Motorola Xoom vs. Apple iPad 2: Tablet showdown

Which is the better tablet -- Apple's iPad 2 or Motorola's Xoom?

The 9.7in display of the iPad 2 is bright, crisp and clear and really brings content to life, particularly photos and videos. Though the iPad has the same oleophobic screen coating as the iPhone 4, its larger size means a few taps on the display quickly results in a grubby mess that is hard to clean. The iPad 2 also has another serious flaw — its display is virtually impossible to see in direct sunlight, which is a huge issue on a device that's designed for portability and travel.

The Motorola Xoom has a slightly larger display at 10.1in, and its resolution of 1280x800 pixels is an improvement over the iPad 2's 1024x768 display. We are yet to get our hands on the Xoom, so we can't comment on its performance in direct sunlight.

Apple iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom: Software and performance

The iPad 2 runs Apple's iOS4 operating system. It offers a familiar swipeable home screen enhanced by folders, and the consistent Apple UI look and feel extending across all of the standard applications. If you have never used an iPad before, you can expect a device that is easy to pick up and use, a well-populated App Store, and excellent multimedia capabilities. Web browsing is fast and efficient, and the iPad 2 is also a great device for viewing photos, watching videos and listening to music.

Though the streamlined iPad experience has won many fans, Apple's closed platform means the iPad 2 doesn't offer the same flexibility as Android tablets like the Xoom. In particular, the iPad 2 has an inferior notification system to Android tablets, and Apple doesn't allow you to customise and display live widgets on the iPad 2 home screen. By the same token, the iPad 2 interface and overall user experience are far more polished than what is currently on offer from Android tablets. The iPad 2 feels much faster and smoother than any Android tablet we've tested.

The Motorola Xoom runs Android 3.0 "Honeycomb", a new version of the Android platform that is optimised for tablet devices. Android 3.0 has a completely redesigned interface that aims to take advantage of the larger screen of a tablet. These new UI features include an "action bar", a contextual option group displayed at the top of the screen, five customisable home screens, recent apps for easier multitasking, a redesigned on-screen keyboard, a new browser and an improved copy and paste function. Android 3.0 Honeycomb also includes tabbed Web browsing, and support for 3D graphics. The new Android software for tablets is a huge improvement over earlier versions, but still lacks the polished and slick feel of the iPad 2.

Motorola Xoom vs. iPad 2

The Motorola Xoom runs Android 3.0 "Honeycomb", which offers a completely redesigned interface aiming to take advantage of the larger screen of a tablet.

Apple iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom: Other features

The Apple iPad 2 is powered by a dual-core processor called the A5. Apple claims the processor doubles the speed of the iPad 2 and makes graphics processing up to nine times faster. Apple hasn't specified the amount of RAM the iPad 2 has, but it is generally assumed to be 512MB.

The Apple iPad 2 also includes two cameras; one facing the front of the tablet, the other rear-facing. The rear camera records 720p HD video, and takes still photographs, but both cameras have low specifications — the front camera is VGA, while the rear camera is just 0.7 megapixels. Both cameras can be used with Apple's FaceTime video chat application, which debuted on the iPhone 4.

On the other hand, the Motorola Xoom Android tablet has a significantly better 5-megapixel rear camera on its rear that also doubles as a 720p HD video recorder, and a 2-megapixel front camera for video calls. The Xoom can also claim to be a more powerful device than the iPad under the hood — it is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, has 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal memory, and a microSD card slot for extra storage. The Motorola Xoom also has one other significant advantage over the iPad 2 — its Web browser can display Flash video content.

Motorola has promised 10 hours of video playback time before the Xoom's battery runs out. We'll be keen to put this to the test, as the iPad 2 is claimed to offer a battery life that equals the Xoom's.

The Apple iPad 2 is available through Apple retail stores and select authorised resellers. The iPad 2 is slightly cheaper than the original iPad, starting at $579 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi version.

The Motorola Xoom will be available in May exclusively through Telstra. Pricing and availability has yet to be announced.

What do you think about the Apple iPad 2 and the Motorola Xoom? Let us know in the comments below!

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide
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