Shortly after last February’s release of the XOOM, Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha hinted they would release tablets with different form factors later in the year. The XOOM was Motorola’s entry into the tablet world, and it was a great product at the time, but quickly things changed as the competition made faster and thinner versions. This past December, Motorola released the first DROID branded tablets, the DROID XYBOARD 10.1 and DROID XYBOARD 8.2, which are both 4G LTE capable and exclusive to Verizon Wireless in the U.S. These tabs are also known as the XOOM 2 and XOOM 2 Media Edition outside the U.S. They are thinner, sleaker, faster, and a major upgrade from the XOOM. This review is on the XYBOARD 8.2, which is what Sanjay was referring to as it features an 8.2-inch display. You can also checkout my initial hands on video I did earlier this month.
Motorola has always been the King of design and hardware quality. To me, the XOOM wasn’t as impressive as past Motorola products, but it was their first tablet offering. You don’t need to hold the XYBOARD long to realize this is a top-notch device. Motorola is really pushing the RAZR-like theme with the cutoff corners, and the XYBOARD is no exception. When I saw the first pictures online, I didn’t care for it, but that changed as soon as I held it for the first time. It does nothing for the overall experience, but it looks different. In case you haven’t noticed, there are a slew of tablets being offered, and it’s tough for manufacturers to differentiate themselves. This overall look makes it easy for consumers to recognize that its a Motorola product.
If you’ve read any of my past reviews, my biggest complaint with the design of many phones and tablets is they are too glossy and slippery. I don’t like feeling like I’m going to drop the device I’m holding. I have to say the XYBOARD is one of the better devices I’ve held. It just feels nice in the hands. They designed the backside perfectly. It looks 21st Century, but isn’t slippery. The center of the backside has a silver metallic finish that’s slippery, but they put in rubberized edges around it. This makes it feel great in the hands without and fear of slippage. It reminds me a lot of the feel of the DROID X. The only issue I have with the overall design is the power and volume rocker. They opted to put them on the back side at the top edge (in portrait mode) so it’s hard to find them. However, the pro is that you won’t accidentally hit them, which is most likely what Motorola was aiming for.
If you’re looking for thin, you will be happy because it comes in at 8.9mm. However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9 are both thinner at 8.6mm. As far as weight, the XYBOARD comes in at 386 grams which is lighter than the similar-sized Galaxy Tab 8.9, which is 448 grams.
The DROID XYBOARD features an 8.2-inch (1280 x 800) IPS display, a 1.2 GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera, 16GB or 32GB of storage, HDMI 1.4, WiFi, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 2.1, and Android 3.2. So far Motorola is only offering a 4G LTE (Verizon Wireless compatible) version which is exactly what they did with the XOOM. Motorola did release a WiFi-only XOOM about 2 months later, so hopefully they continue that trend.
Motorola threw in a 7000mAh battery. For tablets, battery life isn’t a huge issue since most of them are WiFi only, but since this has 4G LTE compatibility, battery is key. If you plan on being away from WiFi, then plan on charging at least once a day, but if you’re going to mostly be connected to WiFi, then you should get 2 to 3 days under average use. When connected to LTE, I lost about 25% over 8 hours, but that’s with very light usage. I don’t consider myself a hardcore tablet user. For watching continuous video or playing games, expect to get about 7 hours over WiFi.
I found the performance to be more than adequate. I did notice some delays with the keyboard input in certain applications, like Dijit, but I think that was more of an issue of the applications. Everyone likes to see benchmarks so the AnTuTu Benchmark came in a 4587 which puts it just below the Amazon Kindle Fire. As I mentioned in previous reviews, benchmarks don’t represent real life situations. I can tell you that the XYBOARD outperforms the Kindle Fire in the “real world,” but don’t expect Transformer Prime performance because this isn’t a Tegra 3 device. We can’t refer to the XYBOARD as a high end device because the bar was just raised with the Tegra 3, but I can say that the performance will satisfy the majority of users out there.
Motorola has really improved their displays lately, but with little praise from the tech blogs. I noticed this change when I reviewed the DROID RAZR, and I think the IPS display on the XYBOARD is on par with any tablet in its class. The colors are vibrant and the blacks are deep. I have zero complaints.
This is pretty much a stock Android device. Motorola added some applications like the now familiar MotoCast, but these aren’t UI enhancements. Unfortunately it has Android 3.2 Honeycomb, but Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich should land in the 2nd quarter of this year.
Motorola has been slaughtered by most of the mobile blogs on their UI skins, but since they got away from the “Blur” designation, I think Motorola has the most unobtrusive UI of all the manufacturers. With the XYBOARD, they really didn’t add much of anything, which is even better because it means better performance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t result in a faster upgrade to ICS, which I would like to have seen.
In the very crowded world of tablets, it’s hard for manufacturers to differentiate themselves other than some hardware tweaks. The only way is with software, and Motorola does it well. They’ve included the Dijit Universal Remote Control app which works with the built-in IR port. You can see my hands on video here. For me, personally, this app isn’t for me because I already use a Logitech universal remote, which is best for my type of setup. I do think a lot of people can make use of this and the ability to look at your TV listings guide and change channels with ease is a nice experience. This is something you won’t find in too many tablets, except for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus.
The other addition is MotoCast which allows you access to your files on your home or office computer. You can even transfer files back and forth or sync your phone’s content of music, photos, videos, podcasts, and iTunes or Windows Media Player playlists. It also gives you the ability to stream your music or videos directly to your XYBOARD over Wifi or 3G/4G. It’s basically your own personal cloud. I know a lot of people don’t like to have an “always on” computer at home, but I’m a big proponent of making your own personal cloud. MotoCast works very well and isn’t hard to set up. All you need to do is install the MotoCast software on your PC or Mac. As to the XYBOARD, it’s already pre-installed so nothing could be easier.
You will also find MotoPack which is Motorola’s own app store. I usually find these manufacturer app stores worthless, but one plus for Motorola is they have a kids section, which is something the Android Market is lacking. Unfortunately it only included about 6 or 7 apps.
As far as anything else that Motorola included software-wise is a new clock widget as a standalone or with the weather from accuweather. Since it’s a widget it doesn’t get in your way. If you don’t like it, simply remove it from the home screen.
As far as bloatware, you will find the usual which includes Amazon Kindle, Blockbuster, Evernote, GoToMeeting, Let’s Golf 2, Madden 12, My Verizon Mobile, Netflix, Quickoffice HD, Skitch, Slingbox, and V CAST Media.
Cameras on tablets just don’t make sense, at least as far as the rear camera. Motorola has always lacked in the camera department, but they are getting better. I will say that the XYBOARD camera performed well with some nice colors, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as your everyday camera. I say this more for the fact of this being a tablet and not for the quality. It will get the job done for those situations where you need to take a photo and you don’t have another one on hand.
Because of the size of the XYBOARD and the placement of the lens, it’s easy to put your fingers over the lens when taking a picture in portrait mode. I’ve found this issue with other tablets that are in the 7-inch to 8-inch range like the Huawei Spingboard. Here are some sample photos.
The DROID XYBOARD 8.2 is a nice little tablet. I really like the smaller form factors and 8.2-inches seems like a happy medium from the 7-inch and 10.1-inch flavors. That’s what you have to like about Android – choices. The only issue is the price. It’s 2-year contract prices are $429.99 for the 16GB version and $529.99 for the 32GB version. For me personally, I don’t have a need for a tablet with connectivity beyond WiFi, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t several of you out there that need to be connected constantly. If that’s the case, then I highly recommend the DROID XYBOARD 8.2, especially if you like a smaller form factor. If you’re a casual tablet user, you might want to wait until a WiFi-only version becomes available.