Apple iPad 2 vs Motorola Xoom

Android Honeycomb vs iOS 4.3: it's the first skirmish in the new battle of the tablets

All is revealed: we now know exactly what the Apple iPad 2 is and what’s more, it’s on sale in just a few weeks. Just like the Motorola Xoom, cheekily made available for pre-order right around the time Steve Jobs was revealing Apple’s latest baby. So which of these tablets is set to rule the world? Will 2011 be “the year of the iPad 2” as Jobs claims, or does the Xoom have a say in the matter?

BUILD

iPad 2: The first iPad was glorious to hold, and the second is even better. Thinner by a third and lighter, it remains reassuringly solid in your mitt. The protective Smart Case, fixed on with magnets, is also a deft design touch.

Xoom: The Xoom feels as sturdy as the iPad 2, but is a little bit heavier at 730g to the iPad 2’s 601g (613g for the 3G-equipped version).

LOOKS

iPad 2: The iPad 2’s skinniness and tapered edges make it even easier on the eye than its predecessor. We’re still not sure about the white version, mind you...

Xoom: The Xoom’s styling is more functional than inspired. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, but it won’t get your heart racing.

POWER

iPad 2: Apple has upgraded to a dual-core ARM A5 chip, which it claims doubles the speed of the iPad 2 and increases its graphical processor power by up to 9 times. Despite this, the battery life is still the same: up to 10 hours.

Xoom: There’s a dual-core chip here too: an NVIDIA Tegra 2. We reckon the Xoom will have a similar amount of power to the iPad 2, and Motorola has the same claims regarding battery life. Call this one a draw for now.

SCREEN

iPad 2: We were hoping for more pixels, but Apple has stuck with the same 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 display as the first iPad.

Xoom: At 10.1 inches and with a resolution of 1280 x 800, the Xoom trumps the iPad 2 in the screen stakes. Of course, there’s more to a tablet screen than its sharpness and size...

APPS

iPad 2: With the might of the App Store behind it, the iPad 2 is never going to be short of top notch software. The new Garage Band and iMovie apps are mightily impressive.

Xoom: Android Market is fine for phone apps, but can’t match the App Store when it comes to tablet-tailored software. Not yet, at least – Apple has had a huge head start in this area.

CAMERA

iPad 2: Apple is keeping schtum on the megapixel count, but the iPad 2 would appear to have a VGA camera on the front and the same 720p-capable camera as the iPod touch on the back.

Xoom: The Xoom also has a VGA up front, but boasts a proper 5MP snapper on the back. Chalk this round up to Moto.

OS

iPad 2: iOS on the iPad is buttery smooth and so easy to get your head around, although there’s always room from improvement.

Xoom: We haven’t played with Honeycomb enough to pass a definitive verdict on this, but one thing’s for certain: it’s a lot better than the brutalised phone software used on existing Android tablets.

CONNECTIONS

iPad 2: The iPad 2 offers the same connectivity as its predecessor: a 3.5mm headphone jack and a dock connector port – but this time there’s an HDMI adapter available, letting you output whatever’s on the screen to your telly. On the wireless front, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with 3G available on selected models.

Xoom: The Xoom has a micro USB port, mini-HDMI, headphone socket and micro SD card slot – although the latter is not enabled by default and will require a software update for use. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with a 3G model available. In the US, it’ll become 4G compatible in the near future.

VERDICT

It’s close, but we’ll have to give this one to the iPad 2. It looks likely to cost around the same as the Xoom, is better to hold and look at and iOS is currently the best tablet software around. But in a year, who knows?

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