Questions that should be on your Motorola Xoom Checklist

Posted on 07 February 2011, Last updated on 07 February 2011 by

XoomThere is no doubt that the Motorola Xoom / Honeycomb combination has caused a lot of tablet buyers to hold-back on their purchases. It’s understandable because they will want to see what Android 3.0 and the dual-core processor offering really gives them in terms of value for money.

I’ve just finished adding the Xoom to the product database here and was quite impressed. The weight seems good and the additional barometer and gyroscope sensors could be useful when new applications start taking advantage of them. That’s one of the key things to think about with the Xoom though, the apps. How long will it take for applications to go, not only ‘HD’ with 10 inch screen support at 160dpi but to add fragments and support for multi-threading and the unique features of the Tegra 2 GPU?

I certainly want to get some quality time with the Xoom as soon as possible but in the meantime, I’ve scribbled a few notes down about things I DONT see mentioned in any specifications or marketing information.

  • Video codec support.  While Android 2.0 offers better streaming and media transfer capabilities, it doesn’t add much to the codec support. Of course, you can only include so much in an open-source operating system so it’s up to the manufacturer to add support in for other common formats. I don’t see any mention of WMV or DivX and the MKV container format. OGG? With an HDMI out port you’d expect multiple video codec support AND DLNA certification.
  • Audio. Wireless audio transfer over Bluetooth (A2DP) isn’t easy and isn’t high quality. How about some APT-X support in the A2DP protocol Motorola for some CD-quality wireless audio?
  • Browsing speed. Just how fast is the dual-core processor going to make it. I estimate that 2.2 was about 20% faster than 2.1. That 2.3 added little but that the dual-core CPU under Android 3.0 should add another 20% speed improvement. You’ll be looking at netbook browsing speeds. What’s the tab-limit? Is it still 8 tabs?
  • Battery life. So far we’ve seen average battery life figures coming from Tegra 2. The 2nd core WILL add to the power envelope and with Dalvik attempting to use both cores, it might impact battery life. With a weight of 730gm though I expect Motorola have at least squeezed in a 20wh battery pack. It’s going to need it. That 10 inch screen is LED backlit from what I can tell.  Would it be nice to have a single-core long-battery life mode?
  • Size. 10 inch is great for reading large amounts of text and perfect for the new generation of tablet-based magazines and newspapers. Unfortunately, 720 grams isn’t. Watch out for that if you are thinking of going handheld for any length of time.
  • USB OTG. I don’t see any mention of this so there’s no way to plug a USB keyboard and mouse in. Or a USB stick. Or that fantastic idea that Nokia use, the USB OTG TV and radio receiver.
  • Mic Array. For HQ video and audio calls (a feature of Honeycomb) I’d expect to be able to use the device without headphones. A dual-mic array can really help here.
  • HD cam – Does it have continuous auto-focus? Are there any camera features over and above what Honeycomb provides? Probably not. And what about the quality of the optics?
  • Stereo speakers? I only see one speaker port on the device.
  • FM radio / transmitter. FM radio is still the lowest-power method of receiving audio broadcasts. An FM transmitter will help get that audio to the back seats of the car for the kids to watch a video together.
  • Removable battery. One to note because it doesn’t have one, like most tablets.
  • Is the headphone port a headset port?
  • Analogue video out – Unsupported I believe.
  • Stand. Flip out stands are worth having.
  • Voice call capability? SMS, MMS capability. EU video calling?
  • Consumer IR. I still don’t understand why these don’t appear on tablets. A TV-remote app would be the ultimate in laziness.
  • Multi-track audio pass-through via HDMI. If the unit can’t handle AC3 or similar, you might not be able to play the audio. The same problem occurs on the Galaxy Tab and it is annoying!
  • Haptic feedback / vibration notifications
  • Split keyboard for two-handed use in landscape mode?
  • Tethering to phone for non-3G use?
  • Scratch resistant touchscreen?

Is there anything else you’re wondering about?

The Motorola Xoom is going to be a breakthrough device, make no mistake. Honeycomb finally stamps the ‘tablet’ seal of approval on Android and the dual-core Tegra 2 platform is going to shine. There are some nice accessories too but don’t let all the marketing fuzz distract you from your task of finding a tablet that suits YOU! Make that checklist now!

The Motorola Xoom specifications are now in the database.

More on tablet design:

Making a HIT. (Your Checklist for a Quality Handheld Internet Tablet)

Things to Consider when Designing or Buying a Tablet-Style Device

Notes on productivity issues with Tablets:

30 iPad Productivity Problems.

16 Comments For This Post

  1. Iain says:

    Any thoughts on the $800 US price?

  2. al says:

    For something I’d only use in my living room it’s pretty expensive. Too big to be mobile (at that size I’d rather take a netbook). Same reason I didn’t buy an iPad.

    Too bad the cheaper smaller tablets have questionable software/hardware build quality and/or not likely to get updated.

  3. chippy says:

    Yes. Its a public price designed to make carrier discounts look huge and to sweep up early adopter profits. Street price should follow the same curve as galaxy tab.

  4. theluketaylor says:

    “Battery life. So far we’ve seen average battery life figures coming from Tegra 2. The 2nd core WILL add to the power envelope and with Dalvik attempting to use both cores, it might impact battery life. With a weight of 730gm though I expect Motorola have at least squeezed in a 20wh battery pack. It’s going to need it. That 10” screen is LED backlit from what I can tell. Would it be nice to have a single-core long-battery life mode?”

    Battery life from the A9s shouldn’t be too bad a concern based on Anandtech’s new review of the new LG Tegra 2 phone. It comes in right around other current smartphones so tegra 2 isn’t a huge power drain above other current SoCs. It’s built on 40 nm process compared to 65 for most A8s and 45 for newer snapdragons which helps mitigate the second core.

    Cortex A9 SoCs can’t manage the voltage and frequency of the cores independently but they are power gated so when both cores are idle (which is quite often) they don’t draw any power.

  5. chippy says:

    Good to year about the review. Thanks. I wonder how peoples tendancy to use ‘capability’ will affect battery life.

  6. Sam says:

    Now I’m wondering if an app (maybe even a weather app) which crowd-sources barometer readings would be interesting…

  7. chippy says:

    There you go. Fanastic idea. Combine with gps to remove height component and youve got a valuable sourced of weather info. Wasn’t there an app with crowd sourced accelerometer readings?

  8. wabre says:

    yes, many questions. some of them not asked when the galaxy tab was expectations are higher…

    nevertheless, the xoom brings so much more new tech than the galaxy tab did when it was announced and still we find “issues”, when it’s not even out there..

    Steve, if the xoom should be able to do or to offer nearly all of what you listed, do you think the 800 usd or whatever it will cost, are enough??

    on a different note, i don’t know any type of device offering all that at all!!…it would be the – in german – eierlegende Wollmilchsau…

  9. chippy says:

    Yes, its quite an extreme list! There’s a few things in that list that would be showstoppers for me though. Video codec support is one of them and I’m worried that if this a Honeycomb showpiece, it won’t have anything more than the stock Android build.

  10. wabre says:

    have you ever tried rockplayer? and the showstopper’s gone… :-)

  11. chippy says:

    I thought rockplayer was a software codec application (which means bye bye battery life) but if not, yes, it could solve the problem as long as it works with hdmi out.

  12. Tokyorob says:

    I think the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer looks are better tablet but alas it won’t be available until July-August

    Given that Motorola will be locking down the boot loader with e-fuse again

    Also adam does look ok but it’s seems to have some quality issues

  13. Tokyorob says:

    argh .. “looks a better Tablet” sorry typo

  14. chippy says:

    All typos caused by mobile keyboards are accepted here.

  15. Tokyorob says:

    yeah .. the ipad keyboard is fun .. Chippy have seen both the Xoom and the Asus how do you rate the Asus ?

  16. chippy says:

    I haven’t had any serious hands on with either yet so its difficult to say, really. I don’t think anyone can say at this point.

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