Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 & Xyboard 8.2 Tablets Evaluate

The Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 tablets pick up where the original Xoom tablet left off. Both offer Verizon Wireless 4G LTE data speeds, large displays, and a black stealth finish that has been updated to feel better in the hand.

It's unfortunate that they're running Android 3.x Honeycomb like the original Xoom tablet they're replacing when Ice Cream Sandwich is literally there. As for Android tablets, these two devices are quite capable and not heavy on the eyes. However, they put a little strain on the wallet. Pricing for contracts starts at $ 429.99 for $ 8.2 and $ 529.99 for $ 10.1, both with 16GB of storage.

Read on to learn what they're good at and what they're not good at.

hardware

The two Droid Xyboard tablets are very similar in design and components. Both have 1280 x 800 pixel IPS touchscreen displays in various sizes and are equipped on the back with a mixture of black soft-touch color and gray gun metal panels. The 8.2-inch model offers a little more style on the back thanks to a few visible screws, but the overall look of the devices is pretty similar except for the "cut corners" of their bodies and the recessed volume controls and power buttons.

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The 10.1-inch model, designed to be held horizontally, measures 253.9 mm x 173.6 mm x 8.80 mm (10.0 in. X 6.8 in. X 0.34 in.) And weighs 603 g (21.3 ounces). It's a big device, but it feels better in the hand than the similarly sized HP TouchPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It has an IR port and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top near the rear speaker ports and camera, giving users the convenience of micro USB based charging and a micro HDMI out on the bottom.

The 8.2-inch xyboard feels even better in your hands. It weighs a feather-light 390 g and still offers a fairly large display. The widescreen dimensions of 8.5 "x 5.5" x 0.35 "(216 mm x 139.8 mm x 8.99 mm) make it easy to write with your thumb when held in the intended portrait orientation. However, the location of the rear-facing 5 megapixel camera is unfortunate as it is very difficult to hold the device in landscape orientation without disturbing the lens. Like its big brother, the 8.2 has top-mounted IR and headphone connections as well as micro-USB and micro-HDMI connections on the bottom. In contrast to the 10.1, however, the 8.2's speakers are located at the top and bottom of the tablet, which is preferable for watching videos in landscape mode.

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Both devices have a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor supported by 1 GB of application RAM. The 8.2-inch model is available with 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. The 10.1-inch model is available in these two capacities as well as in a larger 64 GB version.

I find the displays on the Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 completely acceptable, if not inspiring. I had some display issues on my first 8.2 test unit (banding and interference), but the replacement I received didn't have any such issues. The displays on both tablets are bright and colorful enough for easy indoor use and offer wide viewing angles.

user friendliness

When it comes to ease of use, most of the problems a Motorola Droid Xyboard user faces are caused by Google because the Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system is rather poor in performance. The user interface is incoherent, sometimes sluggish despite the processing power available, and just awkward in my opinion. The fact that some apps only run in landscape mode while others only run in portrait mode means that regardless of your preference, you'll have to turn a honeycomb tablet from time to time. Motorola would have done well keeping the Xyboard 8.2 and 10.1 off the market until they could be launched from scratch with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Moto and Verizon promise an update is imminent.

There are a few differences between the 8.2 and 10.1 inch models that affect usability. The 8.2 is easier to hold and use because of its smaller form factor. Entering thumbs, especially in portrait mode, is very easy with 8.2. On the other hand, because of its size, the 10.1 is difficult to type in portrait mode and nearly impossible for people with smaller hands when held in the intended landscape orientation. The widescreen aspect ratio ensures that the surface is too wide to be able to navigate easily while typing.

The 10.1 offers functions for recognizing pens and handwriting. I haven't found them to my liking (I rarely do), but at least Motorola offers three different on-screen handwriting methods so there is something for everyone. What is missing, however, is an easy way to switch between handwriting and virtual keyboard. The popup notes feature, which can be accessed from the notification area, is also available from 10.1. Both Xyboard devices support an external mouse and keyboard (not included).

Motorola judiciously thought it appropriate to put a nice set of background images on the xyboards – something that was badly needed. The main application menu is standard with its horizontally scrolling pages and the special "My Apps" view. The notification area is also largely untouched and still doesn't offer a way to clear all notifications at once. This is strange when you consider that Android smartphones generally don't offer a way to clear individual notifications.

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