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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Xoom

Motorola has released its Xoom tablet and it is a competitor to Apple's iPad. It is the first iPad challenger to run Honeycomb, a new version of Google's Android operating system designed especially for tablets.The Xoom has a 10-inch screen, like the iPad and it's about the same thickness and weight as the iPad, albeit narrower and longer. The screen is long and narrow, proportioned to best fit widescreen video. The HD screen boasts a resolution of 1280 by 800, versus 1024 by 768 for the iPad.And, like the iPad's operating system, Honeycomb gives software the ability to make good use of that screen real estate, with apps that are more computer-like than those on a smartphone.

The Xoom has a more potent processor than the current iPad; front and rear cameras versus none for the iPad; better speakers; and higher screen resolution. It also can be upgraded free later this year to support Verizon's faster 4G cellular data network (though monthly fees may rise.) Motorola is taking aim at the iPad just as Apple is expected to announce a second-generation of its tablet. Little is known about this second iPad, but it's widely expected to take away at least one of the Xoom's advantages over the original iPad—cameras—and is rumored to be thinner and lighter, since weight was one of the most common complaints about the generally praised first iPad.

While iPads come in a range of models priced all the way up to $829—none of which requires a cellphone contract—Apple's entry price for the iPad is just $499. By contrast, the base price of a Xoom without a cellphone contract is $800—60% more. And even with a Verizon two-year contract at $20 to $80 a month—depending on the data limit you choose—the least you can pay for a Xoom is $600, or 20% more before counting the contract costs. The iPad model with the same memory as the Xoom and a 3G cellular modem like the Xoom's is $729, which is a closer comparison. But it is still less than $800, and consumers still focus on that $499 iPad entry price (for a Wi-Fi-only model.)

A battery test on the Xoom playing video constantly with the connectivity turned on and the screen at almost full brightness until the battery dies shows the Xoom gets 7 to 10 hours.  By contrast, on the same test, the iPad, which also claims logs about 11.5 hours, or four hours more.  The Xoom's battery is sealed, and it only comes with 32 gigabytes of memory, versus a range of between 16 and 64 GB for various models of the iPad. However, it has a slot for a memory card that Motorola says will work after a software upgrade to add more memory. There is also a removable back and a SIM card slot that would be used only if you chose to upgrade to 4G in the second quarter of this year. (WSJ, 2/24/2011)

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