Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 Is Tablet Xoom Should Have Been

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-12-18
 
 
 

Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 Is Tablet Xoom Should Have Been


Forgive me for this eye-roll inducing observation, but high-tech is often the hunting ground for the game of hindsight being 20-20. New evidence of that struck me dead center this past week as I tested Motorola Mobility's (NYSE:MMI) follow-up to its Xoom tablet, the Droid Xyboard 10.1.

Consumers can purchase the tablet, which weighs 1.29 pounds and is 0.34 inches thin, now in 16GB ($529.99), 32GB ($629.99) and 64GB ($729.99) editions with a two-year contract from Verizon Wireless.

You can read the speeds, feeds and specifications here. The 32GB Xyboard I tested was a data-chugging monster that runs Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and Verizon's 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). I've tested other 4G tablets before, including AT&T's HTC Jetstream and the HTC Evo View 4G. Neither is as fast as the Xyboard.

As one of the early testers of the Xoom, which ran the often buggy Honeycomb 3.0, I can safely say Google has worked out the freezing quirks with 3.2, which I previously tested on Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus slate last month. Honeycomb let me drag and drop widgets fluidly across all five home screens.

Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Facebook for Android, Twitter for Android, Google Music and several other apps of various chunkiness ran great as programs with which to kick the tires. The Xyboard passed the more strenuous tests with Angry Birds Seasons, YouTube and Netflix, which is included on the tablet.

Netflix, which was revamped to have larger touch targets, looked great on the Xyboard's In-Plane Switching (IPS) high-definition display, which is designed for wide viewing angles. This makes it easier for more than one person to watch something on the tablet. I watched one quick episode of "Parks & Recreation" without so much as a hiccup on the app.

The Xyboard's camera is an HD 5-megapixel back shutter (the Jetstream has a great 8MP rear camera), which pairs well with the 1.3MP HD camera in front for video chat via Google Talk or Skype.

Xyboard camera and video shoots looked middling to great. My favorite part about the Xyboard's photo capabilities is that once you log into the tablet with your Google account, photos from your Picasa Web albums populate the gallery application. This was an awesome perk.

The Xyboard has a smaller twin, the Xyboard 8.2. While that slate is focused mostly on media consumption, the bigger brother is "enterprise-ready."

It's a corporate road warrior's dream in the sense that it comes preloaded with Citrix's Receiver desktop virtualization and Go To Meeting Web conferencing software, as well as Web conferencing apps such as Fuze Meeting and Polycom's RealPresence Mobile app for business users. QuickOffice HD is also preloaded to let workers access their documents on the go.

Xyboard as Corporate Tablet


 

Many salespeople use the iPad for presentations. They would do well to consider the Xyboard as an alternative for virtual collaboration. To that end, the Xyboard 10.1 also has a stylus to let users take notes and save them in the cloud via the Evernote application.

For me, the Xyboard has two major black marks, which may or may not be deal-breakers for premium tablet shoppers.

First are the power and volume keys. The power button is a ridiculous, recessed little piece of soft rubber on the right side of the tablet. The volume button is made of the same material, only raised slightly higher, presumably so users don't have to fumble and risk dropping the device as they're watching a movie or gaming.

The Xyboard's rounded edges make these buttons that much harder to locate simply by touch. I often had to flip the tablet over to find the buttons. Any time you have to do that on a personal gadget that you're going to use a lot, it's a deal-breaker.

Second, and this one is bigger, is that the stylus technology Motorola added to the Xyboard is pretty poor. It was slow, balky and barely responsive for nearly all of my writing gestures. I had to frequently slow down and often erase and rewrite letters and other sketches with the digital eraser.

To see if the digital pen was that unresponsive, I tried using my forefinger. I actually had better luck writing notes with my pointer finger than I did with the plastic pen, and switching from pen to brush to eraser mode was also a chore. I offer this critique with some authority because I've used two tablets imbued with HTC's Scribe digital ink pen and software, the HTC Evo View 4G and the HTC Jetstream 4G on AT&T.

I thoroughly enjoyed drawing, composing notes and saving them to Evernote on those slates. Scribe made the experience so fluid and effortless, and upon logging in, all of the notes and drawings I made on previous tablets with Evernote were displayed.

Motorola may want to make the stylus a selling point for people who want to jot notes, but if you're in the hunt for a tablet that does this, I cannot recommend the Xyboard as of now. Go with tablets compatible with HTC Scribe. You won't regret it. Anyway, the Xyboard doesn't need it. The soft keyboard is well-designed for heavy typing. Honeycomb tablets have gotten quite cozy for typing.

Hidden buttons and subpar stylus aside, the Xyboard is a solid tablet, equipped as it is with speedy application processing and buoyed by Verizon's 4G LTE network. And the 7,000-mAh battery held up reasonably well, with 7 hours of Web surfing and Netflix watching via LTE.

If you want a premium Honeycomb tablet that is faster than an iPad but priced similarly, I can suggest the Xyboard. It's the tablet Motorola should have launched a year ago instead of the Xoom.

 


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