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Hands-on review: Xoom battles iPad 2 to a draw

Motorola's Xoom is designed to do everything the iPad can do, and more. Then came iPad 2.

By Wayne Rash, Network World
March 15, 2011 01:30 PM ET

Network World - We got our hands on the two hottest products in the tablet computing market -- the Motorola Xoom and the iPad 2 and put them to the test. This was a 15-round heavyweight fight and in the end, the Xoom stood toe to toe with the reigning champ, iPad 2.

Watch slideshow version on which is better: Xoom or iPad 2

The Motorola Xoom is designed to address nearly everyone's tablet wish list. It has a widescreen that measures slightly larger than Apple's iPad, includes features that the iPad was missing, and comes with the much anticipated Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system designed specifically for tablets.

It's also listed at $799.99, compared to $729.99 for the iPad 2.

The feature set is a distinct improvement over the original iPad that Apple was selling when the Xoom was officially released last month. The Xoom includes front and rear facing cameras, a USB port, an HDMI port, a slot for SD memory cards and support for Adobe Flash.

Unfortunately, a couple of those features, including Adobe Flash, had not been delivered as of the time of this review. For example, the SD card slot was installed on the Xoom, but it still wasn't enabled. While we were testing, Motorola upgraded the device over the air to Android 3.0.1 which fixed a few bugs, including one that prevented the Xoom from automatically changing to Daylight Savings Time, and provided the remaining support for Flash when it is finally delivered.

The result is a very usable tablet computer that is a worthy competitor to the Apple iPad. It provides a tablet experience equivalent to the iPad (although the two devices are very different in some important ways), and it provides features demanded by users since the tablet market exploded in 2010.

Apple's release, two weeks after the Xoom started shipping, of the iPad 2 with its dual-core processor and two cameras, negated some of the Xoom's advantages.

While the iPad 2 was not available for a full review, we were able to borrow one for testing for about two hours before it was released to the public. Both the Xoom and the iPad 2 work with Wi-Fi and 3G, (we tested the iPad 2 on Verizon Wireless) both are nearly the same size, and both work well as tablets. The differences are minor, and for most potential users, the decision will come down to personal preference rather than some clear advantage on one side or the other.

First look at Apple iPad 2: what's new, unchanged and still missing | Tablet tumble: iPad 2 vs Xoom

Tale of the tape

The Xoom is a half-inch thick and weighs just over a pound and a half, which is equal to the original iPad. The other physical dimensions are different however. The Xoom is 9.8 inches x 6.6 inches. The iPad tends more toward the square at 9.5 x 7.31. The iPad 2 is 0.34 inches thick. The screen dimensions tell a slightly different story.

The Xoom's screen measures 5.325 x 8.5. The iPad measures 5.75 x 7.75 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. While Motorola makes a big deal out of having a 10.1 inch screen vs. the iPad 2's 9.7 inch screen, this difference is because screen sizes are measured diagonally. In reality, the actual screen area available for viewing is nearly the same, with the iPad 2 being about seven-tenths of a square inch less - an insignificant amount.

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