The compact 8.2-inch screen is bright and vibrant, while the dual-core CPU handles all your apps
The power and volume buttons are fiddly, and the pre-bundled apps are rubbish
‘Media Edition' may be a strange monicker, but think of this as a dinkier version of the Motorola Xoom 2 tablet (reviewed last issue). While the original had a sizeable 10.1-inch screen, this version opts for a sharp and colourful 8.2-inch display. Other differences are scant however, and this mini model still packs in plenty of impressive features.
The Xoom is a solidly constructed gadget. Pushing and pulling on every inch gives no yield, and the display only shimmers slightly when prodded hard. We like the curved corners and the lack of face buttons (thanks to Android Honeycomb's virtual controls), which gives the tablet a smart, neat appearance. The rear has a rubberised ring around the edge to aid grip, handy for those sweaty spring days when your fingers are well lubricated.
However, construction isn't quite perfect. The Power button and volume controls are awkward to find when using the Xoom, as they're hidden away on the back of the device. We often had to turn it around to locate them. A pointless flap on the bottom edge opens to reveal...nothing at all, which is rather confusing. We can only guess that this is the same flap that conceals the SIM card slot on US-only 3G models, and it simply wasn't removed on these Wi-Fi models. A bit cheap, but forgivable.
What really impressed us was the bright and vibrant 8.2-inch TFT screen. We could happily watch movies in direct sunlight, without killing our eyeballs. Photos and movies look fantastic, while viewing angles are also strong. Even more amazing is the screen's resistance to fingerprints. Constant swiping only smears faint smudges across the surface, which are easily eliminated with a quick rub on your shirt. That's a huge improvement over most tablet displays.
Although the tablet comes loaded with Android Honeycomb 3.2, Motorola plans on rolling out Ice Cream Sandwich in the near future. We still have a soft spot for Honeycomb however, despite the lack of supported apps. You're given five desktops that you can scroll between with a flick of the finger, and customise with any apps or widgets you like. The email widget is particularly useful, updating whenever something new lands in your inbox. We also like the handy music player and tasks widgets.
Sadly, the Xoom comes bundled with only a handful of random and pointless apps. We can't see many users loving the business suites such as Go To Meeting and Fuze Meeting. What made this more annoying was the lack of a decent dedicated video player on our review unit, besides the bog-standard Gallery app. Thankfully you can hit the Android Market to get the good stuff.
The Xoom is much more than an app machine though. If you need a device for browsing the web from the comfort of your sofa, this is a great option. At 390g it's comfortable to grip one-handed, as you skim through websites with the other. The touchscreen is responsive to swipes, prods and pinches, so browsing through complex pages and zooming in on the bits that interest you is a smooth and satisfying experience.
As this is Android Honeycomb, you can also stream video from sites such as 4OD through the browser. We watched a few full-length shows over a decent Wi-Fi network and they played perfectly. Sadly there's no 3G support, so you'll have to seek out wireless hotspots when you're roaming.
Whether you're playing with apps, checking ten websites at once, or enjoying your media, the dual-core 1.2GHz processor keeps everything running at a perfect pace. Battery life is also dependable, and we managed a day of reasonable use before the Xoom ran out of juice. That includes occasional web browsing, an hour of playing around with apps, streaming a half-hour episode from BBC iPlayer, and a couple of hours of music, all with screen brightness turned up and Wi-Fi enabled.
Connectivity options are typically limited, but you do get a Mini HDMI port to output to an external display, and Micro USB to swap files with your PC. Sticking music and movies onto the Xoom was fairly straightforward. Simply hook it up to your laptop or PC and you'll be prompted to install the MotoCast software.
Once that's done, your Xoom will be recognised as an external hard drive and you can simply drag and drop files. You get 16GB of built-in storage (although only 12GB was showing as usable on our device), which is enough to carry a handful of movies and plenty of apps. Unfortunately there's no memory card slot for expansion, so you'll be deleting old media often.
The MotoCast software also allows you to stream movies and music or share files over a home network, which saves you shuffling everything back and forth via the USB cable. Setup is fairly straightforward, although takes a little while and involves creating an account. As long as your network's dependable, you can enjoy your computer's entire media collection from anywhere in your home.
The Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition takes colourful outdoor shots
The obligatory rear camera shoots five-megapixel images, although wielding the Xoom to take photos isn't exactly a dream, especially as your left fingers can easily obscure the lens in landscape mode. However, daylight shots are surprisingly excellent, appearing both bright and colourful. The auto-focus captures objects with crystal clarity, whether it's up-close detail shots or sweeping vistas. You can also shoot full HD video if you're into home movies, while the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera captures you clearly during Skype calls.
We actually prefer this more compact version of the Motorola Xoom 2, which is comfortable to use and boasts a very impressive screen. With top performance and the ability to stream music and movies from the web or your home PC, this tablet really earns its ‘Media Edition' tagline.