Motorola Xoom 2 hands on review

Thinner, lighter, brighter. That’s Moto’s three-word summary of its Xoom successor. But what’s it really like?

Motorola Xoom 2 – design and build

If you took one look at our Motorola RAZR hands-on review and wished it came in a tablet edition, consider your wish granted. Twice. This is the larger of Motorola’s second-gen Xoom tablets, the Xoom 2. Taking its sharp-edged design cues from said phone, it adds the 10.1in Gorilla Glass screen first seen on the original Honeycomb Xoom and loses a few pounds. And thank God for that – our wrists never forgave us for making them hold the Xoom Mk I for prolonged periods.

There’s a pleasantly tactile feel to the sides, though the power button and volume rocker are slightly difficult to feel out on first use. Perhaps that’ll improve over time, but as we had mere minutes to find our way around Motorola’s new tablet, the verdict on the Xoom 2’s buttonry will have to stay out until our full review.

Motorola Xoom 2 – hi-def screen

The original Xoom – the first Honeycomb tablet – had a lovely hi-def screen and Motorola says the Xoom 2’s is brighter and more vibrant. Perhaps it is, but we’ve been spoiled by so much eye-burstingly brilliant screen tech over the past year it didn’t make a striking impression. There’s nothing wrong with it – but don’t expect to coo.

Motorola has also blessed the Xoom 2 with the Splash-guard coating we saw on the new RAZR, so the entire device is water repellent, inside and out. That doesn’t mean you can take it diving, but certainly you could use it poolside without worrying. It’s very shiny, though, so unless you like sunbathing in overcast weather, don’t expect to be able to see much.

Motorola Xoom 2 – Honeycomb, not Ice Cream Sandwich

Oddly, given that Motorola’s now owned by Google, the Xoom 2 will come with Honeycomb when it arrives in mid-November. We can’t say we’re thrilled – a new Xoom would have been a fitting vehicle to show off Google’s new tablet-and-smartphone Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. But Motorola is promising an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich for the Xoom 2, even if it is remainly tight-lipped about the exact arrival date of such a delicious – and purchase-inducing – update.

Motorola Xoom 2 – power and performance

The Xoom 2 puts a nice sheen on its outgoing Honeycomb OS regardless. Motorola’s stripped back its old Motoblur ways, so there’s little between you and raw Android – a good thing. Performance is expectedly agile, given the nippy 1.2GHz dual-core processor and Motorola is promising us over 10 hours of browsing on a single charge.

Our brief encounter with Motorola’s new tablet mean the final verdict on the Xoom 2’s battery life and performance will have to wait until we’ve taken a deeper plunge with it over a longer period of time in a our forthcoming Xoom 2 review. The 5MP camera shoots hi-def and rapidly adapts its focus and exposure levels. Great, but when was the last time you took a keeper with a tablet?

Motorola Xoom 2 – the verdict

Our first impressions of the Xoom 2, if we’re being totally honest, are mixed. Yes, it’s thin and shiny and fast and beautiful. But it’s not without healthy competition in any of those respects. As a personal preference, we found the original Xoom’s roundback form and smooth curves more winsome. You may not.

Either way, the true test of whether you should start pulling notes out of your wallet will almost certainly be dictated by the timeline Motorola gives for the Xoom 2’s Ice Cream Sandwich update. And that won’t be until after its mid-November release. We’d hold off pre-ordering and wait for that detail – and’s full review – before making the Xoom 2 call.

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