Motorola Xoom 2 Review - Performance, Apps and Video Playback Review

The Motorola Xoom 2 has a 1.2GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor. In pure clock speed terms, that’s more grunt than the iPad 2, the previous Xoom and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. All of those tablets feature a 1GHz dual-core chip (some versions of the Tab 10.1 reportedly run at 1.2GHz).

As neat a power boost as this is, quad-core tablets using the Kal-El chip – the successor to the Tegra 2 – such as the Transformer Prime are beginning to appear. But what are the key advantages of getting so much more power, when few apps and games make use of a 1GHz dual-core processor, let alone the 1.2GHz CPU of the Xoom 2? Xoom pics 3

For many, quad-core power will be useful for playing high bit-rate 1080p video (the experiential benefits of which will become much clearer when higher res tablet screens arrive) and games designed with the Kal-el chip in mind. A slew of games were optimised for the 1GHz Tegra 2 chipset, after all – although a recurrence of such a trend is by no means guaranteed. The arrival of the quad-core brigade represents the first serious fragmentation at the top end of the tablet market, and it’s not clear yet how game developers will react to this.

However, if gaming is a key priority you should be looking at an iPad 2 rather than an Android tablet. Quad core renaissance or no, the catalogue will not touch that of the App Store.

Enough of what you’re missing out on, though. The Xoom 2 can play a limited selection of video formats using its built-in Gallery media player, including Xvid and DivX alongside the Android standards of H.264 and WMV. However, it failed to play our test MKVs and struggled through even our non-taxing standard definition videos, refusing to play an SD Divx vid without dropped frames. This is a software limitation, and can be partly patched-up by downloading a third-party media player. However, these are frequently buggy and under-optimised, usually relying
on software decoding rather than making full use of the hardware. Only
Samsung has successfully patched-in decent native video support to its
Honeycomb devices, and we doubt Motorola will update the tablet to
remedy this issue. Of course, this could be seen as primarily a concern
of pirates – in pirate coves is where MKV flourishes – but when a
natural use for a 10.1in widescreen portable display is TV and movie
watching this is a feature hole we have never understood. Get your
videos transcoded to H.264 and the internal battery is good for around
nine hours of video-watching, putting it up there with the
longest-lasting tablets.

Xoom pics 4
The new-look Android Market

Tablets are arguably more about apps than video, though. The Android Market app store has recently been given a trendy new interface that makes scanning over its surface a richer experience than before. However, the issues of quality, consistency and, in some cases, quantity of content still exist. That Android users aren’t willing to pay for apps is a widely-accepted notion, a largely true one as well, and naturally this limits the amount of money developers are willing to pile into the platform. Games giant EA has released 12 games for Android (not specifically tablets, either) and 43 for iPad. And thanks to Android fragmentation, only five are available from the Android Market on a Xoom 2 at present. The “there’s an app for that” saying often pinned to iOS doesn’t apply to Android if your needs spread to niche or esoteric areas.

One thing to bear in mind is that the Xoom 2 carries hardware data encryption and VPN support so it’s ready to go for secure business applications. It also has an inbuilt printing app called Motoprint that means you can easily wirelessly print from certain applications. Combined with the pen interface and IR transmitter, there are some interesting potential uses here, though none of them quite compel for everyday consumer use.

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