Motorola had a brief moment in the spotlight at CES 2011, when it unveiled the first Android tablet running on Google’s brand-new (at the time) Android 3.2 operating system, dubbed Honeycomb. The Xoom was the first of many, although it only narrowly squeaked onto the Australian market prior to the launch of competing Honeycomb tablets, some of which had been announced well after the Xoom itself.
The Xoom was a fair but not great tablet, hampered by slightly heavy carrying weight, annoying buttons — especially the volume controls — and a problem that’s weighed heavily on many Android tablets, in that they’ve been priced to the equivalent of Apple’s very popular iPad 2. Motorola’s just released the Xoom 2 in Australia, and like the original Xoom, it’s initially being launched as a Telstra product, either on contract or outright for $720.
First of all, the good news; Motorola’s designers clearly took a long hard look at what didn’t quite work with the original Xoom, and made some revisions. At 599g, the Xoom 2 is lighter than the original Xoom, and it’s enough of a carrying weight difference to make it very pleasant to hold. It’s also got a better IPS display panel than the original. The shape’s been refined into a an unusual square with rounded corners; it’s presumed this is to avoid the kind of patent territory that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 ran into with Apple, as it’s not really something that adds to the Xoom 2 experience. The tricky power and volume buttons on the original Xoom have been shifted to the right hand back of the tablet, and increased significantly in size. There’s also an integrated infrared transmitter on the top of the tablet, to be used with the supplied Dijit remote control application.
The bad news is rather more of a problem, however. While the internal CPU has had a small speed boost, up to a 1.2GHz Dual Core model, the rest of the Xoom 2’s hardware is all a bit familiar. It’s still running on Android 2.3 Honeycomb, rather than the newer Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ variant. Motorola’s promising that the Xoom 2 will get Ice Cream Sandwich at some point in the future, but right now the operating system is stuck in the past. Performance starts out acceptably nippy, but I found that within around 30 minutes of tablet usage, the inbuilt browser became noticeably laggy, as did the tablet itself. Running third party applications, and especially games showed the Xoom 2 chugging badly; this is a tablet that sells itself as a premium product, but doesn’t quite act like it. At $720, still within the same kind of price band as both other Android tablets that already run Ice Cream Sandwich, or for that matter an iPad 2, I wouldn’t be putting my money down on Xoom 2.