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Tablet deathmatch: Motorola Xoom vs. Apple iPad

Galen Gruman | March 4, 2011
As Apple commences shipping of the iPad 2, the first viable Android competitor packs a punch does battle with the original iPad.

The basic, 3G-capable US$630 iPad comes with 16GB of nonremovable flash storage, whereas the US$800 Xoom comes with 32GB. (For US$100 more, you can get a 32GB iPad model). The iPad 2 prices will be the same as for the current iPad, at which point the Xoom's US$70 difference can't be justified by its cameras. Still, you might accept some of the Xoom's higher price by crediting its tray for a MicroSD card that can accept as much as 32GB in removable storage; to connect an iPad to an SD card, you need to buy Apple's Camera Connection Kit (www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003K1EYM6?ie=UTF8&tag=ergo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B003K1EYM6).

I found the iPad screen easier to read–both in sunlight and in office lighting–than the Xoom's screen, which suffers from excessive reflectivity. I disliked the Xoom's widescreen (16:9) display, because Web pages and other content appear too squished in landscape mode. The iPad's old-fashioned 4:3 ratio is more comfortable for most apps; only when I'm watching HD movies do I wish the iPad were widescreen.

Finally, both devices use touchscreen keyboards but support external Bluetooth keyboards. To be safe, get an Apple or Apple-verified keyboard for the iPad and a Motorola keyboard for the Xoom—neither tablet would pair with the other tablet's Bluetooth keyboards. Neither the Xoom nor the iPad supports mice or touchpads, but both support Bluetooth headsets such as for using Skype.

The winner: This is a tough one, because the iPad is superior in its enclosure design and screen, whereas the Xoom offers cameras, video mirroring, and easier SD card usage. I'm tipping to the iPad side because one additional factor is a bigger deal for most users: its much longer battery life. (The iPad 2 will make the choice a clear one in favour of Apple.)

The overall winner is ...
The iPad beats the Xoom in most of our comparison's categories—often in significant ways. Still, make no mistake that the Xoom is a strong tablet offering, despite some annoyances (mainly related to software). But it lacks the fit, finish, and cohesion of the iPad. After all of these years of Apple's consistency in this regard, it never ceases to amaze me that competitors haven't wised up. Quality across the board has to be a given.

Still, for many users not blinded or charmed (take your pick) by the Apple way, the Xoom is a compelling tablet. If you're in the Android smartphone camp already, it's an easy pick as a tablet. We're only at the beginning of the Android tablet wave, so if you're leaning Android but have no pressing need for a tablet today, it makes sense to see what else comes on the market before committing to the Xoom.

 

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