Currently there is a lot of hype
out surrounding tablet computers
, especially the new Xoom
just released by Motorola
and the Apple iPad II
to be release March 11th. As a consumer you need to ask yourself how can either one of these devices make your life better. What do they have to offer you? Both the Xoom and the Apple iPad are exiting new devices but their capabilities and design are somewhat different. Unfortunately, the Apple iPad II has not yet been released and this is the machine that is really the competitor to the Xoom. If you are shopping for a new tablet computer you might want to wait until you have access to try both products before you invest your hard earned money into either one of them.
The quintessential difference between the Apple iPad and the Motorola Xoom is that one is designed by a computer company and the other is designed by a phone company. This difference permeates the design and function of both devices. It’s helpful before purchasing either one of them to ask yourself why you are in the market for a tablet. Do you want something that is lighter and easier to use than your old laptop or does trying to surf the Internet using your phone hurt your eyes and drive you crazy. A tablet computer will solve both problems but knowing your priorities will help you choose the best tablet to suit your needs. For the purpose of this article the Xoom was compared to the Apple iPad and speculates about how the Xoom will compare to the new Apple iPad II.
The Motorola Xoom is $ 799 dollars with 32 GB CK compared to the Apple iPad and iPad II that starts at $499- and tiers up to $829 (The iPad is currently on sale -$100.00) depending of which iPad model you get, 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB. The Xoom is only available with Wi-Fi + 3G. The iPad and iPad II comes is a cheaper Wi-Fi only version starting at $499.00. Wi-Fi + 3G allows a tablet to connect to the Internet anywhere just like your cell phone. For 3G access both the iPad and the Xoom require you to get a monthly service plan. The Xoom comes with a nifty $200 discount as long as you sign up for a 2-year 3G contract with Verizon Wireless. The iPad and iPad II 3G plan is available through Verizon or ATT.
The Xoom has an excellent dual core 1GHZ Tegra Z processor that makes it super quick and agile. Even connected via Wi-Fi the Xoom moves quickly and efficiently between features with up to five windows and applications running at one time. This allows you to bounce back and forth between e-mail, web surfing and your contacts without having to open and close applications. In the testing I did at six or seven applications the Xoom struggled. The flow is pretty seamless although figuring out how to open and close windows and navigate takes some time to master. This is especially true because the interface lacks the standard Android four key navigation system and someone thought it would be cool to leave the main navigation tools unlabeled. I’m sure very quickly any Xoom user would learn the inns and out of the system but it is a bit awkward at first. By comparison the Apple iPad doesn’t allow you to multi-task. However, the Apple screen is very well labeled making it easy and painless to use from the first day. In Apple iPad II we will see a processor upgrade to the 1GHZ dual-core Apple 5 chip. This upgrade will allow you to multi-task on the iPad II. How fast and agile it is remains to be seen.
Xoom’s speed comes at a cost in battery life. The Xoom battery tested at 7.32 hours of continuous use according to PC Magazine’s testing. The Apple iPad sports an impressive 10 hours of continuous use with a month of standby time between charges. The processor upgrade in the Apple iPad II could be accompanied by a shorter battery life- speed and multi-tasking always comes at a price. Whether this is a considerable drawback to the Xoom is debatable- 7 hours is still a lot of continuous playtime.
The Xoom measures 9.8 X 6.6 by .5 inches with a 10.1-inch screen (measured diagonally) compared to the Apple iPad at 9.56 X 7.47 with a 9.7-inch screen and the new iPad Ii at 9.5 X 7.31 X .34 inches with a 9.7-inch screen. The Xoom is smaller and slightly elongated compared to the iPad and seems heavier although the specs don’t seem to bear this out (1.6 pounds). The Xoom is not quiet as comfortable to hold as the iPad over a long period of time. The new iPad II is smaller lighter and thinner than its predecessor coming in at a skimpy 1.33-1.35 pounds
The Xoom screen is a WXGA 16.10 aspect action, 1280 X 800 with 150 PPI pixel resolution. The screen isn’t as luminous or bright as the iPad and the color spectrum is slightly off but not enough to be annoying. Both i-Pads sport a 1024 X 768 with 132 PPI pixel resolution. The intensity of the iPad screen is beautiful but a bit hard on the eyes if you are viewing the screen for a long time. Moreover, the Apple iPad II comes with a front and rear camera for taking photos and video. Preparing photos for print using a backlit, non-adjustable luminous screen makes establishing correct color correction almost impossible. This is already a problem with Apple screens and it would be amplified on the iPad screen. The result is simply that when you color correct your images on the computer the luminosity makes them look much better and brighter on the computer than when they are printed. The new Apple iPad III already in production is rumored to come with a better “anti-reflection” screen.
The Xoom has both a front (2 MP) and rear (5 MP) cameras so that you can use it for video conferencing as well as taking photos. Both cameras come with an impressive selection of settings. The rear camera is a little different but holding it steady and producing nice photos is much easier than with a camera phone. The current iPad has no camera or video capabilities but the Apple iPad II will come with both. These cameras are HD 720 pixel cameras that are mainly designed to shoot video. The exact MP hasn’t yet been announced but 5 MP on the back and less than 2 MP on the front is expected.
If the capabilities of the iPad II actually measure up to the specs this is an amazing device for creating and editing Film. The iPad II will feature front and rear HD cameras. These are video cameras and while they can shoot stills they are at their best shooting HD video. The rear camera shoots at 720 p/30 frames per second with playback at 1080 p with a special $39.00 AV cable. It will playback in almost any format. The New Motorola Xoom also comes with front and rear cameras with 720p video capture and playback. Both the Xoom and the iPad II come with dual-core processors and they can handle video and graphics.
The new iPad II is supposed to be nine times better at producing graphics than the first iPad and it is going to be twice as fast because of the processor. The Xoom tablet comes with movie editing software and for $4.99 you can buy iMovie through the Apple app store. iMovie includes a precision editor, multi-track audio recording, sound effects, airplay to Apple TV, Themes for introductions and endings, the ability to place text and voice over video and add and change music in your movie from iTunes. You can then export your movie easily to Youtube, Facebook, Vimeo, CNNiReport and iMovie. Using iMovie (its a universal app) on the iPhone is intuitive and easy and it will be even easier on the larger platform of the iPad II.
With the iPad II or the Xoom you will be able to literally shoot wedding footage and have it edited with music and captions and playing on a big screen at the reception in two hours. Add the Apple Garage Band app for another $4.99 and you can create your own score and add that to your movie. With the 65,000 apps available for the iPad through the Apple App store your creativity is almost limitless.
Xoom is advertised as coming with Adobe Flash. However, it doesn’t work now. I’m sure the Xoom will have Flash capabilities available sometime in the near future but not having Flash right out of the box is a disappointment. Youtube and video editing come with the Xoom. The Apple iPad and the new iPad II do not support Flash. This is a big deal because Flash is used throughout the web. Programmers look at Flash as a technology that is on its way out but the reality is that Flash is all over the web and is becoming increasingly popular. Reading around vacant boxes is ridiculous. Apple does have multiple apps such as Netflix and Hulu for viewing, downloading and playing video content. Web Video is the wave of the future and the Xoom will be adept at this- the question is when. However, 32 GB may not be enough memory. The lack of Flash also makes running many games impossible-Facebook games for example won’t run without Flash. Flash eats a lot of battery power but it would be nice to be able to have the option to use it.
The Xoom comes with a Micro USB Port and HDMI Output connector ports. The Apple iPad and iPad II do not feature a USB port. The Xoom doesn’t come with an SD card out of the box- another promised future feature for the mythical 4G wireless network. Apple’s lack of any USB capabilities makes moving pictures or documents on and off the iPad a nightmare unless you also invest in Apple’s MobileMe service or have another computer. MobileMe allows you to seamlessly sync all your devices and store documents securely and remotely in Cloud. MobileMe is an additional $99 a year (a $30 discount is available if you purchase MobileMe when you buy your iPad). You can hook the iPad and iPad II to another computer using the 30-pin dock port. It’s a shock that the new iPad II doesn’t come with a USB port. Every current iPad owner laments the lack of a USB port and this may prove to be a huge tactical error on Apple’s part.
The Xoom sports some cool sensors, an accelormeter and gyroscope but there still aren’t any apps for these things. Apple iPad II is comes with a three-axis gyroscope and an accelormeter.
The touch keyboards on the Xoom, iPad and iPad II are 80% size of a standard keyboard. They are easy to use once you get used to them. The iPads come with a nice feature that allows you to export any document you create in Apple, Word .doc or .pdf. There are some easy and beautiful templates available for quickly producing written documents on the go. Tablets are not the place to create lengthy or complicated documents because viewing during production is so limited.
The software systems on the Xoom and Apple iPad and iPad II are what seriously separates the two products. The Xoom comes with OS Android3, Honeycomb which is the first Android system designed for a tablet computer rather than a phone. The interface on the Xoom can be a bit confusing as I mentioned before but it can and will be improved upon because it is a Google product. Android is what is known as an open operating system. You are allowed to modify and personalize it substantially if you want to. Honeycomb, OSAndroid3 is still a phone centric design. You will recognize the apps and layout from your Android phone. The thing is a phone was never designed as a production or business device. You have access to all the apps in Google Market but again most of these apps have been designed not for tablets but for phones.
Apple on the other hand has never left the closed box mentality of its past. With the growth and popularity of open source systems such as Linux and WordPress one wonders how long Apple will stick to its archaic ways. For now what you buy is what you get and you can’t tinker- a serious drawback if you are technically inclined. However, Apple has opened up itself generously to developers who what to create apps for the iPad or iPhone and because they were first on the market the amount and quality of the iPad apps is vastly superior to anything available for the Xoom. A good example is books. Books available for the iPad dwarf the Google bookstore and the seamless ability to access everything over in Kindle through the glitch free Amazon Kindle app for the iPad make this a good choice for book junkies.
The iPad was developed as a computer device by a computer company. With the popularity of the iPhone it’s easy to forget that that Apple is first and foremost a computer company. When they were developing the iPad Apple went to great lengths to include lots of productivity tools that would make the iPad more than a large cell phone. With the iPad and MobileMe anyone can quickly and easily build beautiful presentations or business proposals on the go and then hook the device up to a projector and show them. The Xoom can also probably do this but not with the same ease as the iPad.
The iPad has already started to revolutionize the marketing industry because of the ease and mobility to show clients products and sell them. The Xoom and Apple iPad II elaborate on this positively through the increased ability to multi-task. For example, with the Xoom you can show a client a series of images through the gallery, show them your website and then give them an application to fill out immediately by having all three screens up and running at the same time. Similarly, a doctor could pull up multiple charts and records while also making notes. The Apple iPad II will also probably multi-task with great speed and agility. With the unexpected demand for tablets by businesses it is easy to understand why Motorola has scrambled to get the Xoom out on the shelves unfinished and why Apple is releasing the new iPad II so quickly.
As a consumer all this tablet madness is a good thing. Take your time, think about your needs and play with the Xoom and the Apple iPad and the iPad II when it comes out and chose the machine that is best for you. These are fabulous products and the competition and demand for them will only make them cheaper and better over the next few years.