Video capture is capped at 720p at 30fps, and the results are pretty sub-par, largely due to the poor, slow autofocus. Recording moving subjects results in some pretty hazy footage. You'll find that video recording -- and playback -- will suffer from some very pronounced clipping if you have a handful of apps running at the same time, so it's worth restarting or doing some task management before you hit record.
Performance and battery life
The Xoom 2 manages to squeeze in an ARM 1.2GHz dual-core processor alongside 1GB of RAM, giving noticeable improvements in both the benchmark scores and daily use when compared to the original Xoom. Whether that's the 20 percent processor improvement, or testament to the Google and Moto's special relation, we don't know, but the old guard is unsurprisingly beaten across all bar one of our benchmarks. But it makes more sense to compare the sequel against its main tablet competitors.
The Xoom 2 seems to offer up some very strong Vellamo web browsing scores, besting even the Transformer Prime.
Admittedly, the quad-core Transformer Prime has a bit more under the hood, but the Xoom 2 seems to jump through the technical hoops better than the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a similarly sized and specced dual-core tablet. It's worth noting that the Xoom 2 seems to offer up some very strong Vellamo web browsing scores, besting even the Transformer Prime. Number-crunching aside, the tablet runs smoothly, able to load up graphically intensive apps and websites without much of a struggle, though it's still suffering a Honeycomb hangover of occasional stutters, and random app crashes.
Despite the slimmer style, the battery still manages to outperform its older brother. The IPS screen doesn't seem to take much toll either; with almost nine hours of continuous video playback from a full charge, running on 50 percent brightness, WiFi enabled. It's a strong performance, but the competition is stronger. On day-to-day use, it's more frugal; we got a good day and a half of casual use, with Twitter and email notifications throughout the day, and a heavy dose of Shadowgun
action at lunch.
Fortunately, Motorola has taken a pretty laissez faire
approach to Honeycomb (version Android 3.2, to be exact) It flies in the complete opposite direction to the heavily styled backgrounds, widgets and apps found on the Droid RAZR. Pre-installed apps are lightweight, inoffensive additions. There are several business-oriented apps here, like Quickoffice HD, Twonky and Citrix, while Motorola's own music streaming app, MotoCast requires pre-registration, but is a relatively painless way to add your collection of music, photos and videos to the Xoom 2.
Motorola has added what it's calling Intelligent Grip Suppression to both the Xoom 2 and its Media Edition sibling. We're calling it a great idea; it allows you to grip the tablet's screen while still allowing multitouch scrolling and zooming. In practice, it's pretty good at detecting your grip, though the web browser will occasionally zoom, rather than obey your commands to scroll. The browser itself often gets confused by flash content, with video often clipping like the camera does when several apps are already open. The stock keyboard here is the typical fare, with buttons plenty large enough to avoid mistakes. However, the wide-screen nature of the Xoom 2 in landscape means we found that we had to stretch in landscape mode to reach the middle range of the keyboard. Again, we reverted to SwiftKey Tablet X, where a split-up board solves this problem.
An optional extra, we managed to get our hands on the Motorola Active Stylus, priced at £22 ($34), and working exclusively with software found on the 10.1-inch Xoom 2. Motorola has told us it won't be playing with the smaller screened Media Edition. Well, it will -- it'll work on any capacitive screen, you'll just miss out on the dedicated Floating Notes app. The stylus (which requires an AAAA battery) works across the full gamut of Honeycomb apps and menus. There's a decent heft to it, and it makes a satisfying tap noise on the Gorilla Glass display. Motorola hasn't yet revealed who is responsible for the digitizer, but we'll be updating here when we do.
Hitting the ever-present notepad icon in the lower right corner will proffer a few options: launch the Floating Notes app replete with a blank canvas, open any previous sketches or annotations, or finally, Evernote. The final option is semi-integrated into Motorola's stylus software. It's a little half-baked as any stylus interactions have to be done in Floating Notes and then shared across to Evernote. Sadly, there appears to be no ability to make quick 'n dirty annotations on the top of emails, photos or webpages, something that was a boon to using the stylus-centric HTC Flyer. The lack of a native screen grab - and we know there are other ways -- also works against the stylus. Apps willing to interact with the stylus are a bit short on the ground -- Diopen is the best handwriting input app we've found so far, but that will also work with your finger.
The Xoom 2 is a stylish successor to the original Honeycomb tablet. The build quality is much improved, and Motorola is on the right track with those oddly shaped corners and built-in IR emitter. There has been an explosion in Honeycomb tablets since the first Xoom launched, and while the sequel does plenty right, it isn't enough to claim the head seat at the Android tablet family table. Fortunately, the Xoom 2 has bypassed Moto's tendency to over-tinker with the core Android experience on its phones, resulting in a pretty reliable tablet, although it still behaved erratically with video content.
Competition's a lot tougher, and while Motorola's upped it's game, it's not by enough to come out on top.
While camera shortcomings on a tablet may not be a massive deal-breaker, lack of tap to focus and poor auto-focus on the video camera are frustrating. Because of a lack of expandable storage (and beefier models), users will be drawn into the world of cloud media management, whether they want to or not. It's telling that the Google Music app comes preinstalled on this UK review model -- somewhere the beta isn't yet available. While the Xoom was -- for a time -- the best Honeycomb tablet, it was also the only Honeycomb tablet. But competition's a lot tougher, and while Motorola's upped its game, it's not by enough to come out on top.