Right now Verizon Wireless carries two 10" Android tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola Droid XYBoard 10.1. The XYBoard is brand spanking new, while the Tab 10.1 has been on the market for 6 months as a WiFi only model and since early August 2011 as a Verizon LTE tablet. It says a lot for the successful Galaxy Tab 10.1 that it's still in the running; in the world of tech, few tablets remain hot for 6 months. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is as ever a thin, light and attractive tablet with a bright and colorful display. But the XYBoard fights back with its unique industrial design and second gen features like a newer and faster CPU, pen input and more. The XYBoard is also available in an 8.2" version, but to keep things equal, we'll look at the 10.1" model here.
Both the XYBoard and Galaxy Tab 10.1 run Android OS 3.2 Honeycomb with promised upgrades to Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and they have 4G LTE. They have 1280 x 800 multi-touch displays with Gorilla Glass, are available in 16 and 32 gig capacities (the XYBoard is also available with 64 gigs of storage), have dual cameras, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a GPS. Neither has a micoSD card slot (doh!).
Pricing is very close on these tablets, though Verizon Wireless has been playing with Galaxy Tab 10.1 pricing lately via 32 gig discounted refurb offers and price juggles. We're actually surprised that it hasn't seen a significant price drop after so many months on the market. Both tablets are expensive with or without contract. They cost $599 for the 16 gig version without contract and $529 with contract. LTE tablets don't come cheap yet in the US.
Horsepower and Performance
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a first generation Android Honeycomb tablet and it runs the same 1GHz Nvidia dual core CPU as other name brand Honeycomb tablets. This is a decent CPU with graphics acceleration, but it's looking long in the tooth now, especially because it doesn't handle 2d acceleration of high profile H.264 MPEG video and can't play 720p or 1080p video encoded at high profile (it can do standard 1080p video, but not as smoothly as newer dual core CPUs).
The Motorola Droid XYBoard 10.1 (and 8.2) run on a newer 1.2GHz TI dual core CPU with PowerVR 540 graphics. It benchmarks faster than the Tegra 2, plays HD video much better and can handle 3D gaming well. The XYBoard is Motorola's second generation Android tablet and it shows in the improved performance. The CPU used in the XYBoard is the same as that used in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and other forthcoming Android tablets, and it's a reference CPU for Ice Cream Sandwich. It's not as fast as the quad core Tegra 3 (particularly in 3D graphics), but it's nonetheless a good performer.
For these tests, higher numbers are better except Sunspider where lower is better.
Both tablets have better than average stereo speakers with volume that's sufficient to fill a room. The speakers are well spaced for a better stereo effect and are located where you probably won't cover them with your hands. The XYBoard 10.1 has better stereo separation and clearer audio, but the Samsung is no slouch.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a PLS display that in typical Samsung fashion, has serious color saturation (and 3 settings to adjust saturation). Though it's not their Super AMOLED display (those can't be made this large), it reminds us of Super AMOLED with the better than life colors. Contrast is also very good as are viewing angles, and it's a pleasing display for watching videos.
Motorola went back to the drawing board and threw away their basic Xoom display (thank goodness). The XYBoard 10.1 and 8.2 have extremely bright IPS displays with excellent contrast, wide viewing angles and very sharp text. Color balance is very neutral and that means it's great for viewing pages with white backgrounds like ebooks and web pages. It has better color balance than the IPS display on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and though Moto's high brightness display doesn't get quite as bright as the Prime in IPS+ outdoor mode, we found the XYBoard's display easier to see outdoors because it has less glare. In terms of sharpness, color balance and outdoor viewability, the Droid tablet beats the Samsung 10.1" tablet.
Winner: Motorola Droid XYBoard 10.1
Design and Looks
This is highly subjective and we like the look of both tablets. Samsung goes with the iPad 2's minimalist and sleek design. The back is plastic and that won't excite quality mavens, but it's a very good looking, slim and light tablet.
The Droid XYBoard 10.1 goes for that Droidish masculine modern design, and it reminds us of the Motorola Droid RAZR smartphone. I think it's good looking (guess the look can appeal to women too), and it's unique. It has a metal back and a very rugged and rigid design. Like the Tab 10.1, its 0.33" thick and it weighs 1.33 pounds, though it doesn't look quite as thin as the Tab 10.1 thanks to the Tab's more gradual taper.
From a materials standpoint, the XYBoard wins, but it's a tie for aesthetics.
Data and Internet
Both tablets have 4G LTE on Verizon with fallback to 3G EV-DO Rev. A. They also have WiFi 802.11b/g/n so you need not use buckets of Verizon data when near a hotspot. You need not sign a contract with either tablet, though you'll pay full retail to avoid the contract. Reception and data transfer speeds are the same on both tablets.
Since Samsung went with the iPad way of doing things, they made it pretty, they made it light and stable. But they removed features found on other Honeycomb tablets like HDMI out, USB host and the card slot. They most certainly didn't add extra features not found on other tablets. The world has moved on in 6 months, and now manufacturers are adding on nifty new features, Moto included.
The Motorola Droid XYBoard 10.1 has a micro HDMI port for output to HD TVs, monitors and projectors, and it has USB host so you can use USB peripherals like flash drives and keyboards. You will need a USB host cable, and it's not included. The XYBoard adds an IR blaster port with Dijit, and AV remote and TV listing application. Samsung added this feature to the newer Tab 7 Plus, but the hardware isn't present on the Tab 10.1 so it will never have this feature.
The Xyboard 10.1, but not Xyboard 8.2, joins the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, HTC Flyer and HTC Jetstream with it's N-Trig dual digitizer that supports both capacitive multi-touch and an active digital pen that's included in the box. Note takers, artists and those who need to make diagrams will love this feature, though HTC still wins for driver quality and the number of apps that support the pen in the Jetstream.
Winner: Motorola XYBoard 10.1
So the 6 month newer tablet running on second generation hardware wins. That's not much of a surprise, and we have to give credit to Samsung for making a tablet that still looks this good after many months on the market. It put up a valiant fight.
For those who don't want 4G in their tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is available as a WiFi only model for $499 (16 gig). In the US, Verizon has the XYBoard exclusive, and we don't know if or when a WiFi-only Droid XYBoard will appear. In Europe the XYBoards are available with WiFi-only under the Xoom 2 name. If you're in the US and don't want to pay for LTE capabilities you don't intend to use, that's a point in favor of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the new Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime too.