The tablet runs Android OS 3.2 Honeycomb and will get an upgrade to Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. This is fairly vanilla Android with no home screen or UI customizations beyond Moto's square icon treatment. The app bundle is reasonably restrained and Motorola doesn't include all the business oriented apps found on the XYBoard 10.1 (but some, like Citrix are downloadable). Motocast is here, and we really love this remote file access and streaming media player that works with Windows and Macs, though we miss being able to mount the tablet in basic mass storage mode.
Ports, USB Host
The tablet has a micro HDMI 1.4 port, a micro USB port and a 3.5mm stereo jack. Gone is the Motorola Xoom's barrel connector for charging. The micro USB supports slow charging via USB, and the included wall wart charger plugs into this port. The micro USB port also supports USB host, and that means you can use USB peripherals like flash drives and keyboards with the XYBoard if you have a USB host (also called USB OTG) cable. The old Motorola USB host/camera connection cable for the Xoom works, as does Sony's for the Tablet S and various others. We tested keyboards, flash drives and external hard drives and these worked fine. But external drives formatted with NTFS don't work because Honeycomb lacks support for the NTFS file system. Android tablets don't currently support USB modems either (no drivers), but you won't need this since the tablet has 3G and 4G LTE.
Syncing, iTunes, MotoCast and V Cast
On Mac OS X, the XYBoard doesn't mount using the usual Android File Transfer app for Honeycomb, nor does it mount as a mass storage device in Windows. Rather it mounts an installer for MotoCast. That app has two components, a wireless file transfer app that turns your computer into a file server for the XYBoard, and a USB bidirectional media syncing app that syncs iTunes music, video and podcasts and it handles photo transfer. You can use Verizon's V Cast Media Manager to transfer photos, music and videos to and from the tablet but we found it balky and slow on our Mac, so I much prefer the capable MotoCast apps. The iTunes integration is sweet, and it uses a UI that's similar to iTunes, so it should be easy for most folks to use.
MotoCast for wireless is a rebranded version of ZumoCast found on previous Droid smartphones. Moto has a wonderful app here: it's easy to use and it puts all the folders and files you wish to share from your PC or Mac in wireless reach of the XYBoard. You'll create a MotoCast account (old ZumoCast logins don't work), specify which folders you'd like to share with your XYBoard and you're ready to go. Launch MotoCast on the XYBoard and you'll have access to those files. You can play videos stored on your computer, view photos, play music from your iTunes or other music library and access any other file type you wish (MS Office docs, for example) for viewing or copying to the tablet. MotoCast works over WiFi and 3G/4G; you need not have both the computer and tablet on the same wireless network.
Performance and Horsepower
The Droid XYBoard 8.2 runs on a 1.2GHz Texas Instruments OMAP4430 dual core ARM Cortex-A9 family CPU. The chipset uses the capable Imagination Technologies POWERVR SGX540 dedicated graphics chip. TI's dual core chipsets are trendy right now in Android devices, and Google went with it for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The tablet has the usual 1 gig of RAM, and is available in 16, 32 and 64 gig storage capacities. Sadly, it has no microSD card expansion slot-- had Motorola included one, they'd have a strong marketing point vs. the unexpandable Galaxy Tab 10.1 and even the iPad 2.
Experiential speed is good, though the tablet doesn't feel wickedly fast when navigating the UI or running Office apps. It is capable and fast when playing HD video. In synthetic benchmarks, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 blows the XYBoard 8.2 and many other tablets away, but the XYBoard 8.2 does have a pack-leading Sunspider score where lower numbers are better.
Data and LTE
It's hard to not fall in love with LTE 4G, be it on Verizon Wireless' well built-out network or AT&T's fledgling new network. In the XYBoard's case, we've got Verizon LTE with fallback to their 3G EV-DO Rev. A network. The tablet has the mobile hotspot feature so you can share its high speed data connection with tablets, laptops and other clients (AT&T's tablets lack this feature). Reception and data speeds on Verizon's LTE tablets always impress us, and we averaged 17Mbps down and 3Mbps up on average with a weak signal (-95db) and up to 33Mbps down and 15Mbps up in strong signal areas (-75db).
When you turn on WiFi, the tablet automatically turns off the 3G/4G radios to ensure you don't use your data allotment. Verizon offers month-to-month plans and contract plans with the same data plan pricing. The price for 2 gigs/month is $30, 5 gigs for $50 and $80 for 10 gigs. If you go over your monthly allotment, Verizon will charge you $10 per gig.
Motorola and Verizon added GSM world roaming in a firmware update about a month after the XYBoard launched. What a pleasant surprise!
The Motorola Droid XYBoard's unique size and quality combo set it apart from the me-too tablet fray. It's portable but the screen is roomy enough for enjoyable web browsing and gaming. And that display is extremely sharp and bright thanks to the IPS 1280 x 800 panel. Beyond that, LTE 4G gives you fast data most anywhere in the US, and the AV remote is a coffee table pleasure. We applaud Moto for thinking different, but Verizon's steep price tag will likely scare many away-- a problem with all their LTE tablets.
Price: starting at $399 for the WiFi only Motorola XYBoard 8.2 and $429 with contract for the 16 gig with LTE with contract.
Websites: www.verizonwireless.com, www.motorola.com