Name: Motorola Xyboard
Specs: 8.2-inch widescreen IPS-enhanced HD, 1.2GHz TI OMAP4430 dual-core processor, Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, LTE-compatible, Dual-cameras, 1080p video playback, 1GB of RAM, Wi-fi, and Bluetooth.
The Back Story: Motorola's no stranger in ushering the next wave of portable devices as it's done this past year with the first dual-core handset (the Atrix 4G) and the most powerful smartphone out (the Droid Bionic). The hardware specialists had another inaugural moment back in March when it released the first-ever Honeycomb tablet: the Motorola Xoom. While the Android powerhouse impressed many, it failed to capitalize on the transient tablet-craze due to its high price, heavy weight, and unpolished software. Seeing how manufacturers like Samsung went back to the drawing board and found success in the States with its revamped Galaxy Tab series, Moto's jumped back into the tablet war with a successor to the Xoom dubbed the Xyboard.
While in a state of bewilderness over the name change, we broke free from the tab's nonsensical moniker to focus on its features. It's an impressive set. With LTE high-speed Internet, wireless streaming capability, powerful LCD display, and an alluring redesign, the Xyboard sounds like a promising piece of hardware on paper. Can Moto's new baby right the wrongs of the Xoom and become the dominant Android tablet on the market? Or are we feasting our eyes on a device with minor enchancements cut from the same cloth?
• Lighter, more industrial design: We're not alone when stating the biggest issue with the Xoom was its overbearing size. Thankfully Motorola came to the conclusion that going smaller was the better fit for the Xyboard. It’s nearly featherweight at 0.85 pounds and far slimmer than its predecessor at 8.89mm. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is the daintier option, but Moto’s tab isn’t far behind in weight class, and is much sturdier. The streamlined aesthetics are enticing, as the contoured edges give the device a sleek presentation and make for smoother transitions when switching from portrait to landscape mode. Plus the steel plate in the rear enclosed with soft-touch rubber coating offers smooth and secure in-hand grip. Overall, the Xyboard’s form factor is a vast improvement.
• Awesome LTE connection: After testing a number of wi-fi-only tablets and enduring sporadic connection issues, it’s refreshing to bask in the high-speed of Big Red's LTE network. Our Speedtest.net analysis showed us pulling a solid 16.81Mbps in download speeds and 3.1Mpbs for uploads throughout the Tri-State area. Web pages opened instantly, while multiple Android Market downloads completed within five to 10 seconds simultaneously. Some might consider those numbers menial in comparison to some the carrier’s powerful smartphones, the Droid Bionic in particular, but the data speeds are still pretty impressive.
• Multimedia features: Moto did a good job with the Xyboard's feature set. The 2.1 virtual surround sound system pumped out incredibly loud sound and strong bass levels of which we’ve never experienced on a tablet. Bonus points there. We were also caught off guard with the IR emitter sitting atop of the device, then discovered it worked in conjunction with the preinstalled Dijit app—allowing the Xyboard to work as a universal remote to control your TV, stereo, or DVD player. The technology still has a few kinks to work out, but it’s a dope feature to have onboard. You’ll also find a micro-HDMi port to mirror tablet content onto any compatible HDTV. Finally, Motorola includes its streaming MotoCast app for users to wirelessly stream media files and playlists from any compatible PC or laptop.
• Powerful and strong display: Shielded by Corning Gorilla Glass, the 8.2-inch widescreen IPS LCD touchscreen produces vibrant visuals and is one of the brightest screens we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Seriously, you can set the display’s brightness on the lowest level and still have a clear view of everything. It’s capable of generating 1280 x 800-pixel resolution and accurate colors that shimmer when checking out images and captured 720p clips via rear 5MP camera. Netflix videos and videos games look sharp, too.
• Ice Cream Sandwich-ready: As promised, Motorola plans on rolling out an Android 4.0 (ICS) upgrade sometime in 2012. So we know the tablet has a sustainable shelf life past Q1 of next year.
• Too expensive and no expandable memory: Considering a majority of the Xyboard models either boarder or exceed the iPad 2 price tag, it’s extremely difficult to sell a consumer on the Android tab, especially one that requires an additional data service contract. On top of that, the device lacks additional memory options such as a microSD card slot and the 32GB model in reality only has 26GB of available memory.
• Poor USB compatibility: Don't expect to drag and drop media files or documents onto the device in a jiffy. Before you can even make that leap, you're promptly forced to install MotoCast and go through the tedious process of creating an account in order to sync files. And even then it gets confusing because there's no direction or guidance on how to access the tab's internal memory.
• Sluggish performance: We experienced some occasional stutter with Honeycomb. Our Angry Birds gaming session demonstrated occassional lag, the virtual keyboard misinterpretted our touch commands at times, and we noticed some hiccups when navigating through menus and the browser.
• Button placement: Call us old fashion, but we’re accustomed to having the command buttons on the side or top of a tablet. Motorola should have learned its lesson with the Xoom after facing several complaints about placing the power button on the back. Yet instead of ditching its experimental layout, it pulls the same stunt, and this time adds the volume rocker; both of which are super tiny and frustrating to locate.
Final Say: We give Motorola a ton of credit for taking several risks with the Xyboard. The first being that ridiculous name. All quips aside, having LTE service is a blessing for any tablet (let alone any device), plus the new multimedia features help signify it as both a business- and entertainment-centric tool. And like its predecessor, the Xyboard tackles the concerns that hurt Moto’s first child. As is the case with most Android tablets, Honeycomb holds the Xyboard from being capable of stepping into the tablet Octagon with Apple’s gem. That and the minor nuisances like the button placement and additional data fees. In the end, the Xyboard falls among the rest of the crowd as a tablet best suited for Android conformists seeking the latest trend.