Apple hasn’t done much to change the core experience of using its “post-PC” device. Just like the original iPad, the iPad 2 features an icon-driven interface, intuitive multitasking (double-click the home button), and wireless printing support. We also continue to appreciate how easy it is to create folders, as well as Apple’s dual-pane views for apps such as calendar and e-mail. Then again, iOS’ lack of a file manager, shallow networking integration, and Apple’s pop-up-style notification system can be annoying.
Google built Android 3.0 from the ground up specifically for tablets, and the hard work shows in myriad ways. You can easily access the last five open apps via the System Bar (which shows thumbnails instead of icons), and Honeycomb’s stacked notifications are much easier to review and dismiss than iOS. Android 3.0 also features interactive widgets, such as Gmail, that let you flip through content without opening an app, and a new way to customize multiple home screens.
Winner: Motorola Xoom
Using Android 3.0 requires a small learning curve compared to iOS, but the higher level of customization and better features Honeycomb offers is well worth the effort.
The Xoom features a 1-GHz, dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, which combines a CPU and GPU on one chip. The iPad 2 also has a 1-GHz, dual-core processor: the A5 chip. But Apple’s tablet includes a separate GPU, the PowerVR SGX543MP2, which promises a 9X graphics boost over the original iPad. Though we saw snappy performance and great HD output from both systems, this difference showed in telling places.
When editing video in Movie Studio, the Xoom slowed down considerably the more we worked with a video, made edits, or added effects. The app even force closed on us a few times in the process. We had no such trouble with the iMovie app on the iPad 2. Editing, while not very intuitive, was smooth and didn’t cause lag.
We noticed similar performance deltas when using camera apps like Photo Booth for the iPad and Camera Illusion for Android. Photo Booth renders nine different camera effects without pause, whereas the Xoom struggled to render one at a time with Camera Illusion. To be fair, the latter app wasn’t made specifically to take advantage of the Xoom’s hardware.
In benchmark tests run by Anandtech, the iPad 2 earned much higher scores for graphics intensive tasks than the Xoom. In the end, the iPad 2 is a better choice for gaming, video editing, and similar activities, at least until the software and third-party apps can catch up to the hardware.
Winner: iPad 2
The iPad 2 is simply more responsive than the Xoom and definitely less buggy, though the latter will likely improve with software updates.
We tested battery life over 3G and over Wi-Fi on both tablets and found that they exceeded the longevity promised by both Motorola and Apple (10 hours). In our test, we had each surf the web continuously.
Over Wi-Fi, the Xoom lasted 11 hours and 18 minutes, and the iPad 2 lasted 11 hours and 11 minutes. Over 3G the difference is more pronounced. The Xoom endured for an impressive 8 hours, but the iPad 2 went on for another 59 minutes.
Winner: iPad 2
Both will last about as long on Wi-Fi, but iPad 2 owners will get almost an hour extra while out and about.