Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 Full ReviewThere is no shortage of enterprise tablets. From the PlayBook to the ThinkPad Tablet to any number of Windows slates, business users have plenty to choose from. Though it seems like a slick consumer device, the Droid Xyboard 10.1 is Motorola's attempt to tap into that market.
Featuring a larger form factor than its companion, the Xyboard 8.2, the Xyboard 10.1 has 4G connectivity, houses a suite of business-friendly apps, and comes packaged with a capacitive stylus. Do enterprise users have the device of their dreams on their hands? And how does the Xyboard 10.1 fare in other areas besides being business-ready?
Build & Design
With tablets that are anywhere around the 10.1-inch range, it's something of a given that they will be a little unwieldy and uncomfortable to hold with one hand. Nevertheless, I was surprised by how heavy the Xyboard 10.1 was at 1.33 pounds and how quickly I would grow tired from holding it with one hand. Perhaps making this even more puzzling is the fact that the Xyboard is not particularly thick, measuring 10 x 6.83 x 0.35 inches. The tablet is just dense, so I was caught a little off-guard when I first started handling it. But at least it's an improvement over the Xoom, which had a smaller screen but weighed more at 1.6 pounds.
It also has an odd shape that may appeal to some, but not to this reviewer. Its corners are cut off, leaving angles that give the tablet a hexagonal shape. This seems like an unnecessary alternative from the usual rounded corners (or even perfectly rectangular tablets); if anything, it just seems like an attempt to stand out in the crowd in a completely meaningless way.
That being said, what I did enjoy about the build was the fact that it has rubberized material on the back…well, part of the back, at least. The rubberized casing wraps around to the rear where it comes in about an inch on either side on the short ends, enough to give your fingers a place to rest on the back when holding the tablet in landscape mode. I would have preferred that the entire back of the casing be covered in rubberized material, that way I could enjoy it when holding the tablet in portrait mode too (or to provide comfort and grip to those who have longer fingers than I do). Still, the rest of the backing is made from aluminum, so at least it doesn't have a cheap feel to it.
Down towards the bottom of the front of the device is the Xyboard's built-in microphone, and in the middle of the bottom edge of the device, you will find a microUSB port (used for charging) as well as a microHDMI port. To the right of those two ports, there is a covered slot for a microSIM card, but unfortunately there's no microSD card slot. The top edge of the device, meanwhile, has an IR blaster and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Xyboard's front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera is centered on the top frame of the device (when held in landscape mode), while the rear-facing, 5-megapixel camera is centered at the top on the back. The speakers are also located on the back of the Xyboard, but also near the top so they aren't covered by your hands when you're holding the tablet.
The only other controls on the Xyboard 10.1 are the power/standby and volume up/down buttons, and they are designed in the same atrocious manner as the ones found on the Xyboard 8.2. They are placed way too closely together on the back of the right short side of the tablet, with the distance between volume down and up being the same distance between volume up and the power button. As such, it's virtually impossible to tell which button you're pressing just by feel without looking. And not only are the buttons located on the back, they're barely raised, so they're more or less flush with the surface of the device. So even if you are lucky enough to find the button that you want without having to stare at it, it's not particularly easy or comfortable to press it.
The screen on the Xyboard 10.1 certainly looks crisp enough, given its 1280 x 800 resolution, but I will admit that it looked better on the Xyboard 8.2 thanks to the greater pixel density (it had the same resolution, but on a smaller screen). Still, the viewing angle is very wide, colors looked vivid, and HD video was a pleasure to watch on the display.
Aside from the fact that they're rear-firing, I think that the speakers are well-placed up towards the top on the back of the device, since they have no risk of being accidentally covered. They are surprisingly powerful too, but just because they can be loud doesn't mean that they're of good quality. Like 99% of tablet speakers, it's not like you'll get any rich-sounding audio or bass out of them; they're still tinny and flat-sounding.
- Android Honeycomb (3.2)
- 10.1-inch TFT IPS touchscreen display, 1280 x 800
- 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
- 1 GB RAM
- 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB internal storage
- Front facing 1.3 megapixel, rear-facing 5.0 megapixel webcams
- 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Verizon LTE
- microUSB 2.0, microHDMI, 3.5mm audio input
- 10 x 6.83 x 0.35 inches
- 1.33 pounds
- Ships with microUSB wall charger, microUSB to full USB cable
- Price at launch: 16 GB: $529.99 subsidized, $699.99 full retail; 32 GB: $629.99 subsidized, $799.99 full retail; 64 GB: $729.99 subsidized, $899.99 full retail; 16 GB, Wi-Fi only: $499.99
Like the Xyboard 8.2, the Xyboard 10.1 features a dual-core, 1.2 GHz processor that has a respectable amount of power, enough to give it some legs before it has to step aside to really usher in the quad-core processor era. Its performance in our benchmark tests was good, but not out of this world; it ranked behind some of the more recent tablets with its Quadrant and Sunspider performance.
The Xyboard ships with Android Honeycomb 3.2, which is a perfectly serviceable OS, but thankfully it will also be upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) in Q3 of this year, according to Motorola. Anybody who has used both operating systems knows that they're solid, but ICS packs a ton of new features and is generally more convenient and user friendly. And while my experience with Honeycomb 3.2 on the Xyboard was generally stable, I did experience a couple of lockups that required me to do a reboot of the device.
The startup time wasn't great, taking about 40 seconds or so from a cold start. Looking at my editor's review of the Xyboard 8.2 (which had roughly the same startup time), he seems to think this is an acceptable boot time for this generations' tablets, but I thing that's a bit on the long side. To put things into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus takes 20 seconds from a dead start. At least the Xyboard 10.1 shuts down almost immediately, only taking about five seconds to close up shop.
Quadrant measures CPU, 3D, and memory performance. Higher numbers are better.
The battery on the Xyboard 10.1 is decent, and I definitely do not think it's as poor as many other reviewers have claimed. With light usage (say, half an hour of navigating, taking photos, internet browsing or downloading apps a day), I was able to get it to last almost two weeks. Admittedly, once you step up the usage for more intense operations like video streaming, gaming, video chatting, etc., the battery life obviously doesn't have the same longevity, but I could still get a solid day and a half out of it even after watching a full streaming movie. I will also concede that if I had been using 4G, battery life probably would have been a lot worse.
Yes, the Xyboard is a Verizon 4G LTE-enabled device, which is a nice touch that keeps its connectivity on the cutting edge, but unfortunately we were unable to test out this feature due to the fact that we did not have any micro SIM cards lying around the office. So for this review, I relied on Wi-Fi connectivity, which always worked just fine. I've had problems with other Android tablets where the Wi-Fi goes on the fritz and seemingly had a mind of its own, switching between networks or disconnecting at will. But no such issues arose during my time with the Xyboard 10.1, which was refreshing.
The Xyboard 10.1 seems to have business users in mind and as such, it comes preloaded with a number of enterprise-oriented apps that many will find useful. While some are more common like the ubiquitous Quickoffice, there are few gems like Fuze Meeting, Citrix (which allows you to access cloud storage or virtual desktops), Motocast (also a cloud/file streaming service), GoToMeeting, Polycom Video, and Evernote (packaged in support of the stylus, which we'll get to later).
There are some other preloaded apps that are geared more towards entertainment, too, like Kindle, Blockbuster, Skitch (it lets you doodle on pictures, essentially), The Daily, Netflix, Dijit (universal remote app), Videosurf, and a link to Motorola's app marketplace, MotoPack. But unfortunately, the Xyboard also features its fair share of garbage that only serves to clutter up your app space.
For instance, I was extremely excited to see Slingbox in my apps when I first loaded up the tablets; alas, it was only a link to purchase the $30 app. Same went for the games (Let's Golf 2, Madden), which were only brief demos of the full versions. The worst part? As far as I could tell, the links to this nonsense could not be removed from my apps section, permanently causing clutter.
The Xyboard 10.1's capacitive stylus support has a lot of potential, especially given that the device seems to be aimed towards the enterprise demographic. Besides, it's really the only unique aspect of this particular device that's afloat in a sea of Android tablets. That's not to say that there aren't other Android tablets that include styluses, but it's not an especially common feature and it's nice to see Motorola try something a little different. Unfortunately, the company floundered in its execution of stylus support and it ends up coming off as more of a gimmick than anything especially useful.
The biggest problem with using the stylus is that the Xyboard 10.1 does not feature palm rejection. As a result, it's completely impossible to write naturally with your hand against the tablet; if you try, its detection completely freaks out and you'll end up with a few random dots and squiggles in the area where you just attempted to write words. Even if you try writing without your hand touching the screen, which is incredibly uncomfortable and unnatural, the handwriting recognition is poor. The stylus works well for navigation, but that's about it.
I can appreciate the inclusion of certain stylus-ready apps that are housed in the system tray on the bottom right of the screen, including Evernote and Sticky Note, and I like that the usual Android keyboard that pops up for input can be switched to stylus/handwriting input. These inclusions encourage the use of the stylus and note taking, which shows Motorola's commitment to the idea of the stylus. And they would be welcome inclusions…if writing with the stylus wasn't such a hassle.
The Xyboard 10.1 is a good attempt from Motorola to provide the enterprise crowd with a reliable tablet option. In some ways, in succeeds: if you avoid video-intensive activities, battery life is solid, it has 4G connectivity, and many of its preloaded business apps are extremely useful. But on the other hand, the inclusion of the stylus proves to be more or less useless beyond serving as a navigation tool. It had massive potential, especially for the enterprise demographic, but any attempt to use it for input will be inconvenient at best; at its worst, it just won't work at all thanks to the Xyboard's lack of palm rejection.
There aren't enough serious flaws for me to just write the Xyboard off completely. But there are enough flaws to balance out its strengths and make it a middle-of-the-road option for business users. More casual users looking for a device for content consumption, however, can probably look elsewhere. You can probably knock a few bucks off the price if you opt for a device without 4G, stylus support, and preloaded business apps (and encryption). There is a Wi-Fi only option of the Xyboard 10.1, but it's still $500 with 16 GB of memory. Casual users are better off going with another option rather than paying $500 for a feature set you mostly don't need.
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