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MOTOROLA XOOM 2
Motorola's Xoom 2 HD tablet computer plays music and can be a remote control. Paul Rigby checks it out as a remote control and Noel Keywood looks at its musical abilities.
The touch screen computer, popularised by Apple with the iPad, is great for games, movies and playing music. Some, like the Motorola Xoom 2 reviewed here, can stream audio to the hi-fi via a wireless Bluetooth link or through an HDMI cable. The Xoom can even act as a remote control. But does the High Definition moniker apply to audio? And is it any good as a remote control?
Competition in this market is divided between Apple’s iOS products and Google’s Android OS that sits within a conglomeration of products from a variety of manufacturers including the likes of Samsung, Amazon, Sony and HTC.
The Xoom 2 comes from Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, as opposed to the equipment manufacturer, Motorola Solutions. In early 2011, Motorola Mobility produced one of the earliest Android-based tablets on the market, known as the Xoom, the world’s first tablet to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the first iteration of Android built specifically for tablets. It has now updated the design, handing it the rather prosaic moniker of Xoom 2.
We reviewed the larger HD form factor Xoom 2 with 10.1in diagonal screen, that weighs 605gms and is just 8.9mm thick, priced around £380. A smaller 8in screen Media Edition is lighter at 388gms – and is available for under £200. The Media Edition is otherwise nearly identical to the HD tablet PC here.
On the rear is the Xoom 2’s five megapixel camera and LED flash which is now placed (more logically) in the upper centre of the chassis, with an LED flash alongside the camera. The camera is generally of good quality, although video output is not the best due to the poor, slow autofocus resulting in hazy footage.
The power button sits on the right-hand side, next to the volume rocker. It is easy to press the power key while trying to alter the volume which may result in lost data. Why couldn’t the volume be on the opposite side?
Two speakers are located at the top but out of the way of typical hand holding positions so they should never be accidentally covered. A mini-headphone jack is located just above the camera near the centre of the upper edge.
Along the base of the device, ports include a micro-HDMI that outputs digital audio and micro-USB port that deals with both data and charging. Motorola’s dedicated power input is no more, although you’ll probably want to stick to the meatier in-box charger rather than attempt to eke out a charge from phone adapters or a USB cable.
Internal storage amounts to either 16GB or a rather more expensive option of 32GB with no expansion options. Allied with this limitation is the mystery hatch situated along the bottom edge of the chassis which reveals...nothing at all. It should, I think, have covered either a SIM or a form of removable storage but I reckon Motorola came up against a problem of some sort and left it out at the last minute.
The Xoom 2 features an improved screen: a Gorilla-glass coated IPS. Gorilla glass being particularly tough and IPS or In-Plane Switching technology providing better response times, improved colour matching and greater viewing angles. Speaking of which, it’s obvious that Motorola have cut corners in the design – literally, because the screen features a chamfered, clipped corner shape. A practical move from the company to prevent the dreaded ‘tablet palm’ effect where handling a tablet for long period results in the corners digging in and marking the flesh in the palm of your hand.
Looking at the front of the screen, you will notice a bezel of around 13mm on the vertical and around 20mm on the horizontal borders. Some may be unhappy with this but it’s actually less than much of its Android competition.
The Xoom 2 screen features the same 1200 x 800 resolution of the original but viewing angles now approach the stated 178 degree mark while the IPS TFT display makes images far more vibrant, although outdoor use can be affected by glare while fingerprints can be very intrusive. In use, I was a little concerned to see a degree of backlight bleed emanating from the corners of the screen.
The engine room of the Xoom 2 utilises an ARM 1.2GHz dual-core processor alongside 1GB of RAM, which is noticeably superior than the original model, being nippier than the reference Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a similarly sized and specced dual-core tablet. Web browsing is very impressive too, as is App loading.
Motorola has included the latest version of Honeycomb (version Android 3.2, to be exact) along with a selection of lightweight Apps including Motorola’s own music App, MotoCast, which requires pre-registration but is a relatively painless way to add your collection of music.
Finally, a distinguishing feature of the Xoom 2 is its ability to control your hi-fi. In this case, the IR facility has been brought to life by the essential App, Dijit.
But what exactly is the App, what does it do and what are its capabilities? Just how useful is the Xoom 2 in a hi-fi environment and is the Dijit App a realistic piece of software for day-to-day use?
And is the Xoom 2 any use as a music player?