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Droid Xyboard 10.1 Review

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When the Motorola Xoom was launched with Honeycomb, I was slightly disappointed by its hardware design and the below average quality of the display. Consequently, I was happily  surprised when I saw the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 for the first time, the chassis design is sleek and elegant and the IPS display offers high contrast and great color accuracy.

The Droid Xyboard 10.1, known as Xoom 2 outside of the US, has the advantage to offer Verizon 4G LTE connectivity, a convenient feature for road warriors who are tired to look for WiFi hotspots while on-the-go. With a 2-year contract, you will be able to purchase the 16 GB version for $529.99 and the 32 GB version for $629.99.

Now, let’s see what the Droid Xyboard 10.1 has to offer in terms of design, software and performance.

Specifications

Processor: OMAP 4 Dual Core 1.2 GHz
OS: Android 3.2 software (Honeycomb)
Display: 10.1” 1280 x 800, IPS LCD capacitive touch screen, pinch to zoom, light responsive, with stylus support
Connectivity: 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Micro USB, HDMIout, 3.5 mm jack – data transmission rate: USB 2.0
Multiple Networks: WCDMA 900/2100, CDMA 850/1900, GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 4G LTE Band 13, HSDPA 21.1 Mbps (Category 14), CDMA EV-DO Release B/LTE, EDGE Class 12, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
Camera: backside 5 MP camera AF with LED flash and digital zoom– frontside 1.3 MP camera (webcam)
Video: 720p HD video capture – 1080p full HD video playback – playable formats: AAC, H.263, H.264, MP3, eAAC+, OGG, MIDI, AMR NB, AAC+
Flash support: Adobe Flash Player
Memory: 16 / 32 / 64 GB built-in, 1GB RAM
Sensors: accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, ambient light, AGPS (autonomous)
Battery: 7000 mAh Li Ion
Battery Life (manufacturer estimates): browsing over WiFi, aprox 10 hours – Video Playback
Weight: 603 grams
Size: 253.9 x 173.6 x 8.8 mm
Thinness comparison: Xoom 1: 12.9 mm – iPad 2: 8.8 mm – Galaxy Tab 10.1: 8.6 mm – Asus Transformer Prime: 8.3mm
Weight comparison: Xoom 1: 730 grams/1.6 lbs – iPad 1: 680 grams/1.5 lbs – iPad 2: 590 grams/1.3 lbs – Asus Transformer Prime: 586 grams

 

Context

We always have a hard time ensuring objectivity in our reviews, since different people use electronic devices in drastically different ways depending on their needs and lifestyle. By telling you how I use a tablet, it will be easier for you to decide which aspects of this review will be useful for you to help make up your mind. I have used the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 for a few days as an additional device to my desktop computer, my MacBook Pro (running Windows), my Macbook Air (running Windows) and my Smartphone. Since I have bought the Macbook Air, I do not use a tablet for meetings as much any more, it has become more of an entertainment device from which I watch movies in my bed or in the plane, read news and books, play with apps (ie Angry Birds, Music Sreaming apps), Skype/chat with friends, check Facebook updates, play music on a mini Bluetooth speaker.

External design (good)

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I am pleased to see how well the second 10-inch tablet from Motorola has been improved compared to the first bulky Xoom, the device features the same thinness as the iPad 2.
The chassis looks sleek and elegant and gets a unique design with its angled corners, offering a refreshing differentiation in a world full of black flat screens under 9 mm thick.  Check out the photo gallery and the video below to get a sense of how the device looks like.

The start screen’s preloaded wall paper is easy on the eyes and consistent with the robotic-inspired graphic style of the Droid branding. The Droid Xyboard 10.1 is narrower and a hair wider than the iPad2 for a comparable weight, it features similar proportions as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Personally, I am not a big fan of the back cover made of two different materials, in the center, a gray brushed metal rectangle with rounded corners is encased in rubberized edges. The rubberized outer rim offers a good grip and a soft touch, which feels good in the hand, however the color combination is not very elegant. The design attempt of combining two different textures and colors is better done on the Droid Xyboard 8.2-inch version because the shapes are symmetrical.

Display (very good)

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This time, Motorola got it right on the display side, the company has surely learn its lesson from the first Xoom which featured a super reflective and below average display, an unfortunate design decision knowing that tablets are primarily content consumption devices.

The touch LCD delivers high contrasts, accurate and bright colors, similarly to top tablets on the market such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, it is  a little bit more reflective than other high-end tablets in direct sunlight, which could be annoying when you watch dark background screens while outdoors. To be fair, most tablets will have this issue to some extent, but the Motorola display looks shinier than most.

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Left: Droid Xyboard 10.1 - Right iPad 2 - both displays offer a comparable image quality

Audio (very good)

The two speakers are located at the rear of the device close to the top. When I played the first video, i was instantly surprised by the good audio quality compared to other high-end tablets. The sound is more powerful and clearer than on the Samsung Galaxy Tabs or the iPad. I tested all devices with the volume set to the maximum. We have noticed that Motorola usually delivers good audio quality on its mobile devices.

Software / OS (good)

Android 3.2 and Motorola design customizations

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The Quick Access is the original from Android, only the font has been customized

The Droid Xyboard 10.1 runs Android 3.2 and features a few design customizations on the OS side. The Browser, Email, Contacts, calendar, Gallery,Camera and Settings icons has been redesigned to be consistent with the ones found in the Motorola smartphones. The system icons (bottom left corner), and the Apps icon on the action bar (top right corner) have been redesigned as well.

The Tron-style typeface and icons seem to be highly disliked by design team across the industry, just like Samsung did, Motorola has replaced it by a more neutral font. Other than that, the quick access panel that pops up at the bottom left corner with settings access and notifications looks to be the original one featured in Honeycomb.

In case you would like to know more about the Android 3.2 update, read the official page on the Android site.

No Pre-loaded Task Manager

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Recent app section in Android 3.2, left in the Asus Transformer Prime - right in the Droid Xyboard 10.1


I wish a task manager would have been pre-loaded. Samsung offers in its Galaxy Tab tablets, it is accessible from its TouchWiz Mini App tray, the ability to close the apps from the Recent Apps tray is not available on Android 3.2, Asus made the customization in its Transformer Prime. (see comparison picture above). I advise you to download a free task manager app from the Android Market, we usually like to get Advanced Task Killer from Rechild.

Motorola and Verizon Custom Software

Motorola is well known for its software customization of Android, which genrally add great features on the user experience side, think Motoblur or the most recent Motorola Smart Actions developed for the Droid Razr.

On the Droid Xyboard 10.1, custom software has been kept to a minimum with the MotoCast and the MotoPack applications.

MotoCast is the new name for ZumoCast, a Motorola app that lets you remote access content on your computer over the web. Each computer that you want to access needs to have a small MotoCast client installed, and you need to create an account (a MotoCast ID) with password protection. From there, your Motorola mobile devices (smartphones, tablets…) can access the files over the internet. This would be particularly convenient for road warriors or small businesses with employees dispatched in the field with 4G-connected tablets.

When I tried the application I had issues to make it work on the tablet, I was able to successfully install the PC client and register my account on the website. I will have to take a second look and I will update the review.

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Motopack appstore with beautifully designed user interface - it could be more responsive

MotoPack is the Motorola app store that features a very small number of applications certified by Motorola. The user interface is graphically beautiful although a bit slow. The app store is supposed to hsot 30 apps, but it looked like my version displayed only six. (to verify)

Verizon V CAST Apps: The Droid Xyboard 10.1 is a Verizon 4G LTE tablet, and the carrier could not resist to pre-load its own app store as well. You will find it as a shopping cart icon labeled “Apps” in the app section, oddly, when the splash screen launches, the complete app store name is V CAST Apps. I like the user interface a lot, it is graphically appealing and makes it easy to search a few applications by category. Similarly to the Motorola app store, all the apps featured in V CAST Apps can be found in the Android market, Verizon made it easier for regular people to get the most useful and well developed ones. The application is slow and the user interface is not fluid.

Other Verizon applications: Verizon Media Manager and VZ Navigator

Pre-loaded applications

It is always interesting to look at the pre-loaded application list, since people might rely on the manufacturer and its good judgement to select the most useful software for its users.
Preloaded apps list include: Amazon Kindle, BlockBuster, Dijit (universal digital remote control), Evernote, Fuze meeting, Citrix receiver, GoToMeeting, Netflix, Polycom RealPresence Mobile (professional video conferencing), Quickoffice HD, Skitch (photo editing), VideoSurf (video discovery) and SlingBox.
Games: Let’s golf 2 and Madden NFL 12.

Google Apps: Talk, Books, Music, Maps, Navigation (beta), Latitude, Places, Voice Search.

Vital Applications

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Emaill application with MOTOPrint - in the blue nav bar, see the printer icon

Email
The email application look similar to any other Android 3.x email app, and it now features search (it was not the case at Honeycomb launch). The nice addition offered by Motorola is the ability to print via MOTOPrint and compatible shared printers over a WiFi network or Ethernet with a WiFi access point. MOTOPrint lets you print other documents stored in your tablets such as Office docs, photos, web pages and more…

Most email services are supported, and setting up Exchange is quite easy when you know all your account specifications (domain name, user name, password).

Virtual Keyboard
The Android keyboard is the default input method, and the Droid Xyboard 10.1 comes with Swiftkey Tablet X and Swype directly available in the settings. Personally, I like the easy access to Swiftkey since this particular keybaord application deliver awesome predictive capabilities, can learn your typing habits from your Facebook, and Twitter updates, and above all features, can handle simultaneously three languages, a most needed feature for me.

Stylus
The Droid Xyboard comes with a stylus, I have not had the time to try it yet, I will update this paragraph when I do.

Skype
Video calling is possible with Skype for Android 3.x, and the quality is acceptable for a mobile device, the application delivers better result on a desktop or a laptop computer. When it comes to video calling on Android you can try alternative application such as Tango.Hopefully the video quality for mobile calling will be enhanced in the near future.

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Browser
As you may know, I have a slight preference for the Chrome-based browser featured in Honeycomb over Safari in the iPad, thanks to its handy tabs and its sleek interface. On the performance side, the websites I tried loaded pretty rapidly, with a comparable speed as any high-end tablet we tried. Flash is still supported, so if you are a fan of the conquest of space you can visit Flash-powered sites like wechosethemoon.org and play with Apollo.

Maps
The Google Maps app on Android devices packs more features than on iOS, which is understandable on a business angle, Google is pushing its own mobile platform. The user interface is very responsive as well as moving the map around.

The layers feature is great, it allows it adds tons of information on top of the map including traffic, terrain, transit lines and Wikipedia information. When you click a Wikipedia icon on the map, you get a pop up window with a description and additional information about the of the point of interest and you can get access to Street view or directions from your current location at the click of a button.

Facebook
The Facebook app for Android is the smartphone version and has not been optimized for tablets yet. It get the job done, but honestly, using it is not fun. The user interface, the aesthetics and the navigation could be a lot better.

 

Entertainment

Movies
I played some 1080p movies (.MP4) that I have stored on the Droid Xyboard 10.1, and the video playback was fluid with a great audio quality. One is the Gran Turismo 5 trailer, and the other is the latest Starcraft trailer. This basically means that the tablet can decode very decent video (1080p 5Mbps+) that is usually above and beyond what you will find in streaming services like Netflix, or the Android Market. Additionally, it is important to note that the display offers good color restitution and high contrast for the video playback.

Netflix
Netflix comes pre-loaded in the Droid Xyboard 10.1, which is a good idea knowing that 10-inch tablets are perfect for watching video. I tested it over WiFi, although you can try it over 4G, it is recommended to use WiFi, depending on your plan and the bandwidth limitation per month.
Netflix delivers a fluid HD video experience overall with a good image and audio quality.

YouTube
The YouTube application was revamped for the Honeycomb launch on the Motorola Xoom in April 2011, I have described it in the review and you can check out our video demo. To make sure the Xyboard 10.1 would play well HD video from YouTube, I tried it with the Avatar HD trialer and the result was perfect. Again, the audio quality and the display high contrast makes the experience enjoyable.

Games
The Droid  Xyboard 10.1 is not really the fastest tablet when it comes to gaming. Graphics benchmark Nenamark 2 show that while it is comparable to Samsung’s offerings with a score of about 20 Megapixels per second, it is far from the astounding 51 Megapixel/sec that the Asus Transformer Prime achieves with its Tegra 3 chip.

However the gaming experience tested with a 3D game is fine, we tried it with ShadowGun, the rendering is fast at 30 fps, but upcoming tablets like the transformer Prime can reach 60 fps.

Camera (good)

motorola droid xyboard front

The backside 5 MP camera with AF and LED flash of the Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 is very decent and does well in most photos.

The video recording is good, and I’m satisfied with the overall quality as it is very decent. However, it won’t equal or beat the iPhone 4S, and the Galaxy S2. If you want to compare different devices for yourself, we have made the original photos available on our Ubergizmo Flickr account. Check them out in their full resolution, no resizing involved.

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Photo taken with the Droid Xyboard 10.1

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Photo taken with the Droid Xyboard 10.1

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Xyboard 10 1 iphone 4s 02

Performance (very good)

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Antutu tries to measure broad system performance

 

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Nenamark 2 is somewhat representative of a game

Performance-wise, the Motorola Droid Xyboard does well for a current-generation tablet. As you can see, it is slightly faster than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 but not as fast as the Galaxy S2 (with OMAP). However, when you compare to the upcoming (Dec 19) Asus Transformer Prime, things get tougher. Because it is powered by a next-gen Tegra 3 processor, the Transformer Prime easily wins both benchmarks.
When not using extreme performance applications like games or imaging, the difference in terms of user experience isn’t so noticeable. In the grand scheme of things, the Droid Xyboard 10.1 is very good, but the scale for “excellent” has just been raised.

Battery life (average)

Charging time (long)
The charging time is similar to what is available on high end thin tablets, after two hours the Xybard was charged at 40% which is equivalent to the Samsung Galaxy Tab’s charging time (10.1 and 8,9 versions). The iPad also requires a long charging time.

Battery life (average)
I still need to test the battery life further, we expect it to be 7 hours of video playback,.

Conclusion (good)

What’s good
- 4G LTE
- Delivers good video playback experience and decent gaming experience
- Overall performance is very good
- Custom design of the default wallpaper with the Droid-style, it looks great
- Custom design of the Android apps and system icons
- Build quality is great, the rubberized edges feel good
- Audio quality is very good
- IPS display quality is good, with bright colors and high contrasts, which is a nice upgrade from the previous Motorola tablet
- WiFi printing capability with MOTOPrint
- Remote control of your home or office computer via MOTOCast

What could be better
- the display could be a bit less reflective
- the Motorola applications and the Verizon app store could be more responsive
- a pre-loaded task manager would be great

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