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A Day in the Life with the Motorola Xoom: What You can do with an Android Tablet
      #40927 - 07/03/11 02:55 PM

Want to know what you can do with an Android Honeycomb tablet? I've had the Motorola Xoom Verizon edition with both WiFi and 3G since launch day in February 2011. The Xoom is my personal tablet purchased with my own funds, and not a review unit. Why did I buy it? It was the first Android tablet, and that made it an important device to have around for our site's tablet coverage. And while I love to play games on the iPad 2 and respect the huge assortment of applications available for that platform, its somewhat closed ecosystem made it less than ideal for the things I wanted to do. I also wanted a higher resolution display, Adobe Flash and direct HDMI out.

After four months of daily use, I've found the Xoom very capable and Android Honeycomb with the 3.1 update to be fast and stable. Yes, the web browser force closes once a week, but my iPad 2 apps crash once or twice a week too (mostly games). I use the Xoom heavily; enough so that I decided to "upgrade" to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer so I could also use my tablet as a netbook with keyboard, trackpad and extended battery. So what do I do with the Xoom, and what kinds of things can you do with an Android tablet?

Breakfast: I work at home, and that means I work at the breakfast table. I use the excellent and highly graphical Pulse news reader to catch up on my RSS feeds and find out what's going on in the world of tech. World and local news are important too, and I use News360, the USA Today app and the New York Times web site in its desktop form with Adobe Flash content (the New York Times Android tablet app is a piece of junk).

Our weather can get crazy, so I have the Weatherbug widget on my main homescreen, and I use the companion tablet app to check out the forecast and radar. The Weather Channel Android tablet app is also pretty slick. Once business is out of the way, I hit the tablet Zinio Reader app and enjoy a little leisure reading of magazines in a luscious print-style layout. After I check out Road and Track and Martha Stewart Magazine (so shoot me), I wash the dishes and hit my desk for work.

Morning work day: I primarily use a MacBook Pro with a huge monitor for work at my desk. While it's processing RAW image files or churning through some 1080p video for our next video review, I leave it to do its thing, and switch to the Xoom to check out web sites and test new web page layouts. I also keep an Asus Eee Slate EP121 12" Windows 7 tablet on my desk to check Windows compatibility and get some Zune music streaming (I use Zune with my HTC HD7S Windows 7 Phone running the Mango beta).

Lunch break: I watch a few YouTube videos using the visually pleasing and responsive YouTube app for Honeycomb. Then, I go back to my magazines after checking my Netflix queue using the web browser.

My afternoon workday is rinse and repeat of the morning workday. If we shoot videos, I use EverNote on the tablet to keep track of key points and facts I should cover in the video review. I've got not only my own notes, but also embedded web pages and graphics embedded in my notes. I can create these on my Mac, Windows PC or on the tablet and sync them back and forth. When space is tight, I use my HTC Sensation 4G instead of the tablet, but my eyes prefer the tablet's larger display. Sweet.

Exercise break: I take an hour for indoor biking on my exercycle and some reading. I prefer E-Ink readers like the Barnes & Noble Nook Touch and Amazon Kindle 3 to reduce eye strain and give me a break from LCDs, but my exercise bike is in a cave-like room with poor lighting. That means I need backlight here. I also prefer a large display that shows lots of words per page because I'm a fast reader (the Amazon Kindle DX Graphite would be perfect if lighting were better). The Xoom's high ppi screen and 10.1" display gets me plenty of words per page, and I use ePub readers like CoolReader and Aldiko for non-DRM and ePub library books as well as the tablet Nook, Kindle and Kobo Reader apps for books purchased from those stores. My bike has a book stand, so I don't really care how large or heavy the tablet is. If I want a little music in the background, the Beta Google Music app (took ages to upload my music from my Mac, but now I dig it) and Pandora take care of me.

Evening: Time for more work and leisure too. I play a 3D game once in a while: the selection is still small, but Samurai II Vengeance has been keeping me entertained lately. I stream Amazon Instant Video using Adobe Flash in the Android web browser when I'm in the mood for movies (Amazon Prime members can watch movies at no additional charge). I sometimes stream TV show episodes from TV network websites when I need to catch up on missed episodes. With HDMI out to our HDTV, I can let the rest of the family catch up too. When I'm watching TV shows or Blu-ray discs without the Xoom's help, I use the tablet to visit my favorite forums and read and respond to our YouTube and website viewers' comments. Tweetcaster's lovely full screen view lets me catch up with my social networks and I check my work and personal email... Are you getting the idea I don't pay enough attention to the TV?. I have the Motorola Bluetooth keyboard for the Xoom since my idea of fun doesn't involve typing hundreds of words using the on-screen keyboard.

I don't carry the Xoom with me often; it's too large and heavy and I might as well take a netbook. Give me the BlackBerry PlayBook and its purse-friendly 7" form. But my netbook is too underpowered for quality Flash playback (really, the tablet does a better job), and its battery life isn't as good as the tablet's and its display resolution is lower. So I really do wish I could take the tablet with me at times. Enter the Asus Eee Pad Transformer with the keyboard dock. Hello Polaris Office and MS Office document creation and editing. Hello 13 to 14 hours of battery life since the dock has a battery too. And it's easy to get documents, images and more on or off the tablet via USB (not to mention Dropbox).

Further reading:

Android Tablet reviews

Motorola Xoom review

Asus Eee Pad Transformer review

BlackBerry PlayBook review

In depth HP TouchPad video review


Lisa Gade
Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview

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