I've used a number of different Android-based tablets, and each and every one of them has their own pros and cons. With a small pile of the hardware in front of me, I wish I could mash them all together to create a sort of super tablet -- pulling one feature from this tablet, one feature from that tablet, and more features from yet another tablet. Eventually, I would come up with the perfect combination of tablet delight.
That's right, I said it. Of all the tablets I've tried, I have to say the Xoom 4G LTE is far and away the best. It may not be the single most powerful or have the best battery life, but the combination of form, function, and feature comes together on the Xoom in such a way that it beats all of the other Android tablet offerings.
As expected, I have specs to share. This isn't some huge "reveal," because the Xoom has been out for some time now. However, the difference between the Xoom I'm reviewing and the Xoom that's been in the public's hands is that this is the 4G LTE version of the same tablet. Regardless, here's the skinny on the specs:
- CPU: 2GHz dual-core processor
- Screen: 10.1-inch widescreen HD (1280×800) display
- Network: 4G LTE upgradeable
- Video: 1080p HD video support
- Output: HDMI output
- Camera: Front-facing 2-megapixel camera for video chats over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G LTE; Rear-facing 5-megapixel camera that captures video in 720p HD.
- Sensors: Built-in gyroscope, barometer, e-compass, accelerometer, and adaptive lighting
- Hotspot: Mobile hotspot capability for up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices
- Removable memory: SD Card
- Battery: 24 Watt hours; browsing on Wi-Fi approximately 10 hours usage; standby up to 14 days
- Android 3.2 "Honeycomb"
- The usual complement of Android software (and full weight of the Android Market)
Cut to the chase
I don't want to beat around the bush. Why is this tablet so good? First and foremost, the case of the Xoom feels better in my hand than any other tablet. It's perfect -- not too thick (like the Toshiba Thrive), not too thin (like the Samsung Galaxy), and it has a great tactile feeling to the outer casing. With this tablet, you don't ever feel like it's going to slip out of your grasp.
Another nice touch to the Xoom is the location of the power button. Instead of it awkwardly placed on the side of the device, the button is placed on the back where one can quickly and easily turn the tablet on or off without having to juggle or even move your hands from holding the device in landscape mode.
Of course, the Android platform has something to do with the near perfection of this tablet. Instead of layering on the typical extras that so often accompany a tablet, what you get with the Xoom is about as straight-forward an Android 3.x experience as you're going to get. This goes a long way to making the Xoom outperform many other tablets whose providers take it upon themselves to add their own take on Android. Although this phenomenon isn't quite as rampant as it is with the smartphone world, it still creeps up.
Okay, so the Xoom isn't perfect. It does have two little issues that prevent it from actually reaching perfection -- battery life and tiny external volume control buttons. The latter issue really isn't that big of a deal, but the former can be.
Because of the power this tablet offers, the battery life isn't quite up to par with some of the other tablets on the market. You can still squeak out a full day from the device, but beyond that, you're taking a chance. And since the charger isn't the standard micro USB that nearly every Android user has come to love, you'll only be charging this device in one location (unless you purchase a second power cable).
The second issue is the size of the physical volume buttons. Although this isn't a deal breaker, it can be a bit of an inconvenience at times. The buttons are very tiny. Anyone suffering from a lack of dexterity in their digits or who has chubby fingers might find these buttons a bit of a pain to deal with.
Other than those two issues, the Xoom is as close to perfection as a tablet can be. It's got speed, a great form factor, a case built as solid as any other, and it's Android platform is well played for business and personal use alike.
If you're looking for an ideal device for your mobile needs, and you have the money to spend (originally selling at $799.00, but now going for around $499.00), I highly recommend the Motorola Xoom 4G LTE.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.