Using the Xoom

The Xoom does everything you would expect a tablet to do. This device was very responsive whether zooming, swiping, or using the keyboard. Of course, voice search and other voice features are also included.

Reading ebooks on the Xoom is a good experience. Because of the good screen resolution, the text is smooth and readable. The Google bookstore already has about three million books.

Email was especially good on Android 3.0. The interface is excellent with a full reading pane, as shown in Figure 13.

Motorola Xoom Tablet ReviewFigure 13: The Reading pane

Web surfing is also pleasurable, but the web interface is not as easy to use as Apple’s. The look of the Web browser is similar to Google Chrome in that it is very simplistic. The browser offers some nice extras like tabbed browsing and an incognito mode that erases your trail. Yet, we feel that an uninitiated user is sure to have some difficulty performing simple tasks like bookmarking. In fact, we used the Xoom for an entire day before we discovered the hidden menu that appears if you place your finger in the right margin of the page. As you can see in Figure 14, this menu bar has some unusual icons, so you will be left to trial and error to learn to navigate.

Motorola Xoom Tablet ReviewFigure 14: Hidden Web menu

After using an iPad, one joy that this pad offers is that it supports Flash. We really missed viewing Flash presentations on the iPad, so we were very happy to see them on the Xoom. In fact, because of the wide screen aspect ratio, all full-screen videos and movies looked especially good on the Xoom.

The dual cameras on the Xoom are also a joy to use. The front-facing camera at 2 megapixels is adequate for video conferencing. Although we were disappointed to find that Skype did not yet support video on Android, we were able to use Gmail and Google Talk to make video calls.

The 5 megapixels camera on the back has a dual LED flash. This camera can also take 720p HD videos. Although we found it a bit difficult to hold the tablet still while taking pictures or videos, the results were pretty good. You probably won’t use this as your only digital camera, but it will be there in a pinch, and you can hook the pad right up to an HD television to show your movies and pictures.

Depending on use, the battery will last an entire day. The only time the battery lasted only about seven hours was in constant use as a GPS the day we used it on the road. We were, however, very happy with its turn-by-turn instructions when using Google Maps. Recharging is fairly quick. We were able to go from 0 to 100 percent battery life in less than three hours.

Although the hardware of the Xoom compares very favorably with the iPad 2, it falls short in the number and quality of the Apps that have been optimized for Android 3.0. With the newness of this tablet and its operating system, this is not surprising. That is not to say that you won’t find an App for what you want to do, it’s just that not too many Apps take full advantage of the Android tablet. Surprisingly, most regular Android Apps will work on the Xoom; they just appear in a small rectangle on the screen rather than taking advantage of the large screen.

There is little doubt that this will change in the future, but if you buy a Xoom now, you will have to wait for the beautiful full-screen Apps that are already available for the iPad.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.