get EVDO Rev.A, WiFi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, along with USB 2.0 and mini HDMI ports. Motorola is readying a WiFI-only XOOM, but that isn’t expected until later in the year.

We’ve seen sensors of various types proliferate on smartphones, and the XOOM ups the ante. As well as GPS, an accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor and gyroscope, there’s a barometer for measuring air pressure. So far there’s no actual use for it in Honeycomb, but since it’s available for third-party developers to tap into via the Android 3.0 APIs, it’s only a matter of time before somebody takes advantage.

On the front is a 2-megapixel fixed-focus camera and a tricolor notification LED, though no physical controls, while on the back is a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with a dual-LED flash. It’s flanked by stereo speakers and the power/standby button. The only other hardware control is the volume rocker on the left hand edge. A 3.5mm headphone socket is on the top edge of the slate.

Benchmarking Android devices is something of an inexact science, with various tools – synthetic and real-world – in common use and lingering issues around multicore compatibility. We ran Quadrant on the XOOM, and the Tegra 2 based slate scored 2,126. Meanwhile, in Linpack the XOOM managed 36.166, and BenchmarkPi crunched through in 559 milliseconds.

Perhaps more importantly, however, the XOOM whipped through everyday tasks with hardly a pause. Panning through the 3D-style homescreen was lag- and jerk-free, the app menu opened without delay, and apps themselves sprang to life as fast as we’ve seen on an Android device. In comparison, the single-core 7-inch Galaxy Tab feels sluggish. The healthy chunk of RAM meant that heavier webpages still rendered successfully and panned/zoomed without protest, even with multiple tabs open.

Software

We’ve already covered Android 3.0 Honeycomb in our separate review of the new tablet OS, and – in keeping with a Google Experience device – Motorola has left the software well alone on the XOOM. It’s a sensible decision, given Honeycomb’s degree of polish. In fact, the hardest part for most people has been finding the power button, which Motorola has put on the back of the slate.

The untampered OS should also mean that, as Google rolls out newer versions of Android, the XOOM is hopefully first in line to receive them, something that can’t be said the same for Motorola’s smartphone range. Considering the attention Android fragmentation gets, that’s a big element in the XOOM’s favor.

Cameras and Multimedia

Motorola has outfitted the XOOM with two cameras, a 5-megapixel unit on the back, complete with auto-focus and an accompanying dual-LED flash, and a 2-megapixel fixed-focus camera on the front that’s primarily intended for video calls. They take advantage of Honeycomb’s new camera app, complete with various effects and shooting modes, and are easily controlled with the new circular shortcut wheel (though there’s no dedicated camera shortcut key on the slate).

Stills from the 5-megapixel main camera are good, though not outstanding. The biggest surprise was how comfortable taking photos is on a tablet; while the 7-inch Galaxy Tab felt like a somewhat ridiculous, oversized smartphone, the 10.1-inch XOOM doesn’t feel awkward, and the large on-screen controls make it straightforward. Currently the Motorola tops out at 720p HD video recording at 30fps, though an update to support 1080p HD is promised at some point in the future. Clips are on a par with Motorola’s smartphone range, with generally jerk-free footage that only shows smearing on faster pans. The dual-LED flash can be used as a video light, but it’s only really of use in mildly darker environments.

As for the front camera, while it can be used for stills and video, it’s unsurprisingly not adept at either. Motorola has tuned it for video call duty, and in that it does well, producing a reasonably crisp picture that manages to keep detail even when compressed for a 3G stream. The fixed-focus does mean you lack sharpness, however, not so noticeable in video but making vanity shots unimpressive.

Photos, video and audio can be played back either on the slate itself – with the XOOM’s stereo speakers proving underwhelming for all but the most casual of listening – or, using the HDMI 1.4 output and bundled cable, on a nearby big-screen TV. The entire interface is mirrored on both the external display and the touchscreen, making for easier control, and the XOOM can handle up to 1080p Full HD playback. We’ve commented on Android 3.0′s paucity of native codec support in our OS review, but thankfully there are various third-party media players in the Android Market that do a better job with video content other MP4, WebM, 3GP and H.264/H.263. Footage is crisp, as you’d expect, and with 32GB of onboard storage there’s a decent amount of capacity for media. It’s worth noting that, if you’re a Mac user, you’ll have to install the new Android File Transfer tool, since Honeycomb won’t be recognized by OS X as a USB drive without it.

What you don’t get, at this stage, is Flash support. Adobe is busy working on Flash Player 10.2 for Honeycomb, but right now there’s not even 10.1 for backward compatibility. It’s another reason the XOOM feels somewhat rushed to market, and it knocks an important selling point from the Motorola’s roster. Yes, Flash is on its way, but with the iPad 2 launch imminent, Motorola really needed all its strengths in one place to take on the iOS slate.

Connectivity and Battery

The XOOM isn’t short on connectivity, with EVDO Rev.A, WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and USB 2.0, along with a 4G LTE update in the pipeline, but it’s worth noting that it won’t make voice calls. Verizon’s agreement is for data only, which means that if you want to actually talk with someone using the XOOM you’ll have to pick a VoIP client. Still, with Skype, Fring, Qik and others in the Android Market, and Google Talk preinstalled in Honeycomb, most users should find something to fit that gap.

As well as using the 3G connection for onboard surfing, Honeycomb comes with a mobile hotspot app that can be used to share the data out with up to five WiFi-tethered clients. It’ll likely incur a surcharge, however: Verizon has only said that data access will start from $20 per month for 1GB, and we’re assuming that, like the carrier’s phones, hotspot service will be a higher-tier package.

Verizon is also yet to detail the 4G update, which means we don’t yet know how early-adopters of the XOOM will convert their 3G tablet into an LTE one come Q2 2011. It’s possible that this is a modem firmware update, which could be released OTA or as a sideloaded install, or alternatively owners may have to take their XOOM into a Verizon store or even send it off. Still, Verizon has said it will be a free update, though it hasn’t confirmed whether there’ll be a 4G surcharge on top of the regular 3G data package.

Battery life, meanwhile, has been very impressive. With very heavy use, the XOOM lasted over 14hrs – over 8hrs of which the screen was on – before shutting down. Bear in mind that’s undergoing testing for this review, meaning a combination of browsing, media playback (both using the XOOM’s display and via the HDMI output), both WiFi and 3G connections, streaming media and photography. With more casual use, especially if predominantly browsing, we’d expect to see 9hrs or more. That’s a little less than an iPad, certainly, but still enough to be considered a strong showing in our opinion. A full recharge takes around 3.5hrs.

Accessories

Verizon provided two official accessories with our review unit, the Speaker HD Dock and a Bluetooth Keyboard. The dock is, surprisingly, more basic than that offered for the Motorola ATRIX 4G, having only power and mini HDMI connectivity. It will charge the XOOM and allows you to have a wired connection to your HDTV permanently hooked up, but we’d have preferred it if Motorola had used a full-sized HDMI port. We’re guessing the choice of a mini connector was so that the cable bundled with the tablet could be used with the dock as well, but given most users aren’t going to want to keep swapping a single cord between their bag and the dock, opting for the more common (and cheaper) full sized HDMI would have been a more sensible decision. The integrated 5W stereo speakers are more powerful than the XOOM’s own, which makes for stronger audio during video playback together with more easily audible video chats.

As for the Bluetooth keyboard, that also works as you’d expect it to, hooking up wirelessly with no issues and then allowing for easier text entry than the on-screen ‘board. It’s worth noting that, since the XOOM supports the standard Human Interface Device (HID) protocol, you can use a non-Motorola Bluetooth keyboard you might already have. Motorola’s ‘board is actually the same as offered for the ATRIX 4G, which means it adds in shortcuts to various Android apps. It’s also reasonably comfortable to type on.

Motorola also offers a Portfolio Case for the XOOM, though we didn’t have that on hand to test. As with similar examples for other tablets, it basically allows you to prop the XOOM up for easier on-screen typing or watching videos, as well as folding around to protect the display during transport. Finally, there’s a Standard Dock, which props the XOOM up and recharges it, which we also didn’t have in to test.

 

http://asset.slashgear.tv/sgplayer.swf

 

Pricing and Value

Cost is likely to be the XOOM’s most contentious aspect. Verizon and Motorola have priced the slate at $799.99 without a contact or $599.99 with a new, two-year agreement on a data-only plan. With the cheapest data package Verizon offers – $20 per month for 1GB – that adds up to almost $1,080 over the course of the contract.

In contrast, Apple’s 32GB iPad WiFi + 3G is $729. That’s less than the unsubsidized XOOM, but more than the on-contract version; however, AT&T allows iPad owners to activate and deactivate 3G service as they see fit, rather than locking them into a monthly commitment. You also get more for your money on AT&T, with iPad 3G plans offering either 250MB per month for $14.99 or 2GB for $25.

The XOOM is likely to fall in price after a couple of months – there’s always an early-adopter premium to be paid – but it’s not the home-run we’d hoped it might be. It’s worth remembering that, even if you don’t want to use Verizon’s data and only rely on WiFi to connect, you’ll still have to pay for a month’s worth of service and the activation fee.

Wrap-Up

Despite the absence of Flash support and the absence of 4G, there’s a lot to like about the Motorola XOOM. It’s a solid, discretely handsome slate, with strong battery life and whip-crack performance. Against it are the premium price tag and the ridiculous mandatory first-month data fee; frankly, Verizon have missed a trick by not giving buyers a free first month in the hope of getting them hooked to the convenience of 3G.

Much of the XOOM’s strength comes from Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and there’s little doubting that Google’s tablet-centric OS is the star of the show here. As we found in our full software review, it’s a convincing and polished platform, which brings a highly usable multitasking environment to the tablet marketplace, neatly distinct from the “oversized smartphone” accusations levied at previous Android slates.

Until Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and LG’s G-Slate reach shelves, the XOOM has the Honeycomb space all to itself. Still, neither Motorola nor Google can afford to rest on their respective laurels. The iPad 2 is expected to debut a mere week after the XOOM goes on sale, and considering the first-gen version is still the benchmark by which new tablets are measured, the second-gen model is only going to raise the table stakes.

Nonetheless, we’re impressed by the XOOM, and by Honeycomb. Neither feels like a compromise, and with the heft of the Android Market behind them, the gap between Android and iOS has narrowed drastically. The XOOM may only be the first Honeycomb slate, but it’s a strong start to what’s going to be a fiercely competitive race.

ALSO have a look at our Android Honeycomb Review as well as an informative post by our sister site Android Community: Motorola XOOM and Honeycomb Review [All Questions Answered].

Motorola DroidX & Droid 2 get a fancy Gingerbread Port

Just as I’m sure many of you like to do. We here at AC love to see all the great work the dev’s over at XDA Developers do. Today I have some news about a very nice Port for the Motorola DroidX and the Droid 2. Over in the forums they’ve built a nice Gingerbread Themed ROM using the SDK. So all you Big Red Moto users don’t have to wait for an Official Gingerbread OTA. Get your Gingerbread now.

 

Whats Even more exciting is you can add as much, or as little of the “MotoBlur” UI as you’d like. This is basically a stock Android 2.2.1 build that has been themed very well to look, act, & feel like Gingerbread. It looks great. If you’d like to know more or see how this port has came along you can read here where we told you about this Rom back in December when it was first getting off the ground. As always with flashing a Rom or any zip, be careful and do a nandroid backup first. They are lifesavers. I will mention the DX & Droid 2 are some of the easiest phones to brick so as always, Use caution.

Installation Instructions:

Note: Users coming from 1.3.1 may be safe to keep data and cache. If there are problems, then factory reset.

-Uninstall updates to Market, Gmail, ADW Launcher, & Search if they’re there under Settings->Applications->Manage Applications first.
-Place file on your sdcard. Bootstrap recovery and reboot recovery
-Select Factory Reset (delete data/cache)
-Return to previous menu and install .zip from sd card
-Choose ApeX and install!

Download Links:
Droid X v1.4.0
Droid 2 v1.4.0

[via XDA Forums] — Thanks Dino!

AT&T Motorola ATRIX 4G on sale now

Motorola’s ATRIX 4G has gone on sale, arriving on AT&T’s network for $199.99 with a new, two-year agreement. As we found in the full SlashGear ATRIX 4G review, the new dual-core Motorola is one of the fastest Android handsets around, with its Tegra 2 processor and qHD adding up to a great smartphone experience.

However, it’s the accessories that many people are most excited about, with a Laptop Dock intended to replace your MacBook Air and a HD Multimedia Dock for taking advantage of the ATRIX 4G’s high-definition support. The outlook on the Laptop Dock isn’t so great, however, at least at this early stage, and we’d recommend checking out the review if you were considering junking a netbook for it.

Those doubts aside, we can’t complain too much about the ATRIX 4G itself, and we have to give Motorola and AT&T some credit for getting it to the market in a little over a month since it made its debut at CES 2011 in January.

Motorola XOOM pre-order at Best Buy: February 24 release

Motorola’s XOOM is on track to be the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet commercially available, with Best Buy stores now accepting pre-orders of the 10.1-inch slate ahead of its retail release on this coming Thursday, February 24. Priced at $799.99 complete with embedded Verizon 3G broadband – and set for a 4G update later in the year – the XOOM is also being offered with a range of accessories.

 

They include the Motorola XOOM desktop dock, priced at $49.99, and the Motorola XOOM speaker dock, priced at $129.99. There’s also a portfolio case which flips into a stand for the tablet, at $39.99, and a Bluetooth keyboard for $69.99.

Unfortunately online pre-sales aren’t supported, so you’ll have to head down to your nearest bricks & mortar Best Buy if you’re interested, and currently the 3G version is the only XOOM on offer. The WiFi-only model will follow on in Q2 2011. More details in our hands-on with the XOOM.

AT&T Motorola ATRIX 4G already rooted

Motorola hasn’t been too keen on Android modders tinkering with its smartphones, throwing in various locked-down bootloaders and other frustrations to prevent the hardware running custom ROMs. Unfortunately for Moto, however, there’s nothing a hacker likes more than a challenge, and so it comes as little surprise to discover that the Motorola ATRIX 4G has been rooted before it’s even on shelves.

 

According to BriefMobile it’s the handiwork of AT&T developer DesignGears, who has sent out images of his ATRIX 4G with Superuser access and running Titanium Backup to show that the phone has been modded. Right now the instructions on how to actually gain root access aren’t public, but then since the phone itself isn’t either that’s probably no great issue.

AT&T confirmed earlier in the week that the ATRIX 4G would arrive earlier than expected, dropping into stores from February 22 (and reaching pre-order customers on February 21) rather than in early March as originally suggested. More details on the phone in our full unboxing and hands-on.

[via Android Community]

Motorola ATRIX 4G Unboxing and hands-on

CES 2011 had its share of stand-out products, and Motorola’s name was on a number of them. TheMotorola ATRIX 4G has dropped onto the SlashGear test bench on its way to AT&T, along with the majority of its accessories – including the clever Laptop Dock – and that calls for an unboxing and some first impressions.

Video after the cut

 

With a 4-inch display the ATRIX 4G isn’t going to be a small phone, but it packs in a lot more pixels than other Android handsets with the same screen size. That’s because Motorola has used a 960 x 540 qHD panel, just short of the iPhone 4′s 960 x 640 Retina Display. In total there are 518,000 pixels (versus the iPhone 4′s 614,000) which adds up to a far smoother screen than, say, the WVGA Nexus S. It’s also highly usable outside, which is more than we can say for many LCDs.

The casing is plastic but feels high quality, and Motorola has given the battery cover a carbon-fiber style finish that does a good job of hiding fingerprints. There’s also a very clever combination power button and fingerprint scanner, which allows you to power on and unlock the ATRIX 4G with a simple swipe; I’ve had no problems getting it to recognize my finger, but there’s a PIN backup for manual access.

On the back is a camera with dual-LED flash (note, I accidentally say the ATRIX 4G has an 8-megapixel camera in the video; it actually has a 5-megapixel camera) capable of shooting HD video. A front-facing webcam supports video calls, though you’ll need an app like Fring in order to do so since Android still doesn’t include native video call functionality.

So far the ATRIX 4G has proved generally reliable and fast, with the Tegra 2 processor delivering the superphone speeds NVIDIA promised. Still, I’ve had 5-6 lock-ups with the phone becoming unresponsive, generally when handling large amounts of data (for instance, when downloading my address book). OS is Android 2.2.1 with MOTOBLUR on top, and that’s pretty much identical to the software experience on other Motorola devices. The haptic response is improved, however, feeling almost localized when using the on-screen keyboard.

AT&T and Motorola also sent over most of the official accessories that will be offered alongside the ATRIX 4G, including the Laptop Dock, Desktop Dock and a separate external keyboard and mouse set (only the Car Kit is missing). The Laptop Dock is probably the most interesting of the three, slightly larger than a regular 11.6-inch ultraportable because of the ATRIX 4G docking section at the back; the question remains whether it’s worth the several hundred dollar price tag, considering it’s dependent on the smartphone for its functionality.

The Desktop Dock packs three USB ports, HDMI, power and audio-out, and comes with a useful multimedia remote. With it, the ATRIX 4G turns into a potent multimedia center, supporting 1080p HD. It should also appeal to business users, too, given that the handset comes with support for Citrix Receiver.

So far, so promising, and the ATRIX 4G certainly looks to be shaping up as one of the stand-out smartphones of 2011. Pre-ordering for the AT&T Motorola ATRIX 4G will begin on February 13, with deliveries from March 6;

Motorola XOOM to be $800 tips Best Buy advert; due February 24

Motorola’s XOOM Superbowl advert is already prompting arguments about whether the whole thing was all too iPod-esque, but we’d wager not as many arguments as leaked pricing details for the Android 3.0 Honeycomb slate. According to a Best Buy advert passed to Engadget – which suggests the XOOM will land in-store on February 24 – the 10.1-inch tablet will be all of $799.99 with a month-to-month data agreement.

Four data plans are offered by Verizon, ranging from 1GB per month for $20, through 3GB and 5GB for $35 and $50 respectively, and finally 10GB for $80. According to the fine print, “To activate WiFi functionality on this device, a minimum of one month data subscription is required.”

Motorola Atrix 4G Receives AT&T Mobile Minute Treatment [Video]

Our good pal Daniel is back to present the world with another “Mobile Minute” courtesy of the AT&T Social Media Team. This method for showing off Android smartphones was last used on the similar, but not the same, HTC Inspire 4G. In this video series the main fellow Daniel takes exactly 60 seconds to explain the phone at hand, making it extremely simple for basically anyone to understand what makes the phone great and worth buying. Daniel, you want a job at Android Community?

In this video, Daniel notes that the Atrix 4G has a 4 inch qHD display and weighs in at 4.8 ounces. This phone has a 2×1 GHz dual-core processor which Daniel says is “a first in the US.” It has 16 GB of onboard memory, upgradable by 48 GB by microSD card. Dual-mic noise reduction technology is in place to ensure excellent recording and call quality, and the phone runs on Android 2.2 Froyo with a Motoblur overlay. Atrix 4G has Flash installed, an onscreen QWERTY keyboard with SWYPE.

The phone has fingerprint and security unlock modes as well as employing another “first in the US” feature: webtop application and entertainment center via the HD multimedia dock and laptop dock. Mobile hotspot can be set up to connect other devices to the internet via wifi “as long as they have the correct data plan.” The device has DLNA technology allowing the user to stream content wirelessly from itself over to other DLNA compatible devices. On the back of the Atrix 4G is a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, on the front is a secondary camera of unknown proportions for video chat.

Check out the full video here:

Motorola Superbowl Ad Not 1984, Instead… 1984

Remember the advertisement we showed you a few days ago, the one that everyone was thinking was going to be the Superbowl ad for Motorola? It had a planet, some words floating toward the screen, black and white converting to color, and a joke about how 2011 wont be like 1984 – a direct calling out of Apple and its followers (aka Podlings, called thus because of their tendency to have those white iPod earbuds in their ears all day long.) Turns out now that either Motorola didn’t mean for that ad to leak, and has quickly made up another one, or that ad was just a pre-preview for the real ad, which they’re now just previewing here.

 

Take a look at the ad, see the similarities to the one from the other day. Still making fun of Apple, now showing the podlings with all their sameness walking around in a bus station. This is only a 15 second clip of the full commercial – will it be enough to turn the hoards of Apple fans back from their everloving iDevice lives? Or will Motorola’s XOOM tablet only work on those already outside the Apple circle?

MOTOROLA XOOM AND HTC THUNDERBOLT RELEASE DATES CONFIRMED

in Grand Rapids, Michigan seems to have revealed to the world the release dates of both the Motorola XOOM Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet AND the HTC ThunderBolt. The XOOM will be released on February 24th, while the ThunderBolt will be out on the 14th of February. Sounds like we’ve got a full and joyous month ahead of us. Not that we wouldn’t have already had a full an joyous month what with Mobile World Congress on the horizon, but heck, here’s the juicy bits right back in the states!

 

The Best Buy location that’s made the mistake of outing these dates early is otherwise known as Grand Rapids South, a fine location for spending your Best Buy gift cards if you wish – you could also choose to grab a Verizon iPhone4 here starting on the 10th or a Samsung Presto mobile hotspot starting on the 17th, but blah, those are secondary. You want the Honeycomb. You want the lightning crashing down from above. Hopefully these dates hold across America, we’d be glad to wait this long to get these two gems. — a shout out of thanks to our lady in the field Alex Styler for the tip!

But wait! We won’t even be in the USA! Valentine’s Day falls on the same week we’ll be out to Barcelona! Follow along with us on our magical journey via the tag MWC 2011.

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