The march of the Honeycomb tablets goes on, playing a tune that's starting to get a bit muted thanks to the promise of fresher beats coming from Ice Cream Sandwich. Still, there are plenty of ways for manufacturers to add their own bit of swing to the same 'ol song. Motorola, of course, paved the way for all these slates with the Xoom. It's hard to believe that first Honeycomb tablet was released just 10 months ago, but now we have its successor, the Xyboard, here in its 8.2-inch guise.

At least, that's what it's being called domestically. Elsewhere it's the Xoom 2 (we reviewed the 10.1-inch flavor already), but in America we get a patently unfortunate moniker for a tablet that offers an interesting design at an interesting size with the interesting bonus of LTE. But, all that mobile bandwidth is going to cost you: $430 for the 16GB model or $530 for 32GB if you sign on for a two-year data contract. Does the funky design, convenient size and high-rate connectivity make up for the added cost over something like the class-leading Transformer Prime? Let's find out.

Motorola Xyboard 8.2 review

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Motorola

Motorola Xyboard 8.2

Pros

  • Hand-friendly design
  • Integrated IR emitter
  • Great LTE performance

Cons

  • High cost including contract
  • Mid-range performance for a modern tablet
  • No expandable storage
Summary

The Motorola Xyboard 8.2 is a perfectly fine slate that's comfortable to hold and to use but fails to stand among the competition.


Hardware


Slip the Xyboard 8.2 out of its box and, if you've used the Xoom that came before, you'll immediately feel comfortable. Yes, things are slimmer, lighter and overall better to the touch, but the overall aesthetic of something that's dark and industrial has carried over. Accentuated, even, with a metal inset on the back, held in place by six exposed screws. The area around that is slightly raised and rubberized, with the combination of surfaces and depths making this one of the most pleasant to hold tablets on the market.


Compared to the sharp edges and cold metallic construction on the Transformer Prime or iPad 2, the Xyboard is something you'll really want to carry. It never feels like it's in danger of slipping out of your hand, and those tapered corners, which haven't seen to be winning over any hearts, do make for a slate that rests against the palm of your hand without cutting into it. That said, it is a bit thicker than the competition, at 0.35 inches (8.89mm), though at 0.85 pounds (386g) it's a fair amount lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9.

So we like the shape, but we're not entirely sure we're in love with the button placement here.

So we like the shape, but we're not entirely sure we're in love with the button placement here. The Xoom was frequently derided for hiding the power toggle on the back and the Xyboard does the same, taking that a step further by shuffling the volume rocker there too. If you happen to be holding this tablet portrait orientation in your right hand those buttons fall perfectly under your index finger. Any other way, though, and this placement is inconvenient, and we found ourselves flipping it over time and time again to find that volume rocker. This will, at least, give you a few moments of entertainment whenever you hand the thing to someone else as they fumble about for the hidden power button.


With the buttons on the back, left and right edges of the tablet are kept free of ports, plugs and protrusions. Sitting square in the middle of the top is an IR blaster, which could see this serving as a universal remote down the road, though Moto provides no software to assist there. Just off to the left of that is the 3.5mm headphone jack and, on the right, the first of the two speakers. The other is on the bottom, along with plugs for micro-USB and micro-HDMI as well as the slot for the LTE micro SIM, hidden behind a flimsy door that, thankfully, you shouldn't have to be prying open too frequently.

Up front is the 8.2-inch, 1280 x 800 LCD display that offers extremely good viewing angles and accurate color reproduction, even when you're gazing from a less than ideal vantage point. But, it does look a bit flat next to the Super AMOLED Plus panels Samsung is using.

Motorola Xyboard 8.2 vs. 10.1

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Final details include a five megapixel camera (capable of recording 720p video) paired with an LED flash on the back, while a 1.3 megapixel unit peers through the bezel on the front. An LED indicator light is also situated there in the glass, which will blink plaintively at you whenever you have a message waiting.

Performance and battery life



The Xyboard still suffers from the sort of annoying stutters and hang-ups while browsing that have plagued seemingly every Honeycomb device known to man.

So the Xyboard 8.2 is definitely a tablet that we like holding, but it wasn't universally fulfilling when it comes to performance. The thing absolutely feels much more sporty than the Xoom that came before, apps loading quickly and games running smoothly, handling HD video playback without issue and generally trucking along as it should. That said, it still suffers from the sort of annoying stutters and hang-ups while browsing that have plagued seemingly every Honeycomb device known to man.

Webpages quickly render and appear almost complete, tempting you to interact with them while the last remnants of content are still loading. But, do so and you'll experience sluggish response and excessive tiling. You're best off having a bit more patience.

Ignore that annoyance for a moment and look to the benchmarks to find some quite acceptable scores -- and by "quite acceptable" we mean "these would have been fine before the Transformer Prime sauntered into town." Sadly for Motorola, this device is living in a post-Prime world and it just can't compete in terms of sheer number-crunching ability, which is important if you're planning on doing some gaming on your tablet.

Motorola Xyboard 8.2 Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 ASUS Transformer Prime T-Mobile Springboard
Quadrant 1,663 2,341 3,023 1,871
Linpack Single-thread (MFLOPS) 45.25 26.85 43.35 28.38
Linpack Multi-thread (MFLOPS) 69.79 N/A 67.05 55.36
Nenamark 1 (fps) 28.87 38.1 60.07 57
Nenamark 2 (fps) 19.27 18.1 46.07 24.5
Vellamo 1,018.5 51.77 953 1,057
SunSpider 9.1 (ms, lower scores are better) 1,926.9 2,295 1,861 N/A

They Xyboard falls behind the Prime when it comes to battery life as well, clocking in at five hours and 25 minutes in our standard battery rundown test, which entails a looping video with the display set at a fixed brightness. Note that this was with CDMA enabled but LTE disabled, so that score would surely go up should you be silent running with this, but surely down if you raise the LTE periscope.

The Xyboard had no problem making and keeping a solid LTE connection on Verizon's network and, once locked on, put down some connection speeds that warmed our jaded hearts.

And that, of course, is the one area where the Prime can't compete with the Xyboard 8.2. The Xyboard had no problem making and keeping a solid LTE connection on Verizon's network and, once locked on, put down some connection speeds that warmed our jaded hearts. Now, your mileage will certainly vary here depending on local network conditions, but testing near Palo Alto, California saw average downloads of around 18Mbps and uploads at about 16Mbps -- very nearly synchronous.

When compared against an LTE phone at the same location the Xyboard uploads were consistently a bit quicker, while downloads were about the same. With pings under 50ms this could be a refreshing new way to host a Counter Strike server wherever you happen to be.

Tablet
Battery Life
Motorola Xyboard 8.2 5:25
Apple iPad 2 10:26
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime 10:17
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 9:55
Apple iPad 9:33
Motorola Xoom 2 8:57
HP TouchPad 8:33
Lenovo IdeaPad K1 8:20
Motorola Xoom 8:20
T-Mobile G-Slate 8:18
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus 8:09
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 8:00
Archos 101 7:20
Archos 80 G9 7:06
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook 7:01
Acer Iconia Tab A500 6:55
T-Mobile Springboard (Huawei MediaPad) 6:34
Toshiba Thrive 6:25
Samsung Galaxy Tab 6:09
Velocity Micro Cruz T408 5:10
Acer Iconia Tab A100 4:54

Software


There's not a lot to add here to what we said about the Xoom 2. What you have here is a virtually unmolested version of Android 3.2 Honeycomb that, if you squint, might be mistaken for Ice Cream Sandwich -- which won't actually hit this tablet until sometime in 2012. Motorola has thrown a few choice apps on here, like MotoCast for streaming media and Quickoffice HD for attempts at productivity, while Verizon has added a few of its own, like My Verizon Mobile and its own little Apps store. The offending apps are few and, thankfully, far between.

Camera


We won't spend a lot of time here going over the camera performance as these are, as far as we can tell, the same camera units found in the 10.1 inch model we've so recently reviewed. The five megapixel shooter on the back produces acceptable images that will certainly capture whatever you're looking at but won't exactly do so in a particularly endearing way, with muted colors and soft imaging. The lack of tap-to-focus is also a bit of a bother, leaving you hoping the tablet chooses to clarify what you'd like it to. When it does focus it does so a bit slowly, but that's still a big, big improvement over the slow shooter Moto put in the Droid Bionic. The 720p30 footage is similarly adequate, so long as you aren't trying to track any fast-moving objects.

It is worth a mention, however, that the camera placement on the back-left was a constant bother for us. Hold the tablet in landscape orientation, as you're likely to do when taking a picture, and it's incredibly easy to put your left hand right on top of the lens. In fact it's incredibly difficult to not put it there. That's a definite annoyance.

Motorola Xyboard 8.2 sample shots

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Wrap-up


We've been having a hard time figuring out why anybody would choose the Xoom 2 / Xyboard 10.1 over the Transformer Prime -- a device that's the same price or cheaper and considerably faster -- but the 8.2-inch version makes a little bit more sense. A 10.1-inch tablet simply isn't the right size for everybody and, among those slates that slot in somewhere below, the 8.2 hits a lot of marks. It's light, comfortable to carry and to use, and reasonably quick. And, the integrated wireless connectivity makes it rather more useful for those who are frequently on the go.

Just prepare to pay dearly for that extra usability. The $430 or $530 up-front costs for the 16 and 32GB versions aren't bad, but add on two years of data service and things suddenly look rather less practical -- especially since you're paying that much for a tablet that's already slower than the competition. Go off-contract and prices are $600 and $700 for the two capacities, which is even harder to swallow. This, then, is a good choice exclusively for someone wanting a sub-10-inch tablet with a data contract and a goofy name. If you can live with only WiFi, save a little money and go with the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus or 8.9 -- or maybe hold out a little longer for that mythical 7.7.

Dana Wollman contributed to this review.

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