Face Off: Apple iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom


As you might expect, the iPad 2 has an advantage in this category thanks to iTunes. You can use the same account to download movies, TV shows, movies, and books to Apple’s tablet. Android’s lack of a one-stop shop for music and video means Xoom owners have to cobble solutions together on their own. Good third-party apps and software exist, but having an out-of-the-box option is preferable.

On the music side, the iPad 2 makes it easy to sync, acquire, and manage music with the iTunes and iPod apps. Given Apple’s long history with this category, it’s no surprise. However, the Xoom’s music app definitely has a sweet UI and nice features. Though there’s no baked-in Android ecosystem for music, users can download Amazon MP3s, which makes it easy to shop for and download tracks right to the tablet.

When you compare audio quality, the Xoom has the iPad 2 beat. Apple’s offering has one speaker on the back that offers loud, but not very rich, audio. The Xoom’s dual speakers are a major step up. We listened to tracks from Keane’s Perfect Symmetry album and found that the Xoom offered richer audio and even some bass without sounding forced or too tinny. Even when we plugged in a good set of headphones the Xoom’s output was just better, giving audio a depth that the iPad 2 lacked.

There’s no direct equivalent for iTunes on the video side for the Xoom right now. While iPad 2 owners can easily buy or rent thousands of movies and TV episodes right from the tablet, getting video on the Xoom may require conversion via a computer and possibly breaking the DRM. The iPad 2 also has a leg up with premium streaming video apps — ex: Netflix and Hulu Plus — for the moment. Both companies say that apps for Android are coming soon.

Thanks to the Xoom’s compatibility with Flash 10.2, users can watch streaming video from Amazon Instant Video (5,000 movies and TV shows). However, given our experience with Flash on the tablet, it’s certainly not preferable to the iPad’s offerings.

With iOS 4.3 on the iPad 2, you can now stream videos from the Photos app to an Apple TV, which is a cool feature because you can shoot and share clips on the spot with this tablet’s camera. Apple also says certain websites and apps will work seamlessly with Apple TV. You also get the ability to share music and video from your Mac or PC’s library over your home network (when you upgrade to iTunes 10.2).

Winner: iPad 2

Even though the Xoom outperforms Apple’s tablet in the audio department, it’s much easier to find and purchase premium content on the iPad 2.


Going by the numbers alone, the iPad 2 trounces the Xoom with its more than 65,000 tablet apps, compared to a little under 50 in the Android Market (right now). Both devices can run apps developed for phone screens, which widens the field. Still, iOS handles expanding the apps to 2X; this may not offer the greatest experience, but definitely works for all apps. Android apps may expand to fill the available pixels nicely, but how good this looks or how well it works depends on the developer, not Google.

With the disparity in numbers there are bound to be many apps missing from the Xoom that can be found on the iPad 2. Comparing the top 20 iPad apps in the app store, we found that only five of them are available for the Xoom. However, three of the top apps are from the iWorks suite and have good Android equivalents in QuickOffice and DocumentsToGo. And there are ample substitutions for iBooks, including the Kindle, Nook and Google Books apps.

Some other major apps available for the iPad and iPad 2 only include the Flipboard news reader, TWCable TV for Time Warner subscribers, and The Daily iPad magazine. Several major apps are available on both platforms. In games: the popular Angry Birds (in all iterations), Fruit Ninja, and Words With Friends. In news: CNN, Pulse, and USA Today. In productivity: Evernote, Dropbox, and LogMeIn.

It’s also worth noting that the only source for iPad 2 apps is the Apple App Store, whereas there are multiple sources available to Android devices. Beyond Google’s Market, there’s also GetJar, the Amazon Appstore, and Tegra Zone, which includes games made specifically to work with the Tegra 2 processor.

Winner: iPad 2

Though you’ll find many major apps on both platforms and Android has some developer momentum, Apple has a huge lead.

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…)


    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:


    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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