We received our first Tablet PC for review sometime last week. I’ve been putting it through its paces over the past few days and I must admit the idea of owning one has grown on me. If you are (were) like me, tending only to by things that you can logically justify spending money on, seldom purchasing stuff for the sake of it, then you too would reconsider your stance on the “not a phone, not a laptop” devices. To be honest, that statement holds more water than you would think. Firstly, it’s really not a phone, as most tablets don’t have the ability to make calls; it simply connects to Wi-Fi or 3G, sometimes sends SMSes.
So why have these devices become so popular, if they really have no greater use than a phone or a laptop? One word… convenience. The convenience of being able to more easily send emails and the likes than on a phone, and the efficiency of viewing documents, etc. without booting up your laptop. Basically, those are the biggest advantages of owning a tablet, but it doesn’t mean that’s all it has to offer. This week saw the launch official announcement of the Motorola XOOM 2, so we got our hands on the first edition XOOM, currently available in South Africa. [No dates as yet for when the XOOM will be officially available internationally or locally for that matter]
At first glance, there isn’t much in the way of elegant or fresh in the look about the XOOM. If you really want to be nitpicky, you can debate whether all tablets have the same look. Unlike most other tablets, however, the XOOM has its power button at the back of the device, next to one of the speakers and the camera. This saves a bit of space around the 10.1 inch screen, which is an interesting idea. This simple design also means that Apple cannot sue for patent infringements (for those following the Apple vs. The World battle). The sides and back of the device have a polished metal finish, with a lining of rubber on the top encasing the speakers, camera, flash, and power button, as previously mentioned.
Now that we have the looks out the way, we can get into some nitty-gritty. As one of my friends pointed out, his “smoothness” test is a very important factor when considering which tablet to purchase. I, however, disagree, but this test is conducted based on the smoothness of screen transitions, as well as the auto-rotation of the screen. If this was the only, and main, test to conduct, the iPad will always win this battle. Thankfully, there’s more to it than that. The weight of the device is 730g, roughly 100g heavier than the iPad2, and a further 100g more the Galaxy Tab 10.1. For this class of tablet device, it is significantly heavier than its nearest rivals. The 10.1 inch display has a resolution of 800 x 1280 pixels, which display a range of 16 million colours (somewhat standard these days to any smartphone or table). The device also packs an accelerometer (also pretty standard), as well as gyroscope and barometer sensors. Barometer sensors are mainly used in households to measure temperatures, but in most devices of this nature, they are used primarily to improve the Wi-Fi connection. The rear camera has a 5 MP capture, 2592х1944 pixel resolution on photos, autofocus, and dual-LED flash. The XOOM comes in flavours of 16, 32 and 64 GB of internal storage, 1Gb RAM, and dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor. The battery is a decent 25 Wh Li-ion, lasting approximately 330 hours in standby, and 10 hours continuous use (obviously depends on the age of the battery). These specs, however, aren’t the main event. Packaged along with all this already impressive hardware is the nVidia Tegra 2 T20 GPU (this is the mobile equivalent of the computers graphics card). I make no exaggerations when I say that the compatible Tegra 2 games can compete with most console releases. Just check out these images. [Can’t wait for those first devices running the newly announced Tegra 3 GPU]
For those not interested in graphics, the device performs admirably in terms of business use such as responding to emails, viewing office documents, and even getting you to your meetings on time with the built in GPS system. The XOOM comes with a variant of Android for tablets, Honeycomb 3.0. The device reviewed was upgraded to version 3.1, with 3.2 on the horizon (launched abroad). More importantly, however, the XOOM is expected to upgradable to Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Don’t be put off by this device’s extra bulge, it still packs a pretty heavy punch, thanks mainly to its GPU. The extra weight does have some benefit; after having spent serious amount of gaming time on the time, it gives you somewhat of a bicep workout. I’m sure even the ladies can appreciate a bit of toning.
The review won’t be doing much justice without an actual comparison of some sorts. Check back to the gadget section soon, as I will be posting a review on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. I will also include a brief comparison of the two tablets, but for those who follow the press and know the specs of both devices, I am sure you can guess the outcome. Be that as it may, we might still be in for a few surprises.