Face Off: Apple iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom

E-mail and Messaging

Both the iPad 2 and the Xoom can pull email from a variety of services, including POP mail accounts. The iPad 2 has just one native email client for accessing all of your mailboxes, but Android 3.0 continues to segregate Gmail from other email in two separate apps. These apps both have a similar look and feel, but Android 3.0 goes deeper on the Xoom.

Both the iPad and the Xoom offer two-column mail views in landscape mode, but the Xoom’s is more robust and versatile. In one view, users can see all of the folders and labels for their GMail account in the narrow left column and a list of email message on the right. Once users tap a message, the left column becomes the mail list and the email opens in the larger pane. This makes message management somewhat easier. From the labels/message list pane users can tap and hold a message to drag it to a label or folder. It’s also possible to choose multiple messages and drag.

Performing these same actions on the iPad 2 isn’t as intuitive. And when in the folder/label listing panel, users can’t see a list of messages on the right, just whatever message was last opened. To choose multiple messages, users must hit Edit when inside a mailbox, then choose the messages they want to work select. On the plus side, the iPad 2 gives user the option to either see all inboxes together or separately. There is no unified inbox for Android 3.0 on the Xoom (or any tablet running this software).

Where the Xoom pulls ahead is Google Talk. Having a built-in instant messaging client really does give this tablet a boost in the productivity department. You can download instant-messaging apps with iOS, but there’s nothing baked in and integrated into the OS.

Winner: Motorola Xoom

The ability to drag and drop messages into folders, faster search, and a built-in IM client makes the Xoom the clear winner in this category.

Web Browsing

The Xoom’s default browser comes out ahead in user experience with features cribbed from Chrome, including built-in tabbed browsing and incognito mode. Unfortunately, we miss the setting that tells websites to either consider the Xoom a mobile or desktop browser. There is a way to switch this, but it’s not intuitive or something less savvy users would know to do. Right now the version that loads depends on what the site’s server decides to do if the hidden setting hasn’t been tweaked.

Though it didn’t at launch, the Xoom does support Flash 10.2 now, whereas the iPad 2 doesn’t. The experience isn’t always smooth, but at least Motorola’s tablet has access to Flash-based websites and thus offers a more desktop-like experience. When we visited the Weight Watchers site, for example, the site was filled with little boxes that said “You must download Flash to access this feature.”

On the other hand, the iPad 2 boasts beefed-up JavaScript performance in the browser and, performance-wise, was much faster at loading websites over a Wi-Fi connection.

Site iPad 2 Motorola Xoom
Amptoons Blog Post 5 seconds 22 seconds
NYTimes (full site) 7 seconds 18 seconds
Strange Horizons 3 seconds 11 seconds

In each case, we were able to read text, see most images, and begin scrolling within a few seconds on the Xoom. However, other elements on the pages took longer to load, which held the progress bar at around 90 percent for several seconds more. The iPad 2 completely loaded sites faster and didn’t seem phased by (or didn’t bother to load) whatever background elements tripped up the Xoom (which had Flash enabled).

Winner: Motorola Xoom

The iPad 2’s speed is a big bonus, but the Xoom wins this round because of its support for tabbed browsing and Flash. Plus, even though the Xoom takes longer than the iPad to finish loading pages, you can start interacting with sites almost as quickly. In the near future, the Xoom will get even better on the go with 4G support, although that will require an upgrade from Verizon.

Motorola Xoom vs. iPad 2

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  1. pjs_boston Says:

    Funny, my impression of the videos taken on each device show that the iPad is better than the Xoom for taking video in both low light and bright light conditions. The color balance on the Xoom looked wrong and the footage looked consistently overexposed. Was any objective criterion used to judge the video quality?

    From my experience with a generation 1 iPad, page loading speed is the most important aspect of the web browsing experience. These tablets are not PC’s, so web page rendering speed is not measured in milliseconds but in many seconds. Slow page loading is a serious usability hiccup on any ARM based mobile device. I’d have to give the browser category to the iPad, simply because it loads pages so much faster than the Xoom.

  2. Bob Says:

    Nice review! I do take exception to the browsing category. You gave the Xoom the win based on the fact it has flash, even though it is 3-4 times slower than the iPad? I’d go for speed and less animated ads any day.

  3. Sammy72 Says:

    You can keep the rear camera on both of these things. I’ll never be the dork holding up a tablet to take a picture!

  4. PTtilted Says:

    This is the second review I’ve seen that gives the UI edge to XOOM. Ridiculous! The UI should not be a distraction.

    You lost me at “Using Android 3.0 requires a small learning curve compared to iOS”

    Consumer FAIL – Nerd WIN!

  5. OpinionatedYouth Says:

    So… the iPad wins in being a toy, but when it comes to being useful the Xoom wins?

  6. JuJu Says:

    The web browsing loading speed was not fairly tested. The Xoom had flash enabled and was actually loading more content than the iPad 2. Other test results on the net have shown that both the iPad 2 and the Xoom are very close (1 or 2 second differences) in webpage loading times.

  7. K. T. Bradford Says:

    @PTtilted, a few things:

    1. Nerds are consumers, too.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with being a nerd. Nerds are awesome.

    3. If a product causes you to add another wrinkle to your brain, to gain more knowledge and open up experiences to new things, that is not a fail. If it was, humans would have never learned written language or discovered fire. (Not in that order, necessarily…)

    @pjs_boston

    On video quality, the YouTube versions don’t display the difference as well, but the raw video files do. That said, if you’re only ever going to upload to YouTube the iPad’s output may be good enough. But since yu can use the tablet to cut and even throw the videos up on an HD screen, you don’t want to look at the result and go: ew.

  8. lrd Says:

    Hey, Apple sold more iPAD 2′s in the 1st hour than Motorola Xoom’s did in the past month.

    The iPAD 2 could turn out to be Apple’s killing machine:

    1st it will kill the Galaxy & Xoom. Pretty much a given already.

    Then the Playbook. In the meantime, notebooks and maybe PCs too. Acer just issued a warning.

    And then it will do in HP’s tablet and you might as well count the phones too because they’re not going anywhere with just a different logo on them.

    And finally, the iPAD 2 killing machine will do in Google (no more copycat products- per Steve Jobs).

    Hooray for the iPAD 2!

  9. i told u so.com Says:

    until the touchpad is released that is, for now we’ll let Apple take down the inferior products. :)

  10. Roger Mercer Says:

    You left out the most important factor: Which has the highest “joyful and sheer delight to use” quotient? I’d be shocked if iPad did not win that one by a landslide.

  11. OpinionatedYouth Says:

    @Ird

    Tablets will not be taking over notebooks and PCs anytime soon. They simply don’t have the power, and more importantly, tablets are toys. They don’t offer to people anything they can do on another product. They are more or less fancy toys that can browse the internet and use apps your phone can.
    It’s going to be a while before the tablet because a product that takes more importance then the notebook or pc.

  12. Mugsy P Says:

    Of course the Ipad2 is the clear winner as it should be. What’s scary for apple is how good the Zoom actually is. It does beat the original ipad in many ways. Which was its main competition. With 4G the zoom will blow away the ipad2 in website loading speed. Plus the included hardware ports at no extra charge are a plus. Apples answer to this is “there’s a dongle for that!” In terms of value it depends on needs. Though def. Not an ipad2 killer. The Zoom is an excellent alternative and for a first time product very compelling indeed.

  13. Dr. Video Says:

    The color in Xoom’s camera is so off that you won’t be using that for shooting any video either. Did you configure the colors to be like that or is it hardcoded? Also: Does Android still require you to use Task Manager? That’s a no-deal for me ever since I bought the iPhone: automatic task management is a must-have.

  14. XoomRightToTrashHeap Says:

    So, Xoom wins the “Software” category with it’s amazing array of 30 apps? All the bells and whistles of Android 3.0 means squat if there are no apps to download and use.

  15. DSz Says:

    The ipad screen is physically bigger in area than the Xoom (45.2 sq. In. Vs. 43.6). The Xoom has 30% more pixels (higher pixel density).

  16. Bud K. Says:

    Interesting review. I’m not sure the XOOM won the browser category for, in part, having Flash. Really? I thought Flash was “coming at a later date.” Also, you mention software. Where? And as far as the interface goes, how good is it if it can’t charge and sync at the same time? I learned long ago that when it comes to tech, it’s the here and now that counts. The blue sky stuff many times never arrives. Look at the crop of tablets that were slated (pardon the pun) for last year. How few actually came out.

  17. Geese Says:

    Ipad users, you can tell who you are. I don’t like Apples closed ecosystem on its products. I like to do what I want with my product and you can’t do that with Ipad unless you hack it. It’s nice but not for me, I prefer and Android tablet and lets so who wins the race. 24 months from now when the smoke clears I believe the tale of the tape will be different, just like cellphones.

  18. Lawrence Says:

    I think the article missed a few important issues:

    1. Expandability – iPad does not have memory card slots. When you travel and wish to view your photos, you must bring with your laptop and use iTunes to upload your photos to iPad. For the Xoom, you can use a micro SD card insert it to an adapter as a micro SD card into your camera.

    2. Big Brother – please view Computerworld’s review: http://blogs.computerworld.com/17901/eight_reasons_the_motorola_xoom_beats_the_ipad
    Apple treats their customers as pirates and must go through its big brother iTunes.

    3. Interface with PC – once you connect your USB with the PC, it is almost instant that you will see the drive and again, iPad needs iTune for interface. It is so slow and not user friendly.

    4. Email/Contact Sync – If your contacts, calendar and email are all resided at gmail, then Xoom is your choice. However if your stuffs are at Microsoft Exchanger Server, Honeycomb is not your choice. For those who has multiple contact files and many folders, the Honeycomb O/S is very difficult to navigate around folders (even though it has improved quite a bit). There’s still problems on sending emails via the Honeycomb email software – sometimes it does not work.

    5. User Interface Response Time – The Xoom is still not as smooth as the iPad. This is very obvious when moving an icon from one location to another location. Some very simple application or games’s responsiveness is slower even than the Galaxy Captivate (same app).

    In general, I think it all depends on the user, what points are more important. For myself, I think expandability and big brother are the most important issues.

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